By Sam Robinson
A local teenager could be one of the next young chemists to represent the United States abroad at the International Chemistry Olympiad this July.
Miles Dai, a junior at Carmel High School, is one of 20 national finalists who will travel to the Air Force Academy in Colorado this June to study intensive chemistry. The top four students will travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, for the international competition, which runs from July 20 to July 29.
The International Chemistry Olympiad annually challenges high school students with labs and exams covering several types of chemistry. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to students.
Dai survived two rounds of testing this spring from an original pool of 16 thousand students. He’s the only Indiana candidate to make the top 20, and it’s his first time qualifying.
“I’ve always had an interest in it in school, but I never thought I’d get this far,” Dai said, who’s interested in chemistry because it explains how matter changes. “We see these things happening around us, and chemistry reveals what’s going on.”
“I think the opportunity to study chemistry at this level is an incredible opportunity,” Kelli Slunt, the American Chemical Society (ACS) head mentor, said. Slunt will help choose and accompany the team that goes to Azerbaijan. The ACS has sponsored the U.S. Olympiad team since 1984.
Slunt, a professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, said that finalists are some of the most gifted chemistry students she works with.
“They pick it up so quickly,” Slunt said.
Dai said he’s excited at the possibility of competing in Azerbaijan, but he hasn’t done it alone.
“I guess I’ve been working at this for a while,” Dai said. “I appreciate all the help I’ve gotten from my parents, sister and teachers.”