Panthers in STEM: Leaving a Mark at the National Chemistry Olympiad


Ava Stuzin

Sophomores Sunny You and Isabel Duran smile with AP Chemistry teacher Dr. Yuria Sharp as they have advanced to the National Chemistry Olympiad.

Sara Paredes, Copy Editor

Beginning on Apr. 30, two of Miami Palmetto Senior High’s very own chemistry students will represent South Florida and Palmetto in the National Chemistry Olympiad, the American Chemical Society’s annual competition to select bright, young students to represent the U.S. at the International Chemistry Olympiad this summer. 

With guidance from AP Chemistry teacher Dr. Yuria Sharp, sophomores Sunny You and Isabel Duran were two of the 11 students selected in the South Florida region to advance to the national level. To qualify for the Olympiad, each of Palmetto’s AP Chemistry students was required to take a 60-question multiple choice test. Those who scored the highest were selected to take part in the competition.

“The testing centers are usually the people in charge of the chapter for the American Chemical Society, and sometimes teachers like me apply [for their school] to be a testing center,” Sharp said. “Our school is a testing center, so all my students in AP Chemistry take the test.” 

The competition itself is broken into three parts: a multiple choice section, a laboratory section and a free response section. To prepare for the approaching competition, You and Duran have taken it upon themselves to revisit various chemistry topics and participate in practice labs alongside Sharp.

“[Dr. Sharp] has been kind enough to help us prepare for the laboratory part of it. She’s offered to stay sometimes after school and sometimes during lunch, whenever she has time to help us review the basics of the labs for the competition,” Duran said. 

In preparing for the competition, Duran credits Sharp for cultivating her love of chemistry and providing the tools necessary to become a candidate for this year’s Chemistry Olympiad. 

“I wouldn’t say that I went outside and found a lot of outside resources that taught me the subject. It was more about trying to supplement what [Dr. Sharp’s] been teaching with ways to hone down on things I don’t know as well,” Duran said. “It really is all Dr. Sharp. All my chemistry knowledge comes from her, and it’s all about practice.”

For You, preparing for the Chemistry Olympiad has altered his perspective on the subject as a whole, allowing him to apply the skills he has learned with Sharp to an environment outside of Palmetto, further deepening his appreciation for the world of chemistry. 

“The Chem Olympiad is like AP Chem, except that you can’t forget anything. You have to memorize all these little details of all the interactions between all the molecules and such,” You said. “It’s just made me realize chemistry really is a deep subject.” 

With You and Duran being selected for this year’s competition out of a pool of roughly 1,000 students around South Florida, they have raised the bar for future generations of chemistry students at Palmetto. 

“I think [You and Duran’s selection] shows how strong science is in our school, because that competition is very difficult, it’s not easy,” Sharp said. “If you compare the scores of our school with the other schools, you can see a big difference. These kids are beasts in chemistry.”