High School Chemistry Olympiad

Due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak, the situation with the High School Olympiad is still evolving. We are hoping to have local section testing finished by April 9th to continue with the National testing on April 25th, however, school closures may be extended. We will provide information to participants as we receive it. Here is the statement we received from National ACS on March 16, 2020:

Statement regarding the administration of USNCO in the COVID-19 pandemic

USNCO Coordinators,

Thank you for your continued dedication to the USNCO in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our governing subcommittee met and decided on the following actions to give us more time to run the full USNCO this year.

The following changes will only be effective this year due to the current extraordinary circumstances.

-> We are extending the Local Section Exam testing window
We are asking all Local Sections to try to select students for the national exam. Whether this is by hosting an exam or selecting based on teacher nominations is up to your Local Section’s discretion.
-> We are pushing back the National Exam testing window by one week (maintaining it at 9 days)
This is in order to further extend the Local Section Exam testing window and provide time for the situation to settle down
-> We are removing the laboratory portion of the National Exam.
Please destroy your Part III examiner’s instructions
We understand that finding a lab when many universities are closing for the remainder of the semester would be difficult/impossible for many Local Sections, but hope that finding a room is easier.
-> We will revisit decisions on the USNCO Study Camp and IChO participation as we get closer to those events.

The new timeline for the 2020 USNCO is as follows:

April 16: Local Section selections must be complete, names of students taking the National Exam must be sent to USNCO@acs.org

April 25 – May 3: National Exam Parts I and II must be administered

At this point the subcommittee will meet to evaluate the safety of hosting Study Camp and participating in IChO 2020.

As always, make decisions based on local guidelines and your unique situation. If for any reason you cannot accommodate the new timeline, please let us know.

The schedule may change as circumstances involving the COVID-19 pandemic may warrant. We will keep you informed. Please contact USNCO@acs.org if you have any questions.

Good luck and stay safe,

Joshua Pak
Chair, USNCO Subcommittee

Lily Raines
Manager, USNCO


The Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society has been offering the Chemistry Contest since 1914, at which time Nordhoff High School was the top scoring school. It became the High School Chemistry Olympiad in 1968 when National ACS began sponsoring it. In 2008, the Section won a National award for 25 years of continuous support of the Chemistry Olympiad.
In 2014, we celebrated 100 years of offering the High School Contest. The Southern California Section has the longest running contest in American Chemical Society history.

The Chemistry Olympiad is a way for the Section to locate and recognize high achieving students and mentor them in chemistry. Each year, we offer the test at over 30 high school campuses all over Los Angeles County. The test is designed to test a student’s knowledge of a wide variety of topics in chemistry. The top scorers on the local exam are nominated to compete in the National Exam. The top 20 national winners are invited to attend an all expense paid two-week study camp. The top four finalists from the camp are then selected to represent the United States at the International Chemistry Olympiad which is held in a different country each year. We recognize the top local students at an Educational Awards Banquet in May with monetary awards and certificates.

Here is some brief information about the 2020 ACS High School Chemistry Olympiad:

  • The next Local Section Olympiad (qualifying exam) will be held on March 18-19, 2020. Schools with 10 or more participants may request to have the exam administered at their school.
  • To review previous years’ exams to practice or to determine if you would like to participate in the contest, you may check out the American Chemical Society website
  • The National Olympiad Exam (semi-finals exam, for the eligible top 15 performers of the March 18-19 qualifying exam) will be held on Saturday, April 25, 2020 at California State University, Dominguez Hills
  • On Friday, May 29, 2020, the annual SCALACS High School Awards Night will recognize and honor the Local Exam winners, the National Olympiad nominees, the individual school high scorers with 10 or more participants, and their teachers.
  • For complete details, please see the Contest Letter 20ContestLtr.
  • Follow this link to sign up and pay online for groups and individual students. To pay with a check or purchase order made payable to the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society, fill out the form attached to the letter and send it to the address on the form.


The Southern California is pleased to announce that Albert Liu of North Hollywood High School has won a silver medal at the 2019 International Chemistry Olympiad in Paris in July.

Left to right: Edward Jin, Anton Ni, Yajvan Ravan and Albert Liu. Credit: Melissa Barranger-Mathys

Here is the announcement from ACS:

U.S. team brings home gold and silver from the 51st International Chemistry Olympiad

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2019 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) is proud to announce that the four high school chemistry whiz kids representing the U.S. at the annual International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) earned three gold medals and one silver.

The members of the team are:

Yajvan Ravan, Churchill High School, Westland, Michigan, gold medal, placed 19th

Anton Ni, University High School, Irvine, California, gold medal, placed 28th

Edward Jin, Arnold O. Beckman High School, Irvine, California, gold medal, placed 30th

Albert Liu, North Hollywood High School, Porter Ranch, California, silver medal, placed 59th

More than 300 students from 80 countries competed this year.

Speaking with ACS’ newsmagazine Chemical & Engineering News, Ni says, “I think my favorite part about the competition is staying up at night just chatting with people. You learn a lot about people from other countries, and you discover that they’re also really passionate about chemistry — and you learn so much about them as people and as chemists.”

“Even though we all have different languages, different cultures, we can still all bond over chemistry,” Jin says.

Regarding the 100-degree temperatures in Paris recently, Liu says, “It’s been quite difficult handling the heat.”

Ravan enjoyed the opportunity to visit the Palace of Versailles. “I was impressed by how big and luxurious [Versailles] was,” he says. “I was totally blown away by it.”

ACS has sponsored the American team annually since the U.S. joined the Olympiad in 1984. Principal funding is through the ACS Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Olympiad Endowment, with additional support from The Chemours Company; the University of Maryland at College Park, department of chemistry and biochemistry; Carolina Biological Supply Company; Macmillan Learning; Texas Instruments; Pearson; and Fisher Science Education.

The International Chemistry Olympiad originated with Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary in 1968. Soon, other Eastern European countries joined the event; Western Europe began participating in 1974. The first U.S. team competed in 1984, winning one silver and two bronze medals.


2019 Educational Awards Banquet at Mount Saint Mary’s University
May 17, 2019

Justin Dong, 1st Place Student and Michael Morgan, Education Chair

The 2019 Southern California Section National Team

Cherryl Mynster of Arcadia High School and Michael Morgan. Arcadia High School won the award for 1st Place Overall School.


2018 Educational Awards Banquet at Mount Saint Mary’s University
May 18, 2018

Education Chair Michael Morgan and MC Alexander Alschuler

Albert Liu, First Place (tie) Highest Scoring Student with Dr. Gerald Delker, Olympiad Chair (left) and Michael Morgan (right)

Michael Xiong, First Place (tie) Highest Scoring Student

Award plaques for Arcadia High School and North Hollywood High School

Dr. Gerald Delker (Olympiad Chair), Cherryl Mynster (Arcadia High School), and Michael Morgan (Education Chair)

Gerald Delker, Michael Morgan and Altair Maine (North Hollywood High School)

Nancy Paradiso, Altair Maine and Michael Morgan


2017 Educational Awards Banquet at Mount Saint Mary’s University
May 19, 2017

The 2017 Southern California Section National Team

Michael Morgan, Education Chair; Caroline Morgan, the 2017 Paul Shin Memorial High School Teacher of the Year; and Peter Shin, Paul’s brother, who presented the award.


The two finalists for the 2014 U. S. National Chemistry Olympiad Exam are Rueih-Sheng Fu of Arcadia High School and Richard Wang of North Hollywood High School.


Meet the four high school students who represented the US at the International Chemistry Olympiad, July 21-30, 2012, in this short, engaging video.

The top 20 national winners in the nation were invited to attend an all expenses paid two-week study camp, May 29th to June 13th, at the U. S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At this camp, four finalists were selected from the U. S. Team to represent the United States in the 44th International Chemistry Olympiad (ICHO) in Washington, D.C. The Southern California Section is proud to announce that Timothy Man Hay Lee from Arcadia High School attended this camp and was selected as an alternate.

Let’s cheer as loudly for this Olympiad team as we do for those at the “other” Olympics in London!


Whitney High School Student Wins Gold in 2011
International Chemistry Olympiad

Joe Tung (pictured third from left in photo above) of Whitney High School in Cerritos and three US teammates all came home with medals from the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) in Ankara, Turkey in July, 2011.

A total of 273 students representing national teams from 70 countries gathered for the competition. Testing consisted of one day of laboratory work and a second day of written exams. Once judging was complete, gold medals were awarded to contestants who had the top 33 scores. Placing 24th in the overall ranking, Mr. Tung was also one of three students selected to give welcome addresses at the IChO opening ceremonies.

Joe Tung tied for first place in the 2011 local competition, in which 1346 students representing 32 high schools in Los Angeles County took the local exam.  The National Olympiad Exam was given to the 17 top Los Angeles students in April.   From the approximately 940 students that competed in the National Exam, 20 won places at the US team training camp in Colorado Springs. Four finalists and two alternates were selected from that group.

This was Mr. Tung’s second trip to the international event – in 2010, he was one of two alternates at the IChO competition in Tokyo and 2011 marked his third time attending the US finalists’ training camp in Colorado Springs. Timothy Lee of Arcadia High School was also a US competition finalist and attended the training camp in Colorado in 2011.

There is a $9 per student participation fee to enter the contest or $11 for single students. We offer an “Early Bird Special” of $7 per student for 10 or more students if you register online or return the participation form and fee before February 4, 2019. After March 4th, the fee increases from $9 to $11 (late registration). Download the letter with all the pertinent details as well as the participation form here. 19ContestLtr NOW AVAILABLE: Sign up on-line and pay registration fees with a credit card. Available to school groups, but not individuals. Individual students need to have the participation form signed by their teachers and mail in the payment.