Student moves to national stage for U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad; named National Merit finalist
April 3, 2023
Wilkins aspires to be astronaut
Senior Liora Wilkins will be moving forward in the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO), after a Top 10 performance April 8, 2023 among high school competitors across Fairfield County and the state.
And she has never even participated in a real Chemistry lab experiment.
“I have never qualified to do anything nationally before,” said Wilkins, who carries a heavy Chemistry textbook around in her backpack. “All I am going to do now is Chemistry. Chemistry. Chemistry. I want to be in the Top 20.”
Wilkins will compete in the three-part National Chemistry Olympiad Exam on April 22, 2023 at Wilton High School. USNCO states that 1,000 students typically sit for the test. The 20 top-scoring students from the National Exam then spend two weeks at a Study Camp in June. Based on their performance, four students are then selected to represent the U.S. at the International Chemistry Olympiad.
To prepare for the local state exam, Wilkins engaged in an Advanced Placement self-study course. She purchased a Chemistry textbook and watched tutorials posted by the Massachusetts institute of Technology (M.I.T.). Wilkins, who skipped two grades, has a school schedule that has precluded her from participating in a typical Chemistry lab experience at the 400-student technical high school. Wright Tech Science teacher and Related Department Head John Hemenway will be providing 1:to:1 coaching ahead of the next competition.
Wilkin’s finish places J.M. Wright Technical High School among other area public and private schools, including Wilton High School, Staples High School in Westport, New Canaan High School, Greenwich Academy, Brunswick Academy, Trumbull High School, and Newtown High School. A critical difference between a typical public high school and a trade school is that students spend half their in-school time learning a trade; Wilkins is assigned to the Electrical trade. Trade students only spend 90 days studying any given academic subject.
In addition to her standing with USNCO, Wilkins was recently named a finalist National Merit Scholarship program, which places her among the top 1% of graduating seniors.
In Fall 2022, Stamford Magazine named Wilkins one of 10 local youths to watch. In the feature, Wilkins talked about her passion for rock climbing and love of Math and learning. Her long-term ambition is to someday be an astronaut.
In the article, Wilkins said of long-term ambition: “Being an astronaut inspires me because of my love for problem-solving. As an astronaut, you are pushing through the boundaries of past human experience and you need to be prepared to encounter unanticipated challenges in a high-pressure environment, meaning you need not only knowledge, but to think quickly and critically and find solutions and approaches to problems you’ve never faced before on the fly.”