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Liberty High School senior Jeff Wang is photographed on campus in Brentwood, Calif., on Tuesday morning May 21, 2013. Wang is a Chinese immigrant who has taken AP tests for classes the district doesn't even offer -- teachers say he's taken it upon himself to learn the subject matter -- and he's acquired patents in both China and the U.S. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

BRENTWOOD -- Jeffrey Wang's mother used to worry that even though studying had become an ingrained habit for her son, he might lack the inner drive it also takes to be an achiever.

Fret no more, Mrs. Wang.

The 18-year-old Liberty High School student not only is graduating this week with a 4.09 grade-point average, but has demonstrated the considerable ambition it took to earn a place among the campus' academic elite. And he did it after emigrating just three years ago from China, where he holds a patent.

"I think I'm persistent; I think I have ambition," Wang said.

Despite his initially limited English-speaking ability, he understood plenty: Wang sailed through advanced studies in calculus, psychology, statistics and biology.

And upon discovering that Liberty High doesn't offer advanced classes in computer science, macroeconomics and microeconomics, Wang decided to teach himself.

"I just bought a book," said the soft-spoken Brentwood teen of the publications designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement exam.

When he came across information he didn't understand, he turned to the Internet.

"Wikipedia is really the source for the complementary knowledge," said Wang, who also followed links to university websites for additional explanations from professors who teach the subjects and Googled unfamiliar economics terms like "price elasticity" and "aggregate demand."

The classes are a launchpad for his plans to earn a degree in electrical engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles, one of three UC schools along with Penn State that accepted him.

As Wang talks about career possibilities, he browses a buffet of possibilities: Perhaps he'll work in the telecommunications field. Or maybe his calling is in robotics, designing parts for a futuristic self-driving car. Then again, his ultimate dream is to form his own technology design company.

While in China, Wang and his cousin came up with a way to reduce the radiation from electric appliances such as hair dryers and electric blankets, the latter a common item in a country where heating an entire house is expensive.

A relative applied for a patent on their behalf and an electric blanket manufacturer since has produced a prototype that incorporates Wang's idea.

So what does a teen like Wang do for fun?

He reads about emerging technology and writes Java code -- he taught himself that programming language, too -- to solve complex mathematical problems.

"I think it's the accomplishment, you make something work," Wang said of the enjoyment he derives from the hobby.

Despite his success, Wang dismisses the suggestion that his intellectual prowess sets him apart from his peers.

"It's hard to generalize people, to say they're really smart," he said, explaining that it's more accurate to describe individuals as having intelligence in different areas.

What's more, getting good grades doesn't necessarily translate into long-term achievement, Wang said.

"Those who got into a good college and are considered smart right now ... might not have the skill to survive in real life," he said.

Conversely, people are often considered a success story if they found a company, for example, but others might not realize that forming a startup requires abilities in multiple areas, Wang said.

"It's not all about how advanced the technology is," he said, noting that effective entrepreneurship also entails creativity, communication skills and marketing savvy.

"That's what I'm trying to train myself, to get those skills," Wang said.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.

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