Issue Date: June 29, 2009
Chemistry Olympians Picked
Four high school students have earned spots on the U.S. team that will compete in the 41st International Chemistry Olympiad in Cambridge, England, to be held on July 18–27.
The students are Nathan Benjamin of West Lafayette, Ind.; Colin Lu of Vestal, N.Y.; Brian Seifried of Dunwoody, Ga.; and Yixiao Wang of Westfield, N.J. Alexander Siegenfeld of Westport, Conn., will serve as the first alternate, and John Rosenberg of Barrington, Ill., as second alternate.
The winners were whittled down from 20 students—18 males and two females—who participated in nearly two weeks of intensive training during the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad study camp, which is organized by ACS and held on June 3–18 at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs. The 20 students beat out more than 900 of their peers who took the national exam and more than 11,000 who took the regional exam.
Benjamin and Wang, who both participated in the study camp last year as sophomores, said that having been through it once made them much more confident, especially in the labs. Lu and Seifried are competing for the first time. Seifried, a senior, tells C&EN that when he learned he was accepted to the study camp, he began studying chemistry three to five hours a day. "Since this was my only chance to make the team, I didn't want to take any chances," he says.
Lu, a junior, hadn't expected to make the team. "I almost didn't respond to my name" when it was called among the finalists, he says. "Everyone at the camp was really smart and really good at chemistry. It's almost impossible to think that you have a chance."
Although academic achievement is paramount, it is not the only factor mentors consider when finalizing the team roster. Students must also have the maturity and social skills to be good ambassadors for the U.S, says head mentor Linda J. Wood, a chemistry teacher at Lowndes High School, in Valdosta, Ga.
Woods and mentor John C. Kotz, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the State University of New York, Oneonta, will accompany the four-member team to Cambridge. USAFA chemistry instructor Kristin A. Fletcher served as a mentor during the study camp, as did peer mentor Andrew Freddo, who won a silver medal during the International Chemistry Olympiad in Gyeongsan, South Korea, in 2006 and is now an undergraduate at Caltech. Kimberly Gardner, an associate professor of chemistry at USAFA, serves as the academy's Olympiad director.
These students have a very bright future, Kotz says. "They're changed people after they've done the competition. They begin to really understand and realize their potential."
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