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UCT top achiever in computer science heading to Oxford

UCT top achiever Kialan Pillay

UCT top achiever Kialan Pillay

Published Mar 30, 2022


CAPE TOWN - UCT student Kialan Pillay will not only graduate with first-class honours this week, but is set to further his studies at one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, the University of Oxford.

The 21-year-old will graduate on Thursday with a Bachelor of Science honours majoring in Computer Science.

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He has achieved a 91.2% grade point average, has been awarded three class medals that recognise the top student in a course, and produced the best Honours research project.

Pillay achieved all of this while also working as a software engineer at Amazon Web Services.

“It’s been a little over three months now and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience as a full-time engineer, having interned during my academic career,” he said.

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Pillay, from Westville in KwaZulu-Natal, was dubbed the next “prodigy on the rise” on finishing his high school career as the top matriculant in the province at age 15, and obtained his a Bachelor’s degree at UCT when he was 19.

“I’ve always been interested in the learning aspect, the achievements are just a bonus. All thanks go to my parents for providing me with a special upbringing that catalysed my intellectual growth from a very young age,” he said.

“I’m incredibly passionate about the degrees that I have studied, so I’ve never suffered from a lack of motivation or consistency. With my supervisor, Professor Deshendran Moodley, I also published my first journal article on deep learning, a branch of machine learning, for stock market prediction,” he said.

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For Pillay, being at Amazon a world-leading technology company, has been a dream.

Even more exciting, he will further his studies for a Masters in Advanced Computer Science in Oxford. Imperial College London and University of Cambridge also accepted him to study at their institutions.

“I’ve wanted to read for a Masters since I began my undergraduate degree, specifically at a prestigious institution in the UK. It will give me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge and network with brilliant minds from around the world. I’m really excited and looking forward to this experience,” he said.

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While excelling at his academics, Pillay is also a musician and Lego fanatic.

His mom, Maheshvari Naidu, an anthropology professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said: “I am beyond ecstatic and kind of always knew that if that was what Kialan wanted, that’s where he would be. To get offers from both Oxford and Cambridge is truly remarkable and he is really a phenomenal young man. While his intellect means that some things come naturally to him, he still puts in the long hours to grow and stretch himself to greater possibilities. From age 1 to 4 he was glued to books and science experiments and designing and crafting things.”

Cape Times