US team of high school chemistry students bring home gold and silver from Olympics of the mind

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2012 — Four high school students who represented the U.S. at the 44th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) earned a gold medal and three silvers at the recent ten-day competition among teams of the brightest high school students from more than 70 countries. They are:

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Sidharth Chand, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Detroit Country Day School—SILVER
Sid credits “the best chemistry teacher in the world” for his interest in science and for introducing him to IChO. Sid will turn 17 in August and will be a senior at Detroit Country Day this fall. “I’m ecstatic,” he said when asked about making the team.

James Deng, Hamden, Conn., Choate Rosemary Hall School—SILVER
James, 16, will be a senior this fall and credits his chemistry teacher for his love of chemistry. He admits to being a little intimidated by his fellow competitors whose “caliber of thinking is very high.”

Jason Ge, San Diego, Calif., Westview High School—SILVER
Jason, 16, who will be a junior this fall, said he was “honored to represent the U.S. in the Olympiad” and really enjoyed meeting so many new people from different cultures.

Christopher Hillenbrand, Union, N.J., Regis High School—GOLD
Chris, 15 (turning 16 this month), will be a sophomore this fall, and became interested in chemistry at age five when his father bought him a chemistry book (that he still has). “The interest in chemistry never went away, unlike some of my other transient interests,” says Chris. What he liked best about IChO was being able to “talk about a subject I love” with other kids who share that passion.

The competition was held July 21-30 at the University of Maryland, College Park, just outside Washington, D.C. The American Chemical Society (ACS) was the official organizer and The Dow Chemical Company was the official sponsor. This year was only the second time in the history of the event that it was hosted in the U.S. The last time was 1992.

In addition to taking difficult exams and performing challenging laboratory work, students at IChO also participate in athletics and sightseeing. The experience provides them not just an opportunity to compete at the highest levels, but also to establish networks that go beyond cultures and borders and often last for years to come.

The four students on the U.S. team were selected from an original pool of more than 12,000 high school chemistry students nationwide. The final four emerged after a two-week training camp held for the 20 student finalists in mid-June at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“We are proud of all the students who participated in the Olympiad,” said ACS president Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D. “But it’s not what these students did here, or how many medals they are bringing home that’s so compelling. Rather it’s who they are and what they’ll be doing down the road that sets them apart. It’s their drive to be creative problem solvers and innovators, to push the limits of knowledge that warrants our notice and appreciation. In a few years I fully expect they will be finding solutions to the most vexing global challenges we face today things like adequate clean water and safe food for the world’s population, renewable energy, safeguards for our environment and cures for debilitating disease of all kinds.  That’s the promise of chemistry and these young people clearly are poised to put it to work.”

“At Dow, with more than 100 years of investment in STEM education programs, we know that innovation begins not only in the classroom but also in personal imagination,” said Bo Miller, Global Director for Corporate Citizenship for The Dow Chemical Company and President and Executive Director of The Dow Chemical Company Foundation. “We are excited to use the 44th International Chemistry Olympiad as an opportunity to engage and inspire bright young scientists from across the globe to pursue careers in chemistry as a means of creating solutions to challenges that affect our planet, our communities and improve the human condition.”

The ACS has sponsored the American team annually since the U.S. joined the Olympiad. Principal funding is through the ACS Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Olympiad Endowment with additional support from the Air Force Academy; Advanced Chemistry Development; Carolina Biological Supply Company; Flinn Scientific, Inc.; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company; Wiley & Sons Publishers; McGraw-Hill Companies; Merck Publishing Group; Prentice Hall Publishers; Texas Instruments, Inc.; University Science Books; and Sigma Aldrich Co.


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Left to right: Jason Ge, Sid Chand,
Chris Hillenbrand, James Deng