Young scientists vie for slot in national Chemistry Olympiad

Olympic hopefuls flexed their brains, rather than their brawn, when Yale’s Department of Chemistry hosted tryouts for this year’s national Chemistry Olympiad on April 25.

The annual competition, which has been sponsored by the American Chemical Society since 1984, is designed to stimulate interest and achievement in chemistry among high school students throughout the United States and to provide recognition of outstanding young chemistry students, teachers, and schools.

Over the past month, high school students nationally have been in the thick of preliminary competitions leading up to the International Chemistry Olympiad, which will be held in July in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

All told, 10,000 U.S. students began the competition; of those, 1,000 advanced to the national rounds. The top 20 will go on to an intensive study camp in Boulder Colorado in June. From those participants four will be sent to the international finals in Cambridge. There, nearly 300 students from 70 countries will compete for bronze, silver and gold medals.

Sixty-six New Haven students vied on written exams for the opportunity to be among the 11 students who participated in the regional competition held at Yale.

The Yale program was coordinated by Jonathan Parr, a lecturer in chemistry at Yale, and Olivier Nicaise, a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Trinity College in Hartford.

The day include both written exams and laboratory practicals. “The test was challenging at times but I think I did pretty well,” said Connor Clairmont, 16, a student from Cheshire High School.

Andras Sagi, 17, also from Cheshire High School, said, “ I have an AP exam for chemistry coming up so this is good additional preparation. It’s also a very good credential for college admission. I’d like to pursue a degree in organic chemistry.”

Last year Jenny Lu, currently a junior at Pomperaug High School in Southbury Connecticut, won a bronze medal in the 2008 International Chemistry Olympiad, held in Budapest, Hungary.

“It is wonderful to see young people so excited about chemistry,” said Parr. “We wish all the students well and of course, hope that our region is represented again on the final winning platform.”

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