FLYING THE FLAG: Đàm Thị Minh Trang (left) won gold at the 52nd International Chemistry Olympiad, held online for the first time. VNA/VNS Photo
By Nguyễn Thị Lành
Đàm Thị Minh Trang from the Lê Hồng Phong Gifted High School in the northern province of Nam Định was one of four Vietnamese contestants to win gold medals at the 52nd International Chemistry Olympiad held online in Istanbul, Turkey, from July 23 to 29.
Her gold was also a first for Nam Định at an International Chemistry Olympiad.
This year’s contest was a different experience for the 235 participants from 60 countries and territories, as it was organised online for the first time in its history due to the coronavirus pandemic. The contest therefore included only a theory section.
Competing at an international contest while remaining at home, Trang and the other members of the Vietnamese team performed to their best over the course of a gruelling five hours, from 4pm to 9pm, on July 25. Trang scored a mark of 91.38/100 for her efforts.
The key to her high score, she believes, is her level of concentration while studying, which allows her to readily take on new knowledge and research a topic further to extend her understanding.
She used to specialise in maths at high school, she explains, but then decided to focus her endeavours on chemistry.
“My family and teachers were surprised at my decision, because the chemistry class at Lê Hồng Phong only offers places to 10 per cent of candidates from math-specialised classes,” she says.
Despite her parents’ concerns when she sat for one of the most important exams in her life, Trang felt quite comfortable and posted a score beyond her expectations, finishing among the top students.
“I’ve been interested in maths since I was small, but then became attracted to chemistry after learning a little about it,” she recalls. “Knowledge of chemistry helps explain many phenomena in the real world, so I’ve been determined to study as best I can.”
“It was difficult early on. I had what amounted to a ‘basic’ understanding of the subject, while studying in a specialised class meant acquiring a deeper level of knowledge.”
Such difficulties didn’t ever dampen her spirits, however, and actually have driven her to conquer chemistry. Under the dedicated guidance of her teachers, she spends a great deal of time researching chemical theories, reviewing lessons, and tracking down references.
Her patience and determination have paid off so far. She won a silver medal in chemistry at a competition for gifted students in Việt Nam’s north when she was in Grade 10, followed by first prizes at national chemistry contests in subsequent years.
“I’ve also been focused on improving my English, by frequently listening to videos and sharpening my pronunciation and vocabulary, as English is a key to human knowledge,” Trang says, explaining that English gives her access to a treasure trove of information online. The Olympiad winner is now fluent in the language.
LASER FOCUS: Trang puts her success down to an ability to concentrate on her studies and broaden her understanding from accessing research. VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Lành
When she graduates from high school, Trang plans to apply for the Hà Nội Medical University and eventually realise her dream of becoming a doctor. She is now taking a break after the tense graduation exams and the Olympiad, to continue to improve her knowledge, particularly English, for further in-depth study.
“Trang is particularly determined,” says Vũ Văn Hợp, her high school chemistry teacher. “She always seeks the best and most creative solution to a problem in the shortest possible time, and all by herself.”
According to Bùi Thái Học, vice principal of the Lê Hồng Phong Gifted High School, Trang’s gold medal at the International Chemistry Olympiad is not only evidence of her passion and zeal but is also significant as the school approaches its 100th anniversary.
“Trang’s achievements will inspire, motivate, and encourage other students to study and be creative, promoting the tradition of greater learning at the Lê Hồng Phong Gifted High School and in Nam Định Province,” he says. VNS