EINSTEEN Child Genius Nishi Uggalle, 13, on why she’s proud to be a science and physics-loving geek for girls everywhere
Posted on March 13th, 2019

By Kate Jackson Courtesy The Sun (UK)

Last weekend Channel 4 viewers watched in awe as the teen with a higher IQ than Einstein was crowned Child Genius 2019

ON her tenth birthday, Nishi Uggalle raced into her parents’ bedroom to see if her dream could finally come true.

She pleaded: Can I take the Mensa IQ test now?”

An unusual request from such a young girl perhaps, but then Nishi is far from usual.

Demonstrating incredible drive, Nishi spends her spare time reading philosophy and carrying out complicated maths questions . . . ‘for fun’
Parents Neelanga and his wife Shiromi, insist they’re not the pushy ones – they have to drag Nishi away from her books

Six months later, when she became eligible to take the high IQ society’s test, she achieved the highest possible score of 162 — topping brainbox Albert Einstein’s 160.

Out of the hundreds of children who applied for Channel 4’s annual hunt for bright youngsters, 19 were chosen to compete in the series presented by Richard Osman.

Displaying an astonishing level of general knowledge, Nishi, from Audenshaw, Greater Manchester, answered questions that would stump most adults to take the title.

Nishi’s parents often tell her to leave her books to come and watch TV with them
The universe fascinates Nishi

She said: I was really nervous but I just had to ignore my emotions and focus on the questions. I really wanted to show girls that they can achieve anything they want to.

Since then, the 13-year-old has acquired a celebrity-like status at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls. She said: It’s been crazy. After the show’s maths episode, people I didn’t even know in older years were saying ‘Well done’ to me.

I’ve had people asking me for my autograph. Some asked me to sign their hands.”

‘I LIKE TO CHALLENGE MYSELF’

Nishi, who hopes to be a theoretical physicist at Cambridge, like her idol Stephen Hawking
At the weekend, Nishi’s parents take her to the Peak District to help her get away from her books for a breath of fresh air

Her dad Neelanga calls her a human calculator” and likens her to Sheldon Cooper, the idiosyncratic genius in the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. After Nishi won Child Genius, Neelanga jokingly asked the testers if they could give her some more questions because she had been so happy during the competition”.

Nishi said: I am a bit like Sheldon. I am the person who actually reads the Terms and Conditions of things and I’m quite possessive about my spot in the lounge, like he is.”

The image of a child genius is often a kid who is dragged from tutor to tutor by insistent parents, being forced into Mandarin lessons and chess club.

I am a geek. I’m proud to be one. Some of the most successful people in the world are geeks, like Bill Gates

Yet Sri Lankan-born Neelanga and his wife Shiromi, insist they’re not the pushy ones. Mum Shiromi, 45, an accountant, said: We’re the ones telling her to put her books down. We have to say, ‘You’ve spent enough time on your homework, come and watch TV with us’.

At the weekend we like to go out to the Peak District, to go cycling or hiking as a family. Nishi tries to sneak a physics book in the car and I have to tell her to stop reading and look outside instead.”

Nishi, who hopes to be a theoretical physicist at Cambridge, like her idol Stephen Hawking, doesn’t do any formal extracurricular activities, nor does she attend a private school.

Nishi was able to read at three, although she initially hid her talent from her father, fearing he would no longer read her a bedtime story
Out and about like any ‘normal’ child

But demonstrating incredible drive, she spends her spare time reading philosophy and carrying out complicated maths questions . . . for fun”.

She also builds remote-control Lego robots, without instructions, and is teaching herself how to play piano.

To top it all, she’s also a sickeningly talented artist.

You’re a geek, there’s no doubt about that,” teases dad Neelanga, 46, who works in IT security at Barclays bank. Nishi agrees: I am a geek. I’m proud to be one. It used to be a derogatory term but I think it’s a positive now. Some of the most successful people in the world were geeks, like Bill Gates.”

Three years ago, Nishi was captivated by the film The Theory Of Everything, about the life of the late Professor Hawking.

She said: Afterwards I borrowed A Brief History Of Time from the library, and really enjoyed it. I’ve read about ten of his books now.

It was a close final, but Nishi came out on top
She stunned audiences with her feminist victory speech

Professor Hawking’s determination was incredible. To present quite controversial ideas in physics at the time, and to achieve what he did, all with his illness too, is incredible. I find questions about the universe and black holes fascinating.

I’d love to follow a similar path to Professor Hawking.”

In the evenings Nishi spends around an hour and a half on her homework. She tries not to go over two hours”, before relaxing with one of the many brainiac books on her shelf. She said: I’ll read a physics book or I’ll do some A-level calculus. Sometimes, in school, I find the maths quite easy so I like to challenge myself.

You have to push yourself otherwise you get bored of things.” The only subjects that don’t come easily are dance and drama.

By the time she should have been in Year Four at school, Nishi had been fast-tracked to Year Six
Lego and books were easy for Nishi as a toddler

But Nishi was a high achiever right from the start. Mum Shiromi said: When Nishi was just 18 months old we made a home video of her going through an A-B-C book saying ‘A for apple, B for bear’, and so on. She couldn’t say some of the words properly, of course, but we realised she would use the same word again and again for the same thing so we knew she wasn’t just babbling.”

An only child, Nishi was able to read at three, although she initially hid her talent from her father, fearing he would no longer read her a bedtime story if he knew she could do it herself.

At Poplar Street Primary School, Nishi’s abilities were quickly noticed. Within two weeks she was put on the Gifted and Talented programme for exceptional pupils, despite only turning four the previous month.

Six months later, having sped through the reading levels for her age, she was moved to Year One. By the time she should have been in Year Four, she was in Year Six, and despite being three years younger than the oldest pupils in her class, she was beating them to top marks in weekly maths quizzes.

HARD WORK ETHIC

With her proud parents
When asked who was responsible for applying to Child Genius, Nishi’s mum rolls her eyes, nods towards her daughter and says: ‘Who do you think?’

Socially, Nishi never had a problem fitting in and has stayed pals with the ones she made in each year group. She said: I’ve always been able to make friends when I’ve moved class or school.

The older girls were really good, they mothered me a bit and even the boys were really caring.” Having reached Year Six ahead of time, Nishi then attended a private primary school as a stop-gap for a couple of years before secondary school. She earned her place at Altrincham Grammar — a school outside her catchment area — by being one of the top ten scorers in the 11-plus entrance exam.

When asked who was responsible for applying to Child Genius, Nishi’s mum rolls her eyes, nods towards her daughter and says: Who do you think?”

While her parents may not push their daughter to excel, there is no doubt their work ethic underlies Nishi’s success.

Neelanga and Shiromi grew up five miles apart in Padukka,  Sri Lanka, but didn’t meet until they started working. Both came from middle- class backgrounds, with parents in teaching, business and the civil service, and both studied at good schools in the capital, Colombo. Neelanga gained an IT qualification and joined the British Council. Then, in 2001, he and Shiromi moved to Manchester on a promotion.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbiz/8578283/child-genius-nishi-uggalle-proud-geek/

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