Karan Singh is unique among his classmates. At Lathrop High School, most seniors are readying
for diplomas and thinking about college in the fall. Singh, 18, knows the feeling — but he
finished at Lathrop three years ago.
Now, he’s excited about receiving his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in electrical
engineering (he concluded his studies at Cal Poly in March) and starting graduate school.
Singh is Cal Poly’s youngest grad ever— eclipsing the previous youngest Mustang, Priscilla
Butler, an English major who graduated at age 18 in 1988.
Singh is now a postbaccalaureate researcher at Stanford University studying the use of
ultrasound to treat Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy, and plans to start his doctorate in electrical
engineering at the Palo Alto campus next fall.
His ultimate goal, he said, is “working as an innovator in the biomedical field — likely in an
When he toured Cal Poly while in high school, he found “a welcoming and professional
environment” that aligned with his interests — a passion for innovation and, later, the life-
altering potential of biomedical engineering.
Plus, there was one important criterium: The electrical engineering curriculum “appeared very
relevant to the current state of my field and was structured in a way that allowed me to go at my
own pace,” he said.
His route to Cal Poly at age 15 was aided years before his September 2019 arrival by marching
to that educational pace, skipping a grade in elementary school, and racing through high school
in two years.
“Coming to Cal Poly significantly broadened my horizons and augmented my knowledge in
many more ways than just academically,” he said. “The opportunities I’ve received here — and
the ones I haven’t — have pushed me to keep moving forward towards my broader goals.
“Learn by Doing pointed me toward practical design and trying to make an impact in the
present,” he added. “No amount of knowledge has worth if it isn’t used to contribute to the
world. Cal Poly’s coursework gave me both the theory and practical experience I needed to excel
in my ventures and produce functional tools quickly.”
Like other students, studying amid COVID was a challenge — especially for one on a two-and-
a-half-year plan — but not without rewards.
“I completed more of my degree virtually than in-person,” he said. “While the alternate format
promoted my early graduation and allowed me to manage my time more easily, it was a
challenge adapting to the lack of significant interaction with my peers and instructors.
“I solved this problem for my cohort by creating a host of online Discord servers for coursework
and general conversation,” he said of the group-chatting platform originally built for gamers that
has evolved into a general-use platform for various types of communities. “They are now
populated by over 1,000 collective members and most of the students in my department.”
Along the way, he had help. He cited his work with his advisor, Professor Ben Hawkins, as very
“The friendships I’ve gained here have made my time thoroughly enjoyable,” he said. “Of
course, I am also very grateful for my parents who greatly facilitated my earlier transition to
With the latest stage of his education completed, he can look back at his time at Cal Poly with
“Besides being the youngest graduate in Cal Poly’s history, I am proud of the research I am
contributing to with the skills I’ve gained at Cal Poly,” he said. “My lab at Stanford works on
ultrasound-based, non-invasive treatments for ailments such as epilepsy and essential tremors.
“I will most remember the long days and nights I spent at Cal Poly collaborating with my friends
and classmates. Perhaps even more important than the education you gain in college are the
connections and relationships you make. Though my time there was short, the impact of Cal Poly
and the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with will stay with me for a lifetime.”