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ACS News

South Korea Dominates Chemistry Olympiad

Education: U.S. team earns three silver medals and a gold in international competition

by Linda Wang
July 30, 2012

Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Deng (from left), Chand, Hillenbrand, and Ge show off their medals.
These are the U.S. olympiads, displaying their medals.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Deng (from left), Chand, Hillenbrand, and Ge show off their medals.

With each of its four participants earning a gold medal, the 44th International Chemistry Olympiad team from South Korea emerged as the top performer in the event, held on July 21–30 at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dow Chemical was the sole sponsor of this year’s competition, and ACS’s Education Division, under its director, Mary M. Kirchhoff, provided all planning for the event.

The chemistry olympiad draws from around the world the best and brightest high school chemistry students, who this year earned a total of 34 gold, 58 silver, and 87 bronze medals. The students’ overall scores were calculated after they completed a laboratory practical and a theoretical exam.

In other highlights, the teams from Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Russia, and India each earned three gold medals and a silver. China earned two golds and two silvers. Gold medalist Florian Berger of Germany had the highest individual score.

Members of the U.S. team put on a solid performance. Christopher Hillenbrand earned a gold medal, and team members Jason Ge, James Deng, and Sidharth Chand each received a silver medal. Hillenbrand, who is the youngest member of the team, will be a sophomore in high school this fall. Ge will be a junior, and Deng and Chand will be seniors.

“This is probably the youngest team the U.S. has ever had,” said head mentor Kelli Slunt, a chemistry professor at the University of Mary Washington. “I’m very, very pleased with how well they did. They’re very capable, and they’re going to go on to do tremendous things in whatever they choose to do.”

Introduction for International Chemistry Olympiad
Credit: ACS Pressroom

Hillenbrand could hardly contain his enthusiasm. “I feel really, really excited because at first when I took the local test, I never thought I would come this far,” he said of winning a gold medal. “It’s like a dream now. I’m in the middle of a dream, and I can’t wake up.”

“I feel proud to be a representative of the U.S., and I hope that we represented our nation well,” said Chand. “I’m extraordinarily happy that all of us succeeded in this olympiad, especially Chris. He’s remarkably intelligent, he’s brilliant, and most impressive of all, he’s 15.”

The closing ceremony, which took place on July 29 at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., capped a week of competition and camaraderie among 283 students from 72 countries. The students enjoyed a variety of activities, including visiting the various monuments and museums in Washington, attending a Baltimore Orioles baseball game, and touring the National Aeronautics & Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center as well as the U.S. Naval Academy, which are both in Maryland.

“You come from different ethnic backgrounds, different religions, and different nations indeed, and our world today is in dire need of partnership,” Nobel Laureate Ahmed H. Zewail, the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry and a physics professor at California Institute of Technology, said in a video address to participants during the July 22 opening ceremony. “You must enjoy your presence in Washington and enjoy the great opportunities that are being offered to you, but you must also make friendships during this time which will be very valuable to you not only to your career in chemistry but also as you go on in life and see what’s going on in the world of today.”

“If we are to succeed in meeting tomorrow’s challenges, we must adopt a new way of thinking. A new way of acting. A new way of working together,” Jerome A. Peribere, executive vice president of Dow Chemical, said during the opening ceremony. “Global collaboration is key to accelerating science and achieving new solutions. This is why a meeting of all you young scientists and engineers from around the world is so important.”

Planning for the 45th International Chemistry Olympiad is under way. The competition will take place in Moscow in July 2013.

To read more about IChO, read the following blog posts:

Catalyzing Friendships at the International Chemistry Olympiad

Can You Compete With A Chemistry Olympian?

Competition and Camaraderie at #IChO2012

Final Days, Lasting Memories From #IChO2012

That’s A Wrap For The 44th International Chemistry Olympiad



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