Outstanding results for four UK A-level students at the 55th International Chemistry Olympiad competition

Four talented UK pupils clinched gold and silver awards at the annual International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), a challenging competition for secondary school chemistry students.

A group of four students wearing medals and holding a Union Jack flag

Kiran Desai-Kinvig, Kiran Diamond, Perth Saritsiri and Patrick Fung (left to right) achieve gold and silver triumph at ETH Zürich in Switzerland

The four A-level students who landed the highly-coveted medals are: Kiran Diamond from The Perse School, securing a gold award, and Kiran Desai-Kinvig from Westminster School, Pak Chuen Fung (known as Patrick) from Cardiff Sixth Form College, and Kotchapun Saritsiri (known as Perth) from The National Mathematics and Science College, all achieving silver awards. 

There were 350 students from 89 different countries who took part in the IChO finals between 16 and 25 July at ETH Zürich’s Hönggerberg campus in Switzerland. Participants had to complete two challenging exams: a five-hour practical and a five-hour written theory paper. A total of 217 competitors were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals. 

The four UK students began their path to international success at the UK Chemistry Olympiad, organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). There were 11,838 students from 950 schools who participated in the first round of the competition. From that initial round, 29 competitors went on to the second round, and, finally, the four top students were then selected as UK representatives to go through to the prestigious international competition. 

An intense but satisfying experience

Patrick shares that the experience was ‘unique, intense, tiring but satisfying’, with both the practical and theoretical papers being ‘highly time-pressured but also very interesting’. He believes he’s learnt about chemistry material he would not otherwise have encountered at this stage of his learning journey, and that this will stand him in good stead for the future. Highlights were a trip to Lucerne, including an enjoyable boat trip on the lake, as well as socialising with students from other delegations. He thanks the mentors for making it an incredible experience.

Results to celebrate

RSC head of education Mark Jordan commends the students on their fantastic achievement: ‘Congratulations to Kiran, Patrick, Kiran and Perth on their remarkable achievements at the IChO finals’. Stephanie Sdepanian, RSC coordinator of the UK Chemistry Olympiad, adds her recognition, saying: ‘Congratulations to the UK IChO team for their outstanding achievement in this year’s competition’. 

Head mentor Ben Pilgrim also congratulates the students for their outstanding performance on an international stage, emphasising that this year’s competition was incredibly challenging. Ben explains that there were complex questions covering: ‘championing the role chemistry has in improving society, from the synthesis of pharmaceuticals, to the direct conversion of methane to methanol, to molecular imaging for disease with technetium compounds’. The youngsters’ results are a testament to their hard work and the strength of the UK education system, he says.

Mark believes these exceptional achievements reflect the commitment of the competitors as well as of the large supporting team: ‘We’re particularly grateful to members of the Olympiad Working Group who give their time and expertise so generously, and to RSC colleagues who work closely with them’. Stephanie also extends her thanks to the Olympiad working group and volunteers for working ‘tirelessly to make the first in-person competition since the pandemic a huge success’. 

Education executive Rebecca Plant extends her thanks to the UK hosts: ‘We’re very grateful to staff at the University of Nottingham for hosting the second round, as well as University College London and the National Mathematics and Science College for hosting training events for the UK team’.

Want to get involved?

Inspired to enter students in the UK Chemistry Olympiad? Applications open for the 2025 competition in late September 2024.