Queensferry student set to become youngest ever Brit with a PhD
A university graduate from South Queensferrry could become the youngest ever Brit with a PhD after being accepted onto the course – aged 15.
Wang Pok Lo graduated with distinction in his masters MSc in Statistics with Medical Applications after studying in his free time.
Known as Pok to his friends at Queensferry Community High School, he is still en route to complete his schooling.
But the maths whizz has now been offered a place at the University of Edinburgh to study a three-year PhD in population health science.
The S6 pupil will continue to study for the rest of his exams before embarking on the PhD in September next year.
The prodigy earned a first class honours degree in Maths through the Open University in 2017 when he was just 13-years-old. Pok then went on to enrol at Sheffield University to study the part-time masters degree online - only having to complete the 550 mile round trip to Sheffield for exams.
He said: “It was distance learning so all the materials were online. I only needed to go to campus when I needed to do exams. There were lectures as well that were recorded and posted online.
“It’s been quite a challenging journey but very rewarding. I’ve learned a lot in the field of medical statistics.
“It’s quite a turn from my undergraduate degree in maths. Statistics is a lot of analysis and less calculations.
“The challenging part was the workload but I felt the modules were manageable.
“The lecture notes were quite clear and there was an online discussion forum where people could ask questions and lecturers would respond quite quickly.
“The module I liked the most was my dissertation, although it was the hardest part.
“It contributed a third of my degree.
“My supervisor was very helpful with comments and he helped me into my PhD programme at Edinburgh.”
Pok, who moved to Scotland from Hong Kong in 2006, was doing sums when he was just two-years-old and passed his advanced higher maths exams when he was only 12.
In primary school, Pok zipped through the entire pre-Higher maths curriculum by the time he was eight. He started studying with the Open University when he was nine. But he said he was shocked at gaining a place on the PhD course because of his age, and admits it’s going to be more difficult.
Pok will begin his full-time PhD next September, after he completes his high school education and celebrates his 16th birthday. The genius is currently completing his advanced highers in maths, physics, biology and chemistry. The PhD course will take three years, with Pok being only 19 when he graduates.
Prior to being accepted he had to complete an interview and prepare slides, competing against people much older than him and with industry experience.
Pok said: “I found out in May. I was really happy. I didn’t expect to be accepted due to my age and I expected other candidates to be more competent than me – especially because they had experience in the workplace.
“That was a great moment. My friends were surprised – I only told them recently. They asked me some things about the PhD because they weren’t too familiar with the syllabus.”
Despite undertaking studies well beyond his age group, Pok still finds time to socialise with friends and he enjoys playing piano and guitar and listening to classical music.
After his PhD he is hoping to go on to study medicine, with interests in cardiology and neurology. Pok, who used a progress chart on his bedroom wall to help monitor his degree and masters studies, is preparing for his workload to increase even more.
He said: “The workload is going to be a lot greater. I think I need to plan quite carefully how I do my PhD. But I’m really looking forward to it because I get to meet new people as well.”
John Wood, headteacher at Queensferry Community High School, said: “The whole school community are extremely proud of Pok and his tremendous achievements.
“In 35 years of teaching, I’ve taught many very able young people but I must say that Pok is quite unique. His flair and aptitude for mathematics are extraordinary.
“In many ways, Pok is just like any other 15-year-old lad who is just getting on with his studies and attending school with his peers. The only difference is he has a Masters degree with distinction in Statistics with Medical Applications, achieved this year, in addition to a first class honours degree in Mathematics, a qualification which he achieved aged just 13.
“He will leave us at the end of this year to pursue a PhD in Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.
“Looking ahead, we wish him well in his studies and look forward to hearing more about his ongoing success.”