Shaler Area teen qualifies for National Chemistry Olympiad
Shaler Area High School junior Kaitlyn Colucci is one of 13 high school students from the Pittsburgh region to qualify to compete in the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad on April 27 at the University of Pittsburgh.
She qualified for the national level based on her scores from the regional exam she completed March 30 at the University of Pittsburgh.
Colucci, 16, volunteered to represent her school district in the American Chemical Society-sponsored program.
“When I took the test, I didn’t know what to expect. I gave it my best shot. I was very happy that I had the opportunity to do it,” she said.
A few days later, her AP Chemistry teacher Rena Murphy shared the good news she had qualified for the next round.
“When she told me, I was like, ‘Wow!’ I was really shocked, but I am hopeful for the next one. I’m excited,” Colucci said.
“Kaitlyn is a dedicated and hard-working student,” Murphy said. “I am proud of all her accomplishments.”
The regional exam is two hours compared to the four-and-a-half-hour national exam. Colucci is spending at least an hour daily studying for the upcoming National Chemistry Olympiad, which features a lab practical and multiple-choice and problem-solving sections.
“I’m friends with a person who went, and she told me that it was harder than the multiple choice on the original exam, but I’m always up for a challenge,” Colucci said.
Colucci has been going to the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad website containing study resources.
“I’ve been looking on the website and I’ve just been reading over and looking over past problems that were on past tests,” Colucci said. “That’s really how I’m studying. Plus, in school, we’re reviewing for the AP exam already, so that’s helping a lot, too, to like refresh my idea to basic concepts and big ideas in chemistry.”
The 20 top-scoring students from the national exam will spend two weeks at a study camp training to represent the U.S. at the International Chemistry Olympiad. Based on their camp performance, four students will move on to the final competition.
“I wish Kaitlyn the best of luck as she participates in the International Chemistry Olympiad National Exam on April 27,” Murphy said.
Coluci said she discovered her love of science early.
In particular, she recalled participating in a science fair as a student at the now-defunct St. Bonaventure School, in Glenshaw.
“Me and my friend, we did a space heater and we made it out of wood and stuff, and it took a while, but it worked and it worked nicely.
“Chemistry I took last year in 10th grade at Shaler and I automatically liked it. I don’t know why, it’s just something that I knew I want to do,” she said, noting that she plans to pursue a chemistry-related field as an adult.
In addition to her passion for science, Coluci plays Shaler Area varsity volleyball.
She resides in Glenshaw with parents John and Nora.