Chemistry Olympians bring home gold and silver medals

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2022 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) is excited to announce that Team USA earned one gold and three silver medals at the 54th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), held virtually from China. 

The competition was intense, with 326 students from 83 countries participating. Only 33 gold medals were awarded, one of which went to Team USA’s Nathan Yihe Ouyang from University High School in Irvine, California. During the competition, he says, he enjoyed meeting other high schoolers passionate about chemistry. “At the study camp, I made lots of like-minded friends who also enjoy chemistry.”

In addition to one gold, Team USA members won three of the 71 silver medals awarded:
Jack Liu, Carmel High School, Indiana
Gideon Tzafriri, Lexington High School, Massachusetts
Phoenix Wu, Seven Lakes High School, Katy, Texas

There were 106 bronze medals awarded. The remaining participating students earned a certificate of participation.

“Chemistry as a science is between biology and physics, where you get to use all of your knowledge of how the world works, but apply it in the most obvious day-to-day uses,” says Wu. “In this year’s IChO, for example, a big focus was on everyday uses, like CO2 conversion or the catalytic converters in cars. I like how chemistry really lets you see in action the knowledge you know in a practical use.”

Being with fellow chemistry enthusiasts was a highlight for Tzafriri. “My favorite part was probably all the experiences that happened during our free time,” he says. He mentions that playing cards and hanging out during off hours were highlights for him.

“I really like studying chemistry, which led me to compete,” says Liu. “I like chemistry because there’s a lot of applications in the real world, especially on the IChO test. A lot of the questions are about real-world problems, which I think could be really useful in a career.”

The team was supported by head mentor Joseph Houck, Ph.D., of Pennsylvania State University; high school mentor Esther Hines of Billerica Memorial High School in Massachusetts; and college mentor Laura Serbulea, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia.

ACS has sponsored the U.S. team annually since the country joined the Olympiad in 1984. Principal funding is through the ACS Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Chemistry Olympiad Endowment, with additional support from other donors. For a complete list of sponsors, visit the ACS Olympiad website.

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.

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Four high school students wearing suits, holding an American flag in front of them
Left to right: Jack Liu, Nathan Yihe Ouyang, Phoenix Wu and Gideon Tzafriri
Credit: Margaret Thatcher/ACS