College at 12, Ph.D at 23 for UW grad

Julia Nepper went to college when she was 12 years old because her parents looked at the education she was getting and didn’t like it.

“We didn’t think she was being challenged enough,” said her mother, Nadine Nepper. “It was suggested if we wanted her to excel, we’d have to pull her out and homeschool her.”

They did and she advanced quickly enough to attend community college at 12, which required one of her parents to be with her at all times.

“Most of the people I’ve met, in my life, could have done what I did if they had the right support,” Julia tells a Jackson, Miss., TV station. “I don’t fault my parents, pushing me, with regards to my education. Clearly, I could handle it and it worked. So they must have done something right.”

Last month, she got her Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin, says. She’s 23.

Nepper said her studies — her thesis was on communities of E.coli bacteria — prepared her for employment in biotech or biopharmaceuticals, or further research in microbiology.

She is looking at something a bit different, however.

“I do love research but I am interested in science outreach and communication,” said Nepper, who has done some student outreach on campus and helped develop science activities for K-12 students and science festivals.

“That’s something I really enjoyed and I’m hoping I can find a career in that area,” she said.

She says she’s trying to use her moment of fame to inspire others.

“The biggest thing for any young women is don’t be afraid to be confident. Even if you’re not confident, fake it. Stand up straight, say what you believe and say it loudly and clearly. I think that made the biggest difference in my life, just being confident.”

She tells the Mississippi TV station she’d like to get a job in Japan.