Leaping flames and colours changing magically in test tubes – the allure of chemistry was purely visceral for Manav Avlani at first. Recently, it yielded him another shiny colour: gold.
Avlani, 18, was a member of the team from India that won three golds and a silver at the International Chemistry Olympiad in Washington, which concluded last week.
At a time when India is struggling with its medal tally in the London Olympics, teams at the science and maths Olympiads have come back with a rich haul of medals. While the chemistry team gave its best performance so far, the physics team brought home one gold, three silvers and a bronze, the biology team returned with four silvers and the maths team won two golds and three silvers.
“The Olympiad was a unique experience and gave us proud moments,” said Avlani, who plans to do research in chemistry.
Every year, more than 30,000 Class 11 and Class 12 students are screened to form four-to-six-member teams for each discipline. They are trained at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mankhurd, and then participate in the Olympiads.
“There is some pressure during the event because you are representing your country,” said Jeevana Priya, a 17-year-old from Hyderabad who won a silver medal for the physics team.
Many of these students have now enrolled for various undergraduate degrees in engineering or pure sciences. “The Olympiad is a really good experience because you get to do a lot of things that you may have otherwise done only in college,” said Pritish Patil, from Nashik, a two-time silver medallist at the International Biology Olympiad.
The math team’s performance was particularly fitting, considering 2012 has been declared as the Year of Mathematics by the government of India – on the occasion of Srinivasan Ramanujan’s 125th birth anniversary.
“It was the best performance in ten years. I am quite proud,” said SS Sane, national coordinator for the Math Olympiad.