Boys take all at chemistry Olympiad

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The boys took it all at the fifth edition of the Trinidad and Tobago Chemistry Olympiad (TTChO) prize-giving ceremony on June 24.

Soren Narine of Fatima College and Saiesh Rampersad of Presentation College, Chaguanas, swept first place in the senior and junior categories respectively. Naparima College was awarded the title of top-performing school.

The TTChO is an outreach project launched by the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus in 2019.

The TTChO is the premier secondary education chemistry competition, offering students the chance to compete in the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) and network with fellow chemistry enthusiasts in a prestigious arena.

The FST dean’s office oversees the Olympiad committee, consisting of Dr Nigel Jalsa, Dr Terry Mohammed, and Laura Rambaran-Seepersad, with support from the Ministry of Education.

Speaking with Newsday at the prize-giving ceremony held at UWI, first-place senior Soren Rampersad said he was no stranger to the competition.

“I took part in 2023 and I placed second. I told myself if I put in the effort, pain and sleepless nights, then I can do this thing.”

Rampersad said he hopes to be part of the 2025 competition, which will be held in the United Arab Emirates.

The form-four student said he wanted a career in chemistry, despite not knowing his post-secondary path.

“I like it, I enjoy it. Maybe one day I can have a job in something chemistry-related.”

Head of science at Naparima College Hema Jaggernauth said the school has been involved in the Olympiad since it started.

“Our students love to participate in competitions that channel their energies and rewards their excellence.

This is a competition that encourages innovation and creativity.”

Jaggernauth said the award brings much joy as the college celebrates its 130th anniversary.

“What a way to add to the celebrations. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Ministry of Education deputy permanent secretary Ayanna Gaspard Clarke said competitions like the Olympiad contribute to TT’s place at the global table.

“It is my understanding that TT’s participation in the 2023 IChO in Zurich, Switzerland marked the first representation from a Caricom country at this prestigious event.

“We continue to demonstrate to the world the remarkable capabilities of our small islands.”

Clarke said chemistry is akin to life.

“It is the study of matter and the changes it undergoes, and it provides us with a deeper understanding of the world around us. From the air we breathe to the food we eat, from the medicines that heal us to the technology that drives our progress, chemistry is at the heart of it all.”

TTChO committee member Dr Nigel Jalsa said the competition had seen a decline in the number of participants in recent years. This, he said, was a consequence of the covid19 pandemic.

“In the first edition, 900 students participated. In this cohort we saw over 300 students. Numbers have dipped, but we are slowly building our way back up.”