George Mason University

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Catherine Ray

Catherine Ray attended George Mason University to further her multidisciplinary interests in what she calls “compu-mathema-physics.”

Figuring It Out for Fun

Sixteen-year-old Catherine Ray, Mason’s youngest graduate for winter 2014, has always relished a challenge. From a young age, the computational and data sciences major demonstrated a love for puzzle solving by untangling her mother’s cluster of knotted necklaces and helping reconstruct broken furniture in her father’s antique shop.

She enjoys taking difficult situations and reframing them into learning experiences. For example, to make a ride less unpleasant on a packed bus, she on one occasion continually contorted her body to try to brush against the fewest number of fellow riders as possible. It was so fun she was sorry when the ride ended. Make work play, she says.

Ray’s passion for learning and boundless curiosity spans many disciplines. A friend recently introduced her by saying, “This is ‘Rin.’ She speed-reads photonics papers in German instead of sleeping.”

That urge for an accelerated path became clear in eighth grade, when Ray visited a high school she was considering attending. She ended up assisting seniors in an Advanced Placement statistics class that day. From that point, it was goodbye, high school; hello, college.

“I realized that I would have to wait four years to do something I already knew how to do,” Ray says. “I desperately, desperately desired to have a challenge of any form. Starting university at 13 seemed to be an interesting challenge.”