World’s top high school chemistry students arrive in DC for International Chemistry Olympiad

‘Olympics of the mind’ overlaps ‘Olympics of the body’

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2012 — On July 20, nearly 300 high school students from more than 70 countries will arrive in the Washington, D.C., area to compete in the 44th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) at the University of Maryland, College Park. This Olympics of the mind begins July 21, ending July 30, just after the start of the Summer Games in London. The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the official organizer and The Dow Chemical Company is the official sponsor of the IChO.

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The U.S. is routinely a strong performer at the international event. Last year’s team brought home two gold and two silver medals. In 1999 and 2000, a member of the American team won the top gold medal.

The U.S. team members are Jason Ge from Westview High School in San Diego; Sidharth Chand from Detroit Country Day School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Christopher Hillenbrand from Regis High School in New York City; and James Deng from Choate Rosemary Hall School in New Haven, Conn. Meet our team in this 2.5 minute video.

While the students will face challenging written and laboratory problems during their 10-day event, they will also enjoy games, athletics and sightseeing, as they meet peers from around the world and make lasting friendships.

Competition for the U.S. team was intense. It started in the spring when more than 14,000 chemistry students took a rigorous exam in schools across the country. About 1,000 of them advanced to take the national exam for the Chemistry Olympiad, and the top 20 went on to a two-week study camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. At the conclusion, the U.S. team and two alternates were selected.

Three chemistry teachers are mentoring the US team: Kelli Slunt, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Va.; Melissa Barranger-Mathys, Ph.D., Ursuline College, Pepper Pike, Ohio; and Amiee Modic, Katy High School, Katy, Tex.

The IChO originated with Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary in 1968. Soon, other Eastern European countries joined the event; Western Europe began participating in 1974. The first U.S. team competed in 1984, winning one silver and two bronze medals.

“This year is especially important to the team because, for only the second time in IChO history, the Olympiad will be held in the U.S.,” said ACS president Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D. “It’s a great honor for us to be the host country for this Olympics of the mind, especially at a time when a scientifically trained workforce is so critical to our future. We also appreciate the U.S. Senate demonstrating the importance of this Olympiad by passing, with unanimous consent, Senate Resolution 491 recognizing the 44th International Chemistry Olympiad.”

“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 American Chemical Society 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