The product of passion

The product of passion

Sara Yang

  Chemistry students advance to the United States National Chemistry Olympiad



It is a prestigious three-part test — one that lasts for over four hours.  Scoring well can potentially help you get into college.  Sound like the SAT?  Not even close.

From a pool of 10,000 students, approximately 900 top-scorers from across the nation will contend at the next level of the United States National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO).  As top-scoring students from the local March competition, juniors Robin Cheng and Anthony Chen will compete as MVHS representatives on April 24 at Las Positas Junior College in Livermore.

In actuality, the highest local test scores from the school belong to Cheng and senior Aniruddha Dasgupta.  Dasgupta, who qualified and placed among the top 150 students among the nation in 2009, decided to relinquish his qualifying position to Chen.

"I’m pretty sure that [placing in the top 150] had some factor in me getting into the college of my choice," Dasgupta said.  "It could help him, too."

Yet prestige is not the only reason behind Dasgupta’s decision to allow Chen to step into his qualifying position.

"[Chen and Cheng are] always striving to do their best, trying to understand the material and they’re… sitting in the front [of the Chemistry AP class]," Dasgupta said.  "These two are so motivated to do what they’re doing.  They really love chemistry."

And according to Dasgupta, a love for the subject is what makes the difference.  Both Chen and Cheng seem to identify with such an interest.

"Chemistry is like the perfect balance of everything… the central science," Chen said.  "Physics is dependent on chemistry, biology… is dependent on chemistry too… chemistry is the most worthwhile to learn."

Both students value the subject in more ways than one, as it provides benefits through the USNCO and beyond.

"I think the best part is probably the challenge," Cheng said.  "You’re competing with the best of the best… you get to see how your skills are, compared to other people… you can see what you need to improve on, and you can learn from other people in the same process as well."

For Chen, the motivation behind pursuing chemistry goes beyond the challenge.

"Chemistry is the perfect way for me to actually make a contribution in the future, to society," Chen said.  "If a person doesn’t know how the world works… they can’t… make a truly significant product.  You know the person who invented insulin… Advil, Tylenol.  That was all chemistry."