National chemistry whiz Runpeng Liu of Saint Louis will be one of four students representing the United States at the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) in Moscow, July 15-24. The announcement was made by the American Chemical Society, sponsor of the U.S. team.
Runpeng graduated from Ladue-Horton Watkins High School this spring. He scored in the top 20 nationwide in both 2012 and 2013, earning him a spot at the Olympiad boot camp held at the Air Force Academy in June. Performance at the boot camp is used to select the first-string team of four plus two alternates. Runpeng is now one of the top four. As a member of the U.S. team, he will compete with students from more than 70 other countries for gold, silver and bronze medals in Moscow.
The competition to be part of the international event is fierce, beginning with a three-part exam taken by at least 12,000 high school students in the U.S. It starts with a high school chemistry contest, an exam administered by the Education Committee of the St Louis Section–ACS. There are two divisions: the Regular Division exam for students who are in their first year of high school chemistry; the Advanced Division for those taking their second high school chemistry course. The top three Advanced Division places at each testing site take the National Chemistry Olympiad qualifying test. The top 20 out of more than 1,000 of the nation’s brightest chemistry students are invited to attend a rigorous two-week study camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Our own Runpeng Liu emerged as one of the top four and was named to the U.S. team.
When asked about his interest in chemistry and other activities, Runpeng offered, “I’ve always believed that the progress of civilization is just a rearrangement of nature’s atoms into a more useful form, and chemistry is behind all of it. A nation’s standard of living is fundamentally linked to its advances in chemistry, and that’s something I think most people take for granted. It’s also the reason I love chemistry. I love taking science contests and competing in science-related activities in general, so I’ve also done USA Physics Olympiad and am on my school’s Science Olympiad team. I play the violin and piano, and like listening to classical music. I’ve played tennis on and off, and enjoy running anywhere. Other brief hobbies include programming, watching sports contests, and eating Chinese food.” Runpeng will be attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall, where he will major in either chemistry, materials science, or physics.