When Chris Pearson sat down to take his A-level chemistry exam last year the only thing on his mind was remembering the periodic table. He didn't for one second imagine he would end up at a ceremony at Kingston University six months later, being applauded for scoring the top marks in the country and picking up Â£200 into the bargain.
The former Esher College pupil still can't believe his success in the Salters Examination. The 19 year old, who is now studying chemistry at Cambridge University, collected his prize from Terry Page, secretary of the Royal Society of Chemistry's south-east section.
"Winning this award is beyond my expectations," Chris said. "Naturally it came as quite a surprise. It wasn't a goal of mine to score the highest marks nationally. I remember being nervous before the exam - that was only to be expected. But I worked hard and the result is really beyond anything I could have hoped for."
Chris paid tribute to the staff at Esher College and, in particular, Brian Nicholls-Lee, who is also a part-time lecturer at Kingston. "If it wasn't for the high standard of teaching at Esher I wouldn't be picking up this prize," he said. "It expanded my interest in chemistry. I have been passionate about the subject for a long time and Brian really encouraged me to take my interest a stage further. Now I'm at Cambridge and I'm loving every minute of it. There is a lot of work to do but I feel I'm coping really well."
The presentation was organised by Kingston's Head of School of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Dr Will Bland, who is chair of governors at Esher College. "I'm not at all surprised by Chris' success," Dr Bland said. "He's proven himself to be an excellent student and has the potential to be a very good scientist."
Links between Esher College and Kingston are traditionally very strong. Esher students are regular visitors to the university where they gain hands-on experience of advanced equipment.