Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ladue Teen Represents United States in Chemistry Competition

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ladue Teen Represents United States in Chemistry Competition

Article excerpt

A recent Ladue high school graduate is in Moscow this week as one of four students representing the United States in an international chemistry competition.

Runpeng Liu, 18, traveled to Moscow on Friday with his teammates to take part in the July 15-24 International Chemistry Olympiad with 70 other countries.

The road to the team began with a three-part exam that 12,000 students took. Liu was among 1,000 students who performed well enough to move on to the National Chemistry Olympiad Test.

He then advanced to the top 20 and spent two weeks in a study camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he earned one of four spots on the U.S. team.

But he wasn't an overnight success.

Liu took the initial test his freshman year of high school and didn't place. He spent the following year studying and took it again his junior year, only to make it to the top 20 without being selected for the team.

He said he was determined not to give up, yet when he discovered he made the team this year, it was almost unbelievable.

"Initially, it was a bit overwhelming and surreal," Liu said. "It took a while for it to sink in to grasp that I would be representing my country at the international level."

Even before making it to the team, though, Liu's achievements far surpassed anyone else from his school.

His former chemistry teacher, Carl Tenpas, said one other student made it to the national test, but Liu was the first to make it to the top 20.

Tenpas, who retired last year after teaching high school and college, said he has never seen a student perform as well as Liu. In fact, Liu skipped a grade and started high school one year early. He took the advanced chemistry class that was meant for sophomores as a freshman at an eighth-grade age.

"He's not only brilliant, he's off the charts," Tenpas said. …

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