UHS Students Represent Team USA at International Earth Science Olympiad


2022 U.S. Earth Science Team (USESO)

Sarah Chen, Staff Writer

UHS junior Wendy Cao and sophomore Yufei Chen represented Team USA this August at the International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO). Cao and Chen received gold medals in third place and fifth place, respectively. Cao received additional recognition with the Mary Anning Award for the most outstanding female student. Team USA also received gold medals in the national field investigation and earth system project. 

Before taking the US Earth Science Olympiad (USESO) exam, both students used various resources to prepare. 

“The main textbooks I used to study were Tarbuck Earth Science and Freedman Universe for the astronomy portion,” Chen said. “In addition to textbooks, I did the few available past exams.”

The UHS Earth Science Club was also a key component in preparing students such as Cao and Chen to take the USESO exam. 

“I greatly support their purpose in teaching others about Earth Science and encourage students who have the same interest in earth science to participate in their meetings as well as other environmental science-related clubs,” Cao said.

In April, participants in the 2022 IESO were chosen from the top test takers of the USESO open exam. In May, the list of students that would take part in the Team USA IESO training camp was announced. From June 25 to July 2, Cao and Chen participated in the online training camp to select the team members for the IESO. The training camp consisted of guest lecturers, interdisciplinary workshops, student-led presentations and earth science exams.

“We were able to collaborate with fellow science enthusiasts who shared the same interests,” Cao said. “Everyone had the opportunity to contribute critical thinking and creative skills to solve a real-world environmental problem.”

During the IESO, members of Team USA engaged in experiments, such as an investigation of microplastic content in U.S. water and an exploration of the La Brea Tar Pits. 

“We were able to see the fieldwork [at the La Brea Tar Pits] and visit the research laboratory where they analyzed the fossils that were extracted from the tar pit,” Chen said. 

Throughout the competition, members of Team USA were able to form a closer bond beyond their study of earth science. 

“Some unforgettable memories were having fun with the rest of my IESO teammates, telling jokes and sharing stories,” Cao said. “The most memorable moment was getting up at 3 a.m. to attend the closing ceremony.”

The two students revealed how they want to further study real-world applications of earth sciences. 

“I study earth science because it is an interdisciplinary field,” Chen said. “It has important applications today in areas such as mitigating climate change, developing renewable energy and bioremediation of polluted sites.”

Like Chen, Cao realized the importance of high schoolers studying earth science to solve global crises. 

“My experience at IESO has opened my eyes to the challenges the world faces and the many ways we can tackle them,” Cao said. “It encouraged me to grow as a scientist and make a positive impact in this field.”