Fifteen-year-old maths star accepted for Edinburgh PhD

Published
image captionWang Pok Lo wants to be a doctor when he is older

A 15-year-old boy from South Queensferry has been offered a place to study for a doctorate at one of the UK's most prestigious universities.

Wang Pok Lo, known as Pok, is currently working towards his Advanced Highers at his local comprehensive school.

But in his spare time he has already completed a masters in statistics.

Next year he will study for a doctorate at the University of Edinburgh, and is on track to become the youngest person in the UK to get a PhD.

The record is held by child prodigy Ruth Lawrence who got a PhD from Oxford in 1989 at the age of 17.

South Queensferry High School's head teacher said the whole school was very proud of Pok's achievements.

Pok told the BBC he started reciting Cantonese poetry at the age of 11 months.

"I didn't know what I was doing to be honest," he said.

However, he soon grasped the basics of maths, learning to multiply and divide while he was still a toddler.

He moved to Scotland from Hong Kong with his family in 2006 and had a normal state education, but his parents encouraged his maths studies at home.

Pok passed his Standard Grade in maths at the age of nine and his Higher a year later. He got a first class honours degree in maths from the Open University at 13 years old.

image captionStaff at South Queensferry High School have worked to give Pok an ordinary school experience

He was offered at place at the University of Edinburgh to research population health science after being awarded a masters degree in statistics with medical applications from the University of Sheffield last month.

"I still can't believe that I have been accepted on that programme because I would have thought other candidates would have been more competent.

"I'm really looking forward to going to uni full-time," he added.

"It might be a bit awkward at first but I've started to grow used to [talking to adults] because in my part-time courses I've interacted with adults through discussion forums and when I've gone to campus to do exams I talk to them, so it's started to become more normal."

Pok, who hopes to go on to study medicine and become a doctor specialising in cardiology or neurology, said he was "relaxed" about his next step in academia.

"I don't think there should be anything I should be worried about right now," he said.

'Slowly but surely'

His friends at school have taken his achievements in their stride too.

"At first they were surprised but as the years have passed they don't really talk about it now. It's a lot more normal.

"Apart from the academics, I'm not that different."

His maths takes five or six hours at the weekend, and "maybe a whole day" if he has a deadline looming.

Other than that, he goes out with friends, plays games, enjoys music, likes chess, and is wishing for an acoustic guitar for Christmas.

"Everyone has their own achievements. I think they should be proud of them and look to further develop their potential."

Pok said that is what he is doing "slowly but surely".

'Ordinary experience at school'

Headteacher John Wood said Pok had had "quite a remarkable journey" since starting at the school as a first year with a higher maths under his belt.

"It's been the school's plan, in conjunction with his parents, that Pok should have as ordinary an experience at secondary school as possible," he said, adding the Pok had grown into a "rounded and grounded young lad".

image captionPok's teachers expect Pok to go on to "great things"

Mr Wood said: "In ways he is just the same as many 15-year-olds attending school and enjoying working together on their subjects.

"The whole school is very proud of his achievements.

"Pok just quietly gets on with the maths. We celebrate it appropriately but he doesn't stand out and think he is any better than his peers in school.

"I can only see him going from one success to another. In fact, I am expecting great things from him in the future, whatever twists and turns his journey takes him on."

More on this story