EINDHOVEN : As he cradles his young puppy in his arms, Laurent Simons looks much like any other nine-year - old boy.

Then he starts describing his work at university in the Netherlands, developing a computer circuit that will replicate a part of the brain.

''What we are doing is placing neurons and making connections to see what the reaction is to medication in a part of the brain,'' he says of the brain-on-chip project, which combines the biomedical and electrical engineering fields.

With an IQ of 145, the Belgian boy wonder is on track to become the world's youngest university graduate when he completes a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Eindhoven's University of Technology next month.

''I'm planning to start my PhD and study a little medicine, but before that vacation,'' he said of his post-graduation plans.

After completing high school in roughly a year, Laurent - born in Belgium but now living in the Netherlands - started university and is set to finish the three-year bachelor's programme in just nine months.

Currently, the youngest person to obtain a college degree is American Michael Kearney, who achieved the feat in June 1994 at the age of 10 years and 4 months according to Guinness Book of World Records.

Offers are flooding in from universities around the world and Laurent's parents are helping him weigh the options, with the US west coast currently a favorite destination.

Hus father, Alexander, doesn't dare predict Laurent's future because he has smashed every expectation so far - but stressed there was no hurry.

''What he's doing now is playing with education, just playing around, '' he said. ''And that's fine with us.'' [Reuters]


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