From bachelor’s degree to Ph.D.

By on May 23, 2011

Photo: Lucas Foguth, of Elburn (bottom right) is pictured with his family. Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski

Local prodigy awarded fellowship from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
by Sandy Kaczmarski
Elburn—When a student is awarded a full fellowship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it’s certainly an impressive accomplishment, given that MIT is widely considered among the most prestigious universities in the world.

Such an opportunity might be expected when the student completes his undergraduate work by graduating summa cum laude from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich., with a 3.94 grade point average.

But what’s truly astounding is this student— Lucas Foguth of Elburn—is only 19. And he’s beginning work toward his Ph.D. next month doing research.

“It’s very selective to go straight (from a bachelor’s degree) to a Ph.D. program,” said Bob Foguth, Lucas’s dad. “His scores were right at the top.”

A quiet young man with a smile on his face, Lucas said there was nothing particularly special about his education that put him in such an elite educational class.

Lucas and his three younger sisters—Rebekah, 18; Rachel, 16; and Sarah, 11—are all home-schooled by their mother, Shelly. Bob said she loves nothing more than teaching kids to read, but did nothing special to promote advanced learning.

Lucas did attend pre-school, and was disappointed when his mother suggested he stay home the next year to begin the first-grade curriculum when he was 5, putting him one year ahead of other children.

Shelly said it wasn’t until he took advanced classes in chemistry at Waubonsee Community College at age 15 that Lucas realized his potential.

“That was the light bulb,” she said.

It was a turning point for Lucas.

“I actually had my life planned out,” he said. “I was going to go to Franciscan University of Steubenville, get my degree in Theology, and then I was going to become a priest.”

The family attends St. Gall Catholic Church in Elburn. When Lucas was contacted by Michigan Tech during his senior year in high school, he said he did a lot of praying to figure out what he should do.

“I found God was calling me in a different way, and figured I was supposed to go to Michigan Tech,” he said.

By the time Lucas graduated from high school just before his 17th birthday, he had 35 college credits to transfer to Michigan Tech, where he finished his degree in three years.

“In chemical engineering, there’s a four-year progression of classes,” Bob said. “So almost nobody gets out early in chemical engineering.”

Surprisingly, Lucas said he wasn’t the youngest on campus; there was a girl two months younger who was also a student.

Lucas said the research program he’s starting this summer is “on the pharmaceutical side of chemical engineering.”

“It sounds really interesting,” he said. “But we’ll see if I enjoy it.”

So, how does a young man who had a pretty normal and unremarkable childhood end up with such a bright future?

“Homeschooling gave him good study habits,” Bob said. “But he’s a disciplined kid to begin with. He’s very focused.

“And he found something he really likes to do.”

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in last week’s edition of the newspaper. However, in that version, the Elburn Herald replaced “Massachusetts” with “Michigan” when referencing MIT. Since the crux of the story is that a local 19-year-old earned a fellowship at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), we both apologize for our initial error and are more than happy to reprint the correct article in full.