Hazelwood excels once again!

Brian O Callaghan with his Chemistry teacher, Michelle Herbert.

Hazelwood College was delighted to receive the news that one of its  Leaving Certificate students, Brian O’Callaghan was selected to represent Ireland in the 2021 Chemistry Olympiad.
The competition was due to take place in the host country of Japan in July but because of the global pandemic, travelling to Japan is not possible. However, the competition will still take place, albeit a little differently.
The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) is an annual academic competition for secondary school students. It is one of the International Science Olympiads.
The first IChO was held in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in 1968. The event has been held every year since then, with the exception of 1971. The delegations that attended the first events were mostly countries of the former Eastern bloc and it was not until 1980, the 12th annual International Chemistry Olympiad, that the event was held outside of the bloc in Austria. Up to 4 students for each national team compete in July in both theoretical and experimental sections.  One of the aims of the competition is to help enhance friendly relations among young people from different countries and to encourage cooperation and interna-tional understanding.
Dr. John O’ Donoghue, RSC Education Co-Ordinator, Chemistry, is the organiser of the Irish event. He recently tweeted “After a very tough competition, we are delighted to announce the team of students who will represent Ireland at @IChO2021 in July! Congrats, we were so impressed by this group!”.
Along with Hazelwood, the other successful students come from Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, St. Aloysius College, Cork, St. Peter’s College, Wexford, Sandford Park School, Dublin, and St. Columbus college in Derry.
There is no doubt that Science has come to the forefront during the pandemic and encouraging the development of young scientific minds has never been more important.
I spoke to Brian and his Chemistry teacher, Michelle Herbert, on Friday last. I asked Michelle about Brian and his achievements.
“We’re very, very proud of Brian. He has always been an exemplary student. Brian has excelled not only in the chemistry laboratory but also in various aspects of life in Hazelwood College such as athletics and our student’s council to mention a few.” Laughingly Michelle said “the only part I played in Brian’s success was to give him some gentle encouragement to enter the competition. It’s a fantastic achievement to be chosen to represent Ireland. It’s just unfortunate this year due to Covid that the students can’t have the experience of travelling to Japan. But it’s still a phenomenal accomplish-ment! There is a great rapport and team spirit in the chemistry classroom, and we would all have worked together to support and encourage Brian through the Chemistry Olympiad journey to date. His classmates were absolutely thrilled for him when he was chosen to be part of the 2021 Irish team.”
Brian explained the process to me. “We had to fill out an application form, the first round was a multiple-choice quiz that we did online for 90 minutes. After being corrected the top 25% of scores, were chosen for the next Round. That was a long exam, we had to physically write out answers,  for over an hour and a half. They selected thirteen participants from that group, two gold medallists. two silver medallists, four bronze and five Highly recommended ho went on to further training then over Easter. We had lectures most days over the Easter break”.
“In fact, it was every day over Easter” Michelle stated.
“The week after we returned to school, the final exam was online. It was three hours long, again requiring written answers” he explained. “Based on that exam, the final team was selected”.
This required a huge amount of dedication on Brian’s behalf. He has chosen to sit all of his Leaving Cert exams, as well as taking his accredited grades. Taking time out of his study hours to attend lectures was not an easy decision, yet Brian seemed to have no problem devoting extra time to the competition. “It’s fine,” he said. “Training for the Olympiad will start after I’ve sat my Leaving Cert”.
“This is not the first time we’ve had a student selected. Michael  Keyes in 2014 also represented our school and Ireland. He got to travel to Cambodia.” Michelle told me.
And so, what’s happening now? What’s the next move?
Brian went on to explain “After the leaving Cert, on the 28th of June, there’s more virtual training and lectures and, then there’s the final exam. This is a supervised exam in a chosen college, maybe Trinity College or another university.”
Ireland will be only one of several countries taking part in the final exam. This is a world -wide event.
I asked Brian about his love of the Sciences. “I’d probably prefer Physics and Mathematics to Chemistry” he laughed! It was obvious that his Chemistry teacher, Michelle, nudged him in the direction of Chemistry, in the sure and certain knowledge that he had a great grasp of all the sciences. Brian is from Kilmeedy and last year his sister Aoife sat her leaving cert and is now studying Pharmacy in University College Cork.  She also got selected for a Junior Science Olympiad while she attended Hazelwood college, so a love of the Science subjects is something the siblings obviously share. Other pupils have also been selected through the years for this Junior Cycle Science Competition, which is a testament to the Science Department in Hazelwood College.
Michelle pointed out that the school motto is “to achieve your full potential” and she believes that there’s a great dynamic within school classes. “I would like to think that we encourage all our students in Hazelwood to reach their full potential whatever that may be.  Brian is an example of this, He is not afraid of hard work. He has adapted very well to online learning, and in fairness, is an all-rounder, very consistent and determined in his studies.” Brian’s classmates hosted a lovely mini party for him in the Chemistry lab before Easter prior to him being selected for the Irish team, enjoying treats and goodies in his honour, and acknowledging the importance of the event.
“It’s fantastic for the school” Michelle added “For first years, second years, third years and so on to aspire to success and evidence that this is possible. Having role models like Brian is a great asset”.
Brian hopes to attend Trinity college Dublin in September, studying Mathematics. I have no doubt, that he will succeed in everything to which he aspires. Despite his gentle demeanour throughout the interview he showed great determination, enthusiasm, and a great work ethic.
“Who you are tomorrow, begins with what you do today” Tim Fargo, American author, and keynote speaker.
We wish Brian every success in the Olympiad and look forward to hearing what comes next in this remarkable school.