USA Biology Olympiad to wrap up activities at Purdue

June 12, 2014  


USA Biology Olympiad

Boyang Dun, a high school student from Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, works with Christian Oseto, professor of entomology at Purdue, during the 12th annual USA Biology Olympiad. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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Boyang Dun, a high school student from Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, has visited Purdue several times and is impressed by the passion of the University's faculty members, its remarkable laboratories and its beautiful campus architecture. 

The stakes are higher this week for Dun and the 19 other high school students. The students, who represent 10 states, are on campus participating in the 12th annual USA Biology Olympiad (USABO), sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE).

Four finalists will be selected tonight (June 12) to represent the United States at the International Biology Olympiad (IBO) on July 6-13 in Bali, Indonesia. There, Team USA will compete against students from 62 other countries.

"Biology Olympiad is an exciting opportunity because you get to make friends while gaining practical skills," Dun said. "I am learning about many subjects that my high school does not have the resources to teach."

Since arriving at Purdue on June 1, the high school students have participated in lectures, study sessions and laboratory exercises led by biology experts in fields that include microbiology, plant anatomy, physiology, ethology, genetics and biosystematics.

During the event, the teenage participants have lived in the residence halls and toured some of Purdue's state-of-the-art labs and research facilities in Discovery Park and elsewhere. Along the way, they have formed a bond that they’ll carry when they leave Purdue -- no matter who is part of Team USA.

"I expected everything to be super competitive," said Austin Wang, a student from Flintridge Preparatory School in La Canada Flintridge, California. “But I haven't met one person who isn't friendly. It's like you’re competing more against the test than against each other."

Catherine Wu, a student at Canyon Crest School in San Diego, is returning to USABO after being part of the 2013 team that dominated at IBO, held in Bern, Switzerland.

"I'm excited to get to hear more speakers from Purdue," said Wu, who will attend Harvard in the fall. "Even though I did this last year, I'm learning something new and different every day."

The 20 students competing in USABO at Purdue are working hard in an attempt to re-create the past success of Team USA.

"I am pushing myself a lot further than expected," said Varun Mangalick, a student from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota. "This is one of the greatest things that I have ever achieved, and I'm excited about the possibility to represent the USA in an international setting."

Since CEE began administering USABO, each Team USA member has earned a medal at IBO. All four members of Team USA earned gold medals in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Team USA earned the No. 1 spot in the world in 2011 and 2013.

Purdue is co-sponsoring the finals with CEE for the fifth consecutive year in an effort to increase the number of students who enter the STEM disciplines. That goal is an important part of President Mitch Daniels' Purdue Moves initiative.

Kathy Frame, director of the USABO and special projects for the CEE, and Clark Gedney, director of the BioMedia Center for Instructional Design at Purdue, manage the administration of the USABO activities. They will accompany Team USA to Indonesia.

"It is exciting to nurture these high school students for success at the national level here on campus and at the international level in Indonesia later this summer," Gedney said. "It is quite an experience to mentor a classroom of 20 extraordinary students."

Writer: Emily Sigg, 49-44719, esigg@purdue.edu

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