Appliance of science sees Katie discover formula for success

A TEENAGER has received special recognition for getting the highest scores in Scotland in her Advanced Highers for both chemistry and physics.

Former Firrhill High School pupil Katie Vokes, 18, beat around 1000 other students taking the advanced papers in each subject to get the highest scores in her exams this summer. The achievement came a year after she achieved the same feat in her maths Higher, despite taking it a year early.

Katie, who is from Comiston and is now studying maths at Durham University, returned to her former school yesterday for a presentation from the Royal Society of Chemistry and The Institute of Physics in Scotland in recognition of the achievement. The presentation was made in front of Firrhill pupils, teachers, and her parents.

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She said: "I'm really pleased. I didn't expect to do this well. I do enjoy it. I was very pleased when I opened my results."

Physics teacher Alison Murphy said Katie had shown her promise in the subject very early on in her school career. "I had the pleasure of teaching Katie for one year," she said. "It was a bit disconcerting, because my Lord, she would ask very difficult questions.

"She was very quiet, but she asked 'Why is the sky not completely full of stars, why can't you see stars everywhere?'

"It's an incredibly deep question, called Olber's Paradox. It's an incredibly important idea, there are whole websites written about it. To have someone in first or second year asking that question, I remember thinking 'Thank goodness I know the answer'. It was remarkable.

"I'm delighted but I have to say I'm not entirely surprised, because it was very clear she was going to do very, very well."

In addition to Advanced Highers in chemistry and physics, Katie also took them in French and mechanics this year, passing all of them with grade As.

Her mother, Anne said: "She was always very quick with maths and always had an interest in science. We're very, very proud of her, she worked very hard and it's good that her hard work has been recognised. Because of the number of subjects she was doing, it was a very busy year for her."

During the presentation yesterday, Katie received certificates, cheques and a book from the Royal Society of Chemistry and The Institute of Physics in Scotland.

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Elizabeth Stevenson of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: "It's very unusual indeed to come top of the country for both subjects. It's an exceptional achievement, certainly I can't remember any others."