UP student, 18, sets his eyes on a career in academia after graduating cum laude with an honours in physics

Posted on May 30, 2021

Whizz-kid Hjalmar Rall started his academic journey with the University of Pretoria (UP) in 2017. The young man, who registered for a BSc in physics at the age of 14, completed his initial degree cum laude, and has recently graduated cum laude with a BSc (Hons) Physics in this year’s autumn graduation season.

“I was definitely aiming for a cum laude from the start, and that motivated me to continue with the hard work. As a result, I passed with distinctions,” he said.

According to the 18-year-old, who is planning a career in academia, there are no research groups in South Africa focusing on his specific field, and only a few worldwide. “I will have to look overseas as I’ll be focusing on Quantum Information Theory research,” he said.

Hjalmar completed Cambridge A-levels at the age of 13. When Grade 5 lessons no longer held any interest or excitement for him, Hjalmar’s father began home-schooling him. From that moment on, he sped through the Cambridge curriculum. “I consider myself a diligent and mature student, and my home-schooling gave me the necessary academic background to be able to complete my studies at the University with relative ease. Although, there were a handful of modules which seemed completely impossible to pass. Some of them frightened me. But, once I ignored that, it was simply a matter of putting in enough hours of effort and practise,” he said.

Hailing originally from Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, Rall describes his academic journey was relatively easy, most of the time. It was his love for mathematics which made his studies enjoyable and served as sufficient motivation for him to overcome any challenges he encountered.

According to Rall, had he not chosen physics as his field of study, it would have been pure mathematics. “My motivation for studying physics is that I get to use abstract mathematics on a daily basis, without too much effort, but it is such an interesting field that I wouldn’t have minded pursuing the subject itself,” he said.

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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