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Two St. Margaret’s Students Named Among Top Chemistry Students in Orange County

12 June 2009 admin 2,810 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

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Two St. Margaret’s Upper School students were recognized among the top chemistry students in Orange County at the American Chemical Society’s 2009 Orange County Section High School Awards last week at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. Johnny Li, grade 10, and Anna McGregor, grade 10, placed in the top 10 of Orange County students in the categories of second-year chemistry students and first-year chemistry students, respectively, in the ACS U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad for high school students.

The Chemistry Olympiad is a multi-tiered competition designed to stimulate and promote achievement in high school chemistry. To compete, students must be selected to represent their schools by their teachers to participate in one of two categories, first- and second-year chemistry students, and begin with a regional sectional test that’s held each March.

Mr. Li and Ms. McGregor placed in the top 10 in each of their categories, an unprecedented achievement for St. Margaret’s students according to their Chemistry Teachers Mr. Joe Ingalls and Dr. Bob McDaniel. Nearly 350 students from over 35 high schools competed in the 2009 Orange County competitions.

“St. Margaret’s has participated in the competition since 1986, and we’ve had several students place in the top ten in Orange County over the years,” said Mr. Ingalls. “This is the first year, however, that we’ve had students place in the top ten in both categories in the same year and as a result we’ve (St. Margaret’s) been recognized as one of the top chemistry programs in Orange County by the American Chemical Society.”

With his top 10 finish in the second-year category, Mr. Li qualified to move on to the next stage of the national competition and took the national exam in April, along with 900 other top chemistry students from across the country, as part of the 2009 Orange County Olympiad Team.  The national exam is an extensive three-part test that includes a 90-minute multiple choice section covering broad chemistry topics, free-response section of multi-step problems requiring in depth knowledge of chemical theories and models, and a lab practical involving problem solving in the laboratory.  Only the 20 top-scoring students on the national exam move on to a study camp for the International Chemistry Olympiad. No Orange County students placed in the top 20 nationally.

Dr. McDaniel, a 25-year member of the ACS, said “Johnny and Anna thrive on this type of challenge. We [St. Margaret’s] offer our students every opportunity to select a unique path to pursue their interests at all levels of excellence.  Johnny and Anna are two outstanding students earning top scores in our classes.”

Each participating school is able to send eight students to compete in the first-year regional exam, and four students to compete in the second-year exam. While in grade 8, Mr. Li took Mr. Ingalls’ Honors Chemistry class and last year AP Chemistry with Dr. McDaniel. Ms. McGregor took Honors Chemistry with Mr. Ingalls this year and plans to take Dr. McDaniel’s AP Chemistry class next year. Both are hoping to be selected to represent St. Margaret’s again in next year’s competition.

“Over the last few years the entire Upper School Science Department has endeavored to engage our students in the study of science,” said Mr. Ingalls. “We feel compelled to develop a science program that will connect our students with the physical and biological world around them. Our program is aimed at bringing all students into the sciences. The traditional courses encompass physics, chemistry and biology to the AP levels and our new expanded offerings in engineering or astronomy.”

Approximately 10,000 U.S. students between the ages of 13 and 18 enter local Chemistry Olympiad competitions each year vying for a chance to compete in the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad and the International Chemistry Olympiad.

The program goals of the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad are to:

•    Stimulate all young people to achieve excellence in chemistry
•    Recognize outstanding chemistry students and, in doing so, encourage additional learning at a formative time in their intellectual development
•    Recognize the excellent achievement of teachers and the importance of the school environment
•    Provide contact between ACS local sections and area schools, and foster interest among professional chemists in teaching chemistry
•    Challenge the chemical knowledge and skills of young students in an international arena
•    Foster cross-cultural experiences and acquaint students with similarities and differences between themselves and their counterparts from other nations
•    For more information visit: www.acs.org

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