Last week, a six-member Israeli national team trained at Tel Aviv University took first place in the International Mathematics Competition for University Students. This week, there is more good news. Israel’s Chemistry Team – trained at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa – has been awarded a gold medal, two silver medals and a bronze medal at the International Chemistry Olympiad.
Both of the competitions were held online due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Two hundred and forty high school pupils from 60 countries around the world participated in the 52nd International Chemistry Olympiad, hosted this year by Turkey. Israel has been participating in the Olympiad since 2006. This year’s achievements were outstanding – all team members won medals and for the first time in a decade, and one student won gold.
The four high school students who formed Israel’s Chemistry Team were Roi Peer from Gan Haim (gold medal); Bar Sheffer from Ein Vered (silver medal); Ron Shprints from Ashdod (silver medal); and Ward Yahya from Taibe (bronze medal).
Since 2017, Israel’s Science Teams have operated under a joint venture between Israel’s Education Ministry and the Maimonides Fund’s Future Scientists Center, who together have supported and managed Israel’s participation in the International Olympiads for high school pupils in four disciplines. The Chemistry team was trained at the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry at the Technion.
The team was selected over a year-long process overseen by Prof. Zeev Gross of the Technion’s Faculty of Chemistry, who also serves as dean of the Unit for Continuing and External Studies, as well as heading a variety of national youth programs in chemistry, together with the team’s head coach, Dr. Izana Nigel-Etinger. The training process was also assisted by ex-medalists Raz Lotan, an undergraduate student in mathematics; Assaf Mauda, who holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in chemistry and is currently a master’s student in computer sciences; and Ron Refaeli, an undergraduate student in chemistry, all at the Technion.
Education Minister Yoav Galant congratulated the winning Chemistry Team: “Israeli students, the country’s future generation, reach extraordinary international achievements in science competitions time and time again – even during this complex period. The Education Ministry will continue to invest in and support training Israel’s Science Teams. This goes hand-in-hand in developing and boosting capacities of all Israeli students throughout the country, and providing equal opportunity for all students to maximize their potential across a range of fields.”
Ministry director-general Amit Edri added: “Israel’s education system is recording another impressive achievement in science. The victories of the students at the International Olympics in Chemistry and the European Competition in Physics place Israel at the forefront of the world of science. And on this front, we would like to see a broader representation of female students later on. Given the importance of the issue, I intend to advance this important goal. I congratulate our students on their impressive achievements, and would like to thank the dedicated team of coaches who worked tirelessly to reach this important moment.”
Dr. Ofer Rimon, the ministry’s deputy director for computer communication, noted that Israel’s Chemistry Team “has represented the State of Israel and our education system with great honor. The team is a model for excellence in which we will continue to invest, to provide our pupils with the best tools to enable them to conquer mountains and allow Israel to be amongst the world’s leading countries.”
Eli Fried, director-general of Maimonides Fund’s Future Scientists Center, said: “I congratulate the pupils in Israel’s Chemistry Team, who have brought much pride to the State of Israel. Notwithstanding the challenging times we face, our students stayed the course throughout the year, demonstrating an extraordinary level of perseverance and determination that ultimately paid dividends. The Maimonides Fund’s Future Scientists Center, together with the Ministry of Education, will continue supporting the highly gifted students that participate in Israel’s Science Teams, as an investment in the future of Israel’s scientific leadership.”
“Congratulations to our pupils who bravely shouldered the high preparatory demands and took on the maximum in real-time – a five-hour theoretical test of more than 100 questions,” said Gross.
The four winning pupils alongside Michael Balgola from Kfar Hayarok and Itamar Steinitz from Ramat Hasharon also participated in the online Asian-European Mendeleev Chemistry Olympiad. The competition took place 10 days earlier and was joined by representatives from 27 countries. The Israeli team won two silver and three bronze medals.