United States Chemistry Olympiad Team member

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Liu Albert ACS

Albert Liu, former Houk group high school student researcher, wins silver medal at the 51st International Chemistry Olympiad in Paris.

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! Liu received a silver medal and placed 59th. Read more on the American Chemical Society (ACS) press release

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Left to right: Edward Jin, Anton Ni, Yajvan Ravan and Albert Liu. Also pictured is Testudo, the University of Maryland mascot that traveled with the team. Credit: Melissa Barranger-Mathys 

The U.S. team was finalized at the conclusion of the Chemistry Olympiad Study Camp on June 13, 2019, at the University of Maryland, College Park. The group will head to Paris, France to represent the United States at the competition which will be held July 21-30, 2019. Read more about the event in a recent Chemical & Engineering News article. 

19028%20ACS%20Awards%20Banquet 129 0“The Chemistry Olympiad has been a large part of my life and getting to represent the U.S. at the International Chemistry Olympiad is a tremendous honor for me” Liu said. “This entire experience has definitely helped kindle my passion for the subject, and I can’t wait to share this opportunity with my team”.

Liu was a high school volunteer in Professor Ken Houk’s group in June through September 2018, except for when he was at Chemistry Olympiad training camp. He graduated from North Hollywood High School Spring 2019 and will be attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall for his undergraduate studies. At MIT, Liu will reconnect with his former graduate student mentor from the Houk group, Dr. Brian Levandowski, who is now a postdoctoral fellow there with Professor Ronald T. Raines. While he has not decided on a research group, Albert is looking forward to majoring in biochemistry and plans to continue doing research in computational chemistry. (Photo above: Liu accepting the medal for his team at the Chemistry Olympiad Study Camp.)

“When he started volunteering in my lab, Albert already knew a lot of chemistry, and working with Dr. Levandowski, he quickly picked up how to study reactions with quantum mechanics and how to interpret the results and do model calculations to prove his hypotheses,” Houk said. “We are very proud of Albert and wish him all the best success! Interestingly, Dr. Jacob Sanders, a postdoc in my group, was an Olympiad coach while at Harvard, before coming to UCLA. So, Albert is his chemistry Olympiad grandson!” 

Liu was a co-author on a paper with Levandowski and Houk, a rare and important accomplishment for a high school student researcher. The paper titled “Stable, Reactive, and Orthogonal Tetrazines: Dispersion Forces Promote the Cycloaddition with Isonitriles” was published in Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2019 Jul.  Read the article here.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.