Outstanding news out of Canberra on 19 June saw Kevin Lin (Y11) selected as a member of the 2023 International Olympiad Science Team. Announced by the Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ed Music MP, Kevin was presented with a prestigious green jacket during a Blazer Ceremony at Parliament House. Kevin, who will represent Australia in Chemistry, delivered an inspiring speech at the event. The official delegation will soon travel to the host country of Switzerland in July to compete on an international stage.
Knox Grammar School
The Australian Science Olympiads are a staged science enrichment program for highly motivated students in Australian high schools. The ultimate goal of the Australian Science Olympiads is to select the team to represent Australia at the International Science Olympiads. The program is a chance for students to further extend themselves in their discipline, connect with subject experts, and develop new friendships with like-minded students from across the country.
Speaking about the momentous achievement, Kevin said the feeling was “a bit hard to describe”.
“Being selected for the team is a level of trust that Australia has put in me, in believing that I'll work to represent us well,” he said. “I feel incredibly honoured. But knowing that our team and I have 25 million people cheering us on makes our task just that little bit easier.
“I was so happy to get my blazer and I must say the weight of the green fabric has yet to set in (metaphorically, that is).”
Kevin says his love of Chemistry stems from the idea that it’s rooted in “small things making big impacts”.
“I find there's something satisfying about breaking apart everything we know into the smallest, near-imperceptible units we can understand, only to build it back up into something better,” he said.
“The fact that the simple act of rearranging atoms has implications in issues as far-reaching as climate change, world hunger and global health tells me there's infinite potential to what we do, to the field of chemistry. But beyond the scientific implications, chemistry is about small things making big impacts. To me, it's a reminder that no matter how small we feel, there is an innate ability in all of us to change the world for the better. And I think there's something poetic in that.”
On hand to witness the exciting event was Kevin’s Chemistry teacher Chantal Drees.
“Kevin’s self-motivation has been inspiring and he is well deserving of being selected for the team,” Chantal said. “Watching him grow and achieve at a national and international level makes me incredibly proud. Not only was his oration impeccable but his content and the manner he came across was highly motivational.”
Recognising Kevin’s potential early, Chantal said: “Kevin excelled in my Year 8 class and the complexity of his notes on organic Chemistry were way beyond his years – at university level. In conversations on organic Chemistry it was clear that his level of understanding set him apart.”
“For the Olympiad, Kevin obtained the preparation materials and self-studied. He attended the Australian Science Olympiad Training Camp in January this year where students could further extend themselves in their discipline, connect with subject experts, and develop new friendships with like-minded students from across the country.”
For Kevin, making the Olympiad Team has been a goal for many years.
“I had learnt about the Olympiads when I was probably 13, watching the old videos of the Blazer Ceremony and the introduction of the teams,” Kevin said. “Since then I'd dreamt of representing Australia one day. I guess this was my way of giving back to a country that let me call it home since emigrating here at four years old. In hindsight though, it's been Australia that's given me more than I could possibly imagine, and trusting me to represent us all well.
“I am headed to Switzerland in July for 11 days competing against 340 of the world's brightest chemical minds hailing from over 90 countries. We will be competing in two five-hour exams, a theory and a practical exam. The theory exam will test advanced subjects such as organic and biochemistry, chemical kinetics, analytical chemistry etc. The practical exam will involve something called ‘qualitative inorganic analysis’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘mixing a bunch of solutions together to try and figure out what unknown solution is what’. We are also expecting some titrations and an organic synthesis experiment.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be going to Switzerland. This is the first year since 2019 that we've had an in-person Olympiad, and being sent to Zurich, Switzerland of all places is amazing.”
With much ahead of him, Kevin is thankful for the teachers who helped him along the way.
“I honestly could not be more thankful to Ms Drees, my Year 8 Science teacher and current Chemistry teacher,” Kevin said. “She has been pivotal in my progression through Chemistry, whether it be fighting for me to accelerate Chemistry or answering my very complicated and most importantly, helping me steel my nerves in crucial moments of the selection process. Having someone like that, knowing that they are in your corner regardless has given me the hope and confidence to keep pushing to be better, so honestly could not be more thankful.”
As for what’s next in the world of chemistry? Kevin says he has a potentially life-changing project quietly in the works.
“I'm currently working to revive an old project idea of mine,” Kevin said. “I can't say too much at this moment (an agreement of silence amongst my partners) but suffice it to say it involves organic chemistry (my strongest field) and I think has the potential to change a lot of lives. Other than that, it's just more reading and preparing for IChO to hopefully make Australia proud.”
Kevin is the third Knox student to achieve a spot on the Australian Olympiad Team.
To watch Kevin’s speech (around the 27.10 mark), please click here.
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