When Brady Rudh was in middle school, he asked his mom to watch a PowerPoint presentation he had assembled. The topic was platypuses, which, for the uninformed, is the plural of platypus, which, also for the uninformed, is a semiaquatic egg-laying mammal native to eastern Australia.
“OK,’’ his mom, Heidi Corcoran, said. “What class is this for?”
“No class,’’ Brady said. “I put it together just for you.”
Most mothers would have been taken aback — OK, shocked — if their young child had demonstrated the curiosity, initiative and focus required to complete such a task.
Not Brady’s mom. In kindergarten, after all, her son could read as well as some teenagers, and this spring he graduated from Park High School in Cottage Grove with a 4.4 grade-point average.
Which, together with the 33 he scored on his ACT, virtually guaranteed him entry into the academic field of his choice, at the university of his choice.
So, would he study medicine? Law? Nuclear physics?
“Fisheries,” Brady said. “I have a pretty clear vision of the work I want to do for the betterment of the ecological community, specifically fisheries science.”
A lover of cold weather, Brady selected a college about as far north in the continental United States as colleges exist: Northern Michigan University in Marquette.
Or, it could be said, that school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, hard by the shores of Lake Superior, chose Brady when it awarded him a four-year scholarship covering tuition, room, board and automatic entry to the school’s honors program — the whole shebang.
Lisa Martineau, a high school biology teacher of Brady’s, has no doubt her former star student will continue his academic wizardry in college.
“I remember the first day of biology class in ninth grade, Brady came up to me and said he wanted to be an ichthyologist (a person who studies fish),” said Martineau, who also taught Brady as a member of Park High School’s international baccalaureate program.
Brady said he always has considered himself slightly different from other kids. Reading was one reason. “Even when I was young, I liked to read, and my friends didn’t,” he said.
Brady’s uniqueness was confirmed at age 7 when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder.
“It doesn’t impair me,” he said. “It helps me learn. I do think a little differently than some other people, and sometimes I’m not as open-minded as I would like to be. But I’ve made leaps and bounds. Therapy when I was younger helped. And my parents have been very supportive.”
About half of kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intelligence. Those like Brady who are intellectually gifted often possess an ability to focus intently.
Social interactions, by contrast, can be challenging.
Loren Miller, a state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries research scientist and adjunct professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, said Brady is doing the right things to become a fisheries scientist.
“Through his own initiative, he applied for and won a Hutton Scholarship through the American Fisheries Society, which then recruited me to be his mentor,’’ Miller said. “The (Hutton) program had only 26 scholars from throughout the country in 2018.”
In addition to working in Miller’s molecular genetics laboratory, Brady helped DNR field staff survey fish populations and spent a week assisting Lake Superior fisheries managers and biologists.
“In all cases he was useful assistance,” Miller said, “not just an observer.”
The good news for Minnesota anglers, and for all state residents, is that Brady is particularly passionate about carp — specifically, how to get rid of them.
“They’re a big problem, but I think there are a lot of research opportunities that can result someday in their control,” he said. “Already there is research occurring that would use artificial intelligence to remove carp from a stream or lake without harming native fish.”
An Eagle Scout, Brady was among about 300 prospective Northern Michigan University students who matched wits last fall for 10 of the school’s full-ride Harden Scholarships. The two-day competition consisted of group activities in which leadership, negotiation and interpersonal skills were evaluated, as well as one-on-one interviews with university faculty members.
Brady’s mom, stepdad Brian Corcoran, and dad Chris Rudh are excited to see what comes next for Brady as he prepares to leave for college in a few weeks.
“I have a purpose about how I want to change the world,” Brady said. “And I’ve taken every step I can to get that opportunity.”