A Richard Dawkins book, determination and self-teaching is what it took for a Denny boy to be accepted by Oxford University.
Calum Stephenson (18) graduated top of his year this summer with three Advanced Higher A passes.
However, in third year he was no star pupil.
He said: “I drifted from subject to subject. I had a lot of questions but couldn’t find many answers that satisfied me. The book, The Selfish Gene, provided me with what I craved and sparked an interest in biological science.
I realised that I wanted to be able to answer these questions too, I wanted to discover things that were unknown. To do that I needed to train to be a biologist, which provided me with the motivation I needed.”
With his family owning Zoolab Ltd and Tropical House Ltd, Calum has always been surrounded by zoo life.
He got to travel the world working on various documentaries concerning wildlife.
The student said: “While abroad every unturned stone was a question that was just waiting to be answered. Being exposed to biology first hand really solidified that it was what I wanted to spend my life doing.”
Calum focused his attention on his studies and in fifth year wanted to do all three sciences, but because of the schools timetabling system found he couldn’t. Instead he enrolled in a National 5 practical electronics class and taught himself the course. Left to his own devices he ended up winning the physics prize that year.
Calum entered sixth year with a conditional from Oxford stating only two A grades and one B at Advanced Higher would be enough to get him accepted.
“It meant that I was stressing about studying and worrying that I might not get the grade,” he said.
Calum achieved straight A’s and was awarded top of the year. To cap it all got his place at Oxford University where he has now settled into student live studying biological sciences.