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U.S. Finalizes Chemistry Olympiad Team

Students will head to Tokyo to compete in international chemistry competition

by Linda Wang
June 16, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 27

Credit: Brian Lee
From left: Siegenfeld, Sikder, Li, and Lu.
Credit: Brian Lee
From left: Siegenfeld, Sikder, Li, and Lu.

Four U.S. high school students are headed to Tokyo to represent the U.S. in the 42nd International Chemistry Olympiad, which will take place on July 19-28.

The team was chosen on June 15, at the conclusion of an intensive two-week U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad study camp organized by the American Chemical Society and held at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs.

The finalists are Richard Li, River Hill High School, Clarksville, Md.; Colin Lu, Vestal High School, in New York; Alexander Siegenfeld, Hopkins School, New Haven, Conn.; and Utsarga Sikder, South Brunswick High School, Monmouth Junction, N.J.

The two alternates are Joe Tung, Gretchen A. Whitney High School, Cerritos, Calif.; and Kevin Yan, Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, Md.

"I have not seen a group that was this focused in quite some time," says Kimberly Gardner, associate professor of chemistry at the U.S. Air Force Academy and head mentor for the U.S. team, of this year's study camp participants. "But they were also really friendly, outgoing, and personable. They're just the nicest kids."

Gardner notes that this year's group came in with an extensive amount of research experience. "They came to the camp as prepared as they possibly could be," she says. "All of the mentors have very high expectations for Tokyo. I think the students will meet, if not exceed, last year's performance." In 2009, the U.S. team took home one gold and three silver medals during the 41st International Chemistry Olympiad in London.

The two other mentors this year are Kristin A. Fletcher, a chemistry instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy; and Ara Kahyaoglu, a chemistry teacher at Bergenfield High School, in New Jersey. Brian Lee, a member of the 2007 U.S. Chemistry Olympiad team and an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, served as the peer mentor.

The 20 students who participated in this year's study camp—18 men and two women—were the top scorers among approximately 10,000 students who took a regional exam and 930 students who went on to take the national exam.

In Tokyo, the U.S. team will compete for medals alongside students from roughly 70 other countries. Participants will be judged on theoretical knowledge as well as laboratory skills. The students will also participate in sightseeing and cultural activities in and around Tokyo.



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