Chemistry is often referred to as “the central science” since it is so broadly applicable. Chemistry is critical to advances in medicine, agriculture, energy, and materials (to name but a few uses). I remember being overwhelmed by the broad range of topics (spanning organic, inorganic, physical, and analytical chemistry) that I had to study while preparing for Chemistry Olympiad. However, this whirlwind tour gave me a strong appreciation for the wonders of chemistry. I found the combination of logic and creativity in organic chemistry to be particularly appealing. This led to my decision to study chemistry in college, where I decided to specialize in organic synthesis. Now a professor of organic chemistry, I look back at participation in Chemistry Olympiad as the key event that started me down this road.
Department of Chemistry
Iowa State University
The theoretical exam was very different from the tasks we had at the national level. In Ukraine, the tasks were much more open-ended and while there was often the only correct answer, the emphasis was more on the big picture and we were less penalized for technical mistakes.
IChO problems seemed very programmed, with challenges coming from the time pressure and the need to get minutiae right. There was almost no room for the "a-ha" moment, the kind that brightens up a long week in the research lab. The practical exam was, well, a practical exam, same as we always had and bore few surprises.
Overall, it was a quite happy summer – the scientific extracurriculars had secured me and my teammates the spots in the college of our choice, and we were all eagerly anticipating the big move to Moscow, away from our hometowns scattered around Ukraine. We (correctly) suspected that college would be less one-dimensional than the high school, that academic success would still matter a lot but one would need to learn other tricks – taking care of ourselves and earning money, for example.
I'm still figuring out the latter one. The IChO was certainly the highlight of the summer and for all of us, the first trip abroad. Without doubt, the Indians, our hosts, did a marvelous job accommodating us.
I hope all the participants will enjoy the competition as much as we did. Good luck to anyone at the IChO and beyond!
Yegor Smurnyy, PhD
Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Boston
IChO (2001, Mumbai, India)
It was really something incredible being a part of Ukrainian team for the 37th IChO in May 2005 I was aware that in a few months I’d be surrounded by the best young chemists from all over the world, even more – I’d be a part of this community. A lot of questions rose immediately: how should I spend my time before Olympiad, what things should be done, books should be read, etc. I felt a high degree of responsibility, and now I think it was the most difficult thing I dealt with seven years ago. And then I realized that there weren't enough time for thoughts about how and when to do something. I just kept doing things I used to. I relied on my own method of preparation for the Olympiad – solving sets of different types of problems from previous IChO's handbooks, various National Olympiads etc. And it's really worked out. At least I felt myself patient and confident before theoretical exam.
Trickier story was about practical exam. In my opinion, you can't totally afford yourself to rely only on your knowledge, because sometimes happens that even the professional chemists fail their experiments due to numerous circumstances. In normal life it’s not a total disaster, unless during the IChO. This competition has time limits, so generally you have the only one possibility to perform your practical tasks and get final marks. Of course your personal experience means a lot in this case, but a little piece of luck is vitally important. The last sentence can be attributed to many life situations.
The Closing Ceremony of 37th IChO was quite difficult for me. I understood that it was the end of a great and unforgettable period in my life, and the beginning of the brand new chapter at the same time. Our life is built from such small bricks. And the end of one it's only beginning of something new. Just don’t stop and keep going.
I’d like to wish good luck to all participants.
Mykhailo Vybornyi, PhD Student
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Berne, Switzerland
37th IChO (2005, Taipei, Taiwan)
Hi everyone! My name is David Yafte Diaz-Sanchez, student from the Mexico City. I started my training for IChO in 2010; when I was competing for go to 42nd IChO, which took place in Tokyo, Japan. I could not go, but the next year I went to Turkey to participate at the 43rd IChO. Training for this Olympiad was hard, some topics are very advanced and I had to study quantum chemistry, kinetics, thermodynamics, organic chemistry and other topics more. However, is not the same solve problems alone at home that to be in the other side of the planet competing against the best high school students of the entire world. Actually I did not get any medal, but IChO taught me that what really everyone can win in the competition beyond a medal are friends, great experiences and emotions!