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Chemical inspiration brings in gold medal

Update: August, 14/2016 - 09:00
Inspired: Nguyễn Khánh Duy from Lam Sơn High School, in the central province of Thanh Hóa, was announced the winner of the gold medal at the 2016 International Chemistry Olympiad.
Viet Nam News

By Minh Thu

When Nguyễn Khánh Duy was announced the gold medallist at the 2016 International Chemistry Olympiad, the first thing he did was to call his parents.

“I was born into a poor family of a barber and a farmer. My parents sacrificed so much for me so that I could achieve this success,” said Duy.

Duy, 18, is studying at Lam Sơn High School in the central province of Thanh Hóa.

He soon expressed an aptitude for studying the natural sciences. When Duy entered the high school, he decided to follow the class majoring in chemistry.

The school is 15km away from his home. Everyday, he rides a bicycle to a bus station then travels by bus to the school.

He has joined many exams with chemistry students at the provincial and national levels.

“Chemistry is interesting with colourful and surprising experiments,” he said.

“The subject is always inspirational for me. It explains everyday natural phenomena. I didn’t know why some phenomena occurred before learning chemistry, for example that iron rusts due to oxygenation.”

“Mix the substances together and witness what happens, it’s really fantastic. That’s why the subject attracts me.”

Duy always finds amenity and passion in learning chemistry. He believes that understanding the subject clearly will help us greatly in real life.

“The reaction of baking soda mixed with vinegar creates many bubbles that helps unblock a stuck pipe,” he gave an example.

No pressure

Many people ask Duy about his method of study and how he uses his time effectively. But he says he has no secret. Duy never forces himself to study or puts any pressure on himself, and neither do his parents.

“I was born to a family of farmers, the life is hard but my parents always created good conditions for me to focus on studying.”

“My father always shared with me what I felt hard in life, while my mother gently encourages me to try,” he said.

He doesn’t fix a time to study at home. He stresses the need to balance time for play and for study.

When he’s in the mood, he can study all day forgetting to eat and sleep. On the contrary, he plays sports and games or watches films to relax the mind if he feels stressed. The favourite sport he practises everyday is karate-do, he shared.

“The most important thing is that I find inspiration and gladness whenever I open the book,” he said.

“Only when you really like something, do you want to understand and discover it.”

The chemical symbols and formulas are difficult to remember, so Duy creatively writes rhythmical poems that help him easily remember valency and formulas.

Besides what he learns at school, Duy often finds more references on the Internet and in public libraries to enrich his knowledge. He spends much time reading scientific articles and solving chemical problems and exam questions from foreign countries.

When he was recruited to the Vietnamese Olympiad team, he spent more time studying chemistry. However, he confessed that he was not as diligent and careful as other students of the team.

“My teachers had to tell me over and over that I needed to be more careful,” he said.

The International Chemistry Olympiad is an annual academic competition for high school students. It was held later last month in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and attracted 280 participants from 75 countries and territories.

That was the first time Duy had been to the country, so everything was strange and fresh to him.

“What impressed me most in Georgia was the local food which is eye-catching and scented, such as khachapuri (a traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread), chakapuli (Georgian stew made from lamb chops) and yogurt made from buffalo milk,” he said.

“The weather was also fine. I had a chance to visit Old Tbilisi and an old church. The people are so friendly and likeable.”

Three days after the exam, Duy was announced as the gold medal winner. All the teachers and other contestants of the Vietnamese delegation hugged each other and were overwhelmed by joy.

“I feel grateful to my parents and teachers. Without them, I couldn’t have made today’s achievement,” said Duy.

Duy will enter the University of Natural Sciences’ Chemistry Faculty to continue researching this subject. He will improve his English skills to find a scholarship to study further abroad. VNS

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