UHS Students Represent Team USA at International Chemistry Olympiad


Yufei Chen (left) and Nathan Ouyang (3rd from left) represented the US at the International Chemistry Olympiad. Image courtesy of C&EN.

Nikki Piedad, Staff Writer

UHS junior Nathan Ouyang and sophomore Yufei Chen spent their summer representing the USA as part of the national chemistry team at the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) this July. Ouyang brought home a gold medal and placed sixth overall in the world.

Getting to that level involved countless hours of hard work, a multi-stage tryout process and spending two weeks at a national training camp in Maryland this June.

“It’s very important to have a community and friends who share your interests, and it’s great that two UHS students made it to the camp in the same year,” Ouyang said.

Nominees to take the National Exam are chosen from their results in local exams. Then, the top twenty scorers in the country attend a rigorous study camp, which ultimately determines who is selected for the IChO team. The final competition team is made up of four high school students. Each country also sends two alternates, with Chen as the first.

“Camp this year was actually really nice, as in we didn’t have cutthroat competition,” Chen said. “My guess is that two years of online competitions made people really excited for an in-person camp.”

Besides involving exam-taking and training in college-level chemistry, the camp was also a chance for students to bond with other like-minded people and have fun. 

“We got to play pool, ping-pong, poker and solve problems together. We learned just as much from our great mentors and guest speakers as we did from each other,” Ouyang said.

The students agreed that most of the value of participating in the competition came from what they learned in the process and the experiences they took away while preparing for it.

“I’ve made a lot of new friends and got to know people from other schools,” Chen said. “It was really interesting interacting with other people with similar passions in chemistry.”

The two students are currently trying to spread their passion for chemistry in the UHS community through the revival of the Chemistry Club.

“I hope that we can interest more students in and build a supportive community for chemistry competitions at our school, just like our school has for math and physics,” Ouyang said.

Their club advisor is chemistry teacher Nick Brighton, who has seen both the students’ passion and hard work in the subject.

“They came in outside of school to do labs,” Brighton said. “And the Chem Club, hopefully, it continues to grow.”

The club aims to do more demonstrations and hands-on activities to inspire more students to learn about chemistry. When Ouyang first started, he didn’t know many others participating in the competition; now, he wants to support other students who might be interested in the subject.

“The one thing that helped me most was asking others for advice,” Ouyang said. “I would love to help others with my experiences as well.”