When Ji Sup Kim was in middle school in Abbotsford, his father – a pharmacist in Korea – would send him chemistry problems to solve.
Kim, now 18, enjoyed the challenge and found it fun.
That early practice fostered a remarkable aptitude for chemistry and other science-related courses, culminating in Kim’s acceptance to a prestigious international competition.
Kim, a graduating Yale Secondary student, is among four young Canadians who have been selected for the national team competing at the 45th International Chemistry Olympiad (ICO) in Moscow, Russia next month.
He is only the sixth Yale Secondary student to make it to that level since 1992.
“It’s pretty significant. It’s very difficult,” said Cheri Smith, Yale Secondary‘s department science head, of the competition stages.
The first stage was a exam that Smith has her advanced placement chemistry and physics students write each year.
Kim placed among the top 10 chemistry students across Canada and advanced to the national competition, held June 3-10 at the University of Toronto.
That stage included two written exams and three laboratory tests, and Kim was among four competitors selected for the international level. The other three participants are all from Ontario.
Canada is among 75 countries being represented at the ICO, running from July 15 to 24. Competitors vie for gold, silver and bronze medals in written exams and laboratory tests.
Kim has been preparing for the challenge by sitting in on organic chemistry classes at University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), and polishing his skills in science labs at both UFV and Yale.
Smith said Kim is up to the challenge. He completed four first-year-university science courses last year and another four this year.
He was the school’s first Grade 11 student to advance to the ICO and the only student of any grade to do it in physics. But Kim chose not to attend in 2012, preferring to wait until this year for a chance to advance in the chemistry competition.
“He is innovative in problem-solving, He’ll approach problems in unusual ways. He’s a conceptual thinker … He’s exceptional, for sure,” Smith said.
Kim said he is most excited to go to the ICO for the experience; winning a medal would be a bonus.
Outside of school, he is active with the Hurricane Nanta Korean Drumming Team in Abbotsford.
In the fall, Kim begins his studies in life science at the University of Toronto, although he is not yet sure what he wants to do for a career.