When a child super brain has to grow up

By Liz Burke of news.com.au

Mel Myers, once Australia's youngest university student, is all grown up now. Photo / Supplied
Mel Myers, once Australia's youngest university student, is all grown up now. Photo / Supplied

When Mel Myers was 18, he had a rude awakening.

He turned on the television, flicked through magazines, and found that there were no celebrities he recognised at all, apart from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He didn't recognise a single song that played on the radio. He didn't know any of the words and he couldn't name any bands or singers.

The realisation came as a shock, but Mel hadn't experienced some sort of memory loss or anything like that, he had never had to be concerned with such trivialities.

The revelation, which prompted Mel to lead himself in an impromptu study of pop culture, was all part of his journey into what he calls "the real world".

Or, growing out being a child prodigy.

"I went from whiz kid, to whiz kid realises he has various shortcomings," he says.

"I was basically unable to have a social conversation ... I realised I had no idea about anything."

Up until this confronting point in Mel's life, he says now, he was living in a bubble.

When he was very young he fell in love with mathematics. One of his earliest memories is a scene from his early years of primary school when he was brought to tears after getting one question wrong on a maths test.

He wanted to get 100 per cent on everything.

The Sunshine Coast boy's skill and determination saw him ace tests, finish high school maths by the age of 12, and become the youngest Australian accepted into university.


He started courses at Deakin University through correspondence before he officially became a teenager, and was studying full time at Sunshine Coast University at the age of 14.

His remarkable abilities also earned him constant praise. He gave newspaper and radio interviews where he was only ever asked about himself, and since he got so much joy from his studies, he was unconcerned by having lots of friends or being invited to parties.

He describes his teenager self as "close to the movie stereotype of the kid who would get bullied", but lacking in social life didn't concern him.

When he became an exceptional adult, still impressive but not quite the super-brained kid he'd always been, things changed.

"I guess that happens when it comes to real life. You think I've got this degree now what am I doing. Unfortunately you're exposed to the real world and the real world's not as nice as sitting at home doing your maths and getting pats on the back," he says.

He was a teenage prodigy.

It's been 20 years since he started his full time studies, and Mel is now 35.

Rather than becoming the mathematician he used to tell interviewers he wanted to become when he grew up - "I still don't really know what a mathematician does, but it was all I wanted to be for a really long time" - he's director of successful start-up boxbrownie.com, which he runs with two business partners.

The company says its "revolutionising the real estate industry" with its cloud-based digital editing services.

It is a cloud-based software system designed to make image editing fast, easy and affordable, with plans to branch out into other areas in the coming years.

"I was starting to realise that while I really enjoyed maths and that was my strong point, it only take you so far and to a point, so the other thing that I was interested in was computers, and I guess it's a field I've fallen into ever since," he said.

Although his whiz-kid status was once what defined him, now he says he's more well rounded.

"By the time I emerged from that (studying and consulting work), I was just a bloke in my 20s, I was no longer that remarkable," he says.

"But I'm probably indifferent. I'd like to think that for a great number of years, people that have known me for a long time know about my past and history," he says.

"I'm just a regular guy that you can chat to, which is great. Sometimes other people bring things up, my business partner likes to tell people but more having a go, a quick stab at me. I'm fairly normal now I think."

- news.com.au

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