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U.S. Brings Home Gold

Competition: Team has strong showing at International Chemistry Olympiad

by Linda Wang
July 31, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 31

Stephen Li of Troy High School, in Michigan; Andrew Chen of West Windsor Plainsboro High School South, in New Jersey; Robert Kao of Edwin O. Smith High School, in Storrs, Conn.; and Derek Wang of North Allegheny Senior High School, in Wexford, Pa. show off their medals at the International Chemistry Olympiad in Vietnam.
Credit: Melissa Barranger-Mathys
Li (from left), Chen, Kao, and Wang celebrate after winning their medals.

Singapore came out on top during the 46th International Chemistry Olympiad, held July 20–29 in Vietnam, earning the highest-scoring gold medal and the highest overall team score.

With one gold and three silvers, the U.S. put on a solid performance. “I am so proud of them as ambassadors of the U.S. culture,” says head mentor Melissa Barranger-Mathys, assistant professor of chemistry at Ursuline College, in Ohio.

Teams of four high school students from each of 75 countries participated in this year’s competition, which took place in Hanoi. The event tests students on chemistry knowledge and lab skills.

In all, the olympiad organizers awarded 28 gold, 63 silver, and 92 bronze medals. Aside from placing first, the team from Singapore earned two gold medals and two silver medals. Russia earned the most gold medals during the competition—three—and a silver. Host country Vietnam earned two gold medals and two silvers.

“This has been the best experience of my life,” U.S. gold medalist Robert Kao told C&EN after receiving his medal. “It’s made me realize that chemistry is a subject that can connect young scientists from around the world and improve international relations between those young chemists.”

The U.S. team comprised Kao, of Edwin O. Smith High School, in Storrs, Conn.; Andrew Chen, of West Windsor Plainsboro High School South, in New Jersey; Stephen Li, of Troy High School, in Michigan; and Derek Wang, of North Allegheny Senior High School, in Wexford, Pa. In addition to taking exams, the students participated in sightseeing and cultural excursions around Hanoi.

“I’ll be taking home a lot of great new relationships with students from around the world, memories that will last me forever, and above all, a greater appreciation for what chemistry can do for people,” Wang says.

The most valuable part of this experience has been “gaining new perspective from people in other countries and seeing how they learn chemistry, and how they think,” Chen says.

Planning for the 47th International Chemistry Olympiad is under way. The competition will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, in July 2015.


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