Three Ladue juniors to attend prestigious summer programs
After the school year ends in May, most students relax and spend time with friends throughout the summer. However, three Ladue students are planning to spend their summers doing what the majority of students try avoid: learning.
Juniors Runpeng Liu, Jimmy Loomis, and Victor Wang will attend three different, academically elite programs in science, government and math.
After distinguishing himself in the Advanced Chemistry and A.P. Chemistry classes at the high school, Liu was selected to attend the National Chemistry Olympiad camp in Colorado Springs this June. The camp’s purpose is to select four competitors, and two alternates, to represent the U.S. on the International Chemistry Olympiad (ICO) team.
“The camp will cover every topic in what we would consider Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry, what you would normally see in a freshmen level chemistry course at the university, and possibly more,” science teacher Dr. Tenpas, who taught Liu as a freshman in Advanced Chemistry and this year in AP Chemistry, said. “Things like organic chemistry, kinetics, thermodynamics, equilibrium, electrochemistry, coordination, and nuclear chemistry.”
Given the advanced topics involved, the American Chemistry Society, which holds the contest to select the ICO team, has created a rigorous series of tests to find the best of the best in chemistry. In order to qualify to even take the natiooal exam, Liu first had to place among the top scorers in the St. Louis region on the United States National Chemistry Olympiad Local Exam. Top regional scorers then take the national exam. In 2011, Liu qualified for national exam, but did not score highly enough to qualify for the camp.
This year, though, Liu scored highly enough on both exams to earn a place at the camp this summer. When Liu discovered he had earned a spot, he was thrilled.
“That day at school, I knew the people at USNCO would be sending out the acceptance letters, so I spent my entire free period refreshing my email,” Liu recalled. “When I found out, I guess you could say I was as excited as an athlete who qualified for the Olympics, if that analogy works here.”
But success did not come without significant preparation, both in Liu’s AP Chemistry class and on his own time. Liu prepared through reading general chemistry and organic chemistry textbooks and solving previous contest problems, among other methods. His year-long dedication to chemistry made an impression on Tenpas.
“I’ve been doing this for six years, and he’s the best I’ve seen,” Tenpas said. “He’s an individual that does all the work that’s requested of him, plus a lot more.”
Now, Liu looks forward to his time at camp, where he hopes to bond with his fellow chemistry lovers and, of course, expand his chemistry knowledge.
“I’ll enjoy spending time with a peer group that I can actually talk about chemistry with on a daily basis and forming friendships that will last a lifetime,” Liu said. “It will be an amazing experience I’m sure to remember for the rest of my life. Of course, I look forward to falling even more in love with chemistry.”
Loomis is also looking forward to this summer, but for a different reason: Loomis was appointed to serve as a Senate Page in Washington D.C., where he will work in Senator Claire McCaskill’s Washington office. Loomis’ dream of attending the Page program, and his dedication to being accepted into the competitive program, began over five years ago, when Loomis was first drawn to politics.
“I had first learned of the Senate Page program sometime around 2006, when I first became interested in politics,” Loomis explained. “I was far too young to apply, but had wanted to become a Senate Page ever since. When I became eligible for a Page position in 2011, I focused all of my resources on applying to the program.”
In order to maximize his chances, Loomis said that he spent hours crafting his Senate Page application, and emphasized his commitment to politics above all else. Loomis was notified of his appointment as a Senate Page in early April, and now looks forward to working with McCaskill and other Senators over the summer.
“As a Senate Page, my duties will consist primarily of delivery of correspondence and legislative material within the Capitol and the Senate office buildings,” Loomis said. “Other responsibilities include preparing the Senate Chamber for sessions, taking messages for senators or calling them to the phone, and carrying bills and amendments to the presiding officer’s desk.”
During his time in the nation’s capitol, Loomis looks forward to witnessing the legislative process firsthand. He also hopes to bond with his fellow Pages, all of whom display strong interest in politics.
“As a Senate Page, I am most looking forward to having the opportunity to be apart of the democratic process through the actions of the greatest deliberative body in the world, the U.S. Senate, along with the ability to interact with some of our nation’s most powerful leaders,” Loomis said. “I am also looking forward to forming close acquaintances with my fellow pages.”
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles away, Wang will once again attend the Math Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Though summer 2012 will be Wang’s third year as a MOSP attendee, the selection process is just as difficult as that of the National Chemistry Olympiad and Senate Page Program. Students must score well enough on a series of rigorous math tests in order to even take the U.S.A. Mathematical Olympiad, the qualifying exam for MOSP. This year, Wang hopes to continue to grow in math, while allowing himself to simply enjoy the experience.
“I’d like to relax and socialize a bit more than I have in the past two years (I’m usually pretty hard on myself), and also maybe start to focus more on higher math,” Wang said. “Math contests are great for developing problem solving skills, but they still only cover a limited scope of topics, just at a very deep level.”
The depth of the MOSP topics reflects the calibre of math students who qualify. However, though all of the participants must prove their merit in math at multiple levels of competition, only the top six attendees are selected to compete on the U.S. International Math Olympiad team. The team members for the 6 person International Math Olympiad team are selected through a series of tests that take place prior to the camp, while attendees who are not selected for the team focus on deepening their mathematical knowledge and qualifying to the team in later years. Wang has not yet earned a spot on the IMO team, but was selected to compete on the U.S. team in a different competition, the Romanian Master of Mathematics, in 2011 and 2012. The experience has deepened his love of math and his appreciation of the effort required for success.
“By letting me work with so many talented kids from all over the country, [MOSP] has helped fuel my passion for math and constantly reinforced the importance of hard work and open-mindedness in all areas of life, not just math,” Wang said. “[MOSP] has also allowed me to visit and compete in Romania, the ‘heart of Europe.’”
When Liu, Loomis, and Wang return as seniors in August, they may not have tans or bleached blonde hair. However, they will bring with them the memories and knowledge of elite programs that extremely few high school students will ever experience. #
Correction: A past version of this article incorrectly stated that Wang was a member of the International Math Olympiad team in 2010 and 2011. He was not a member of the IMO team in either year, but participated on the U.S. team in the Romanian Masters of Mathematics competition in Bulgaria in 2011 and 2012.