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Cardozo junior gets chance at int’l Chemistry Olympiad

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And if he succeeds, he'll have the chance to compete against the top student chemists in the world at the 2008 International Chemistry Olympiad in Budapest this summer.John Jason Psonis, a 16-year-old Cardozo junior, was one of the 20 students selected from the greater New York City area to vie for honors in the national round of the competition next month. He was chosen from a group of roughly 1,000 students who competed in the regional level of the competition by taking a two-hour long multiple choice test on all areas of chemistry.The students had to answer 52 of the 60 test questions correctly to be consider for the national contest. Cardozo chemistry teacher Dr. Patrick Chan called the test so difficult it would stump most college freshmen.On April 15, Psonis will take the four-hour-long national test at Adelphi University on Long Island, which will include multiple choice questions, lab procedures and written portions. If Psonis succeeds, he will travel to Colorado this summer to attend a "chemistry boot camp" and will compete for one of four spots on the team going to Budapest. He said he is nervous about the national test, but appreciates what competing in the Olympiads has already given him."It's the first time where I can participate in such a competition and realize my full potential and distinguish myself," he said.Psonis was born in the United States, but spent some of his schooling in Athens and moved to Queens just nine months ago. He said the school system in Greece did not offer opportunities for competition and extracurricular activities. He is one of several foreign students at Cardozo High School who stood out in the competition. In fact, two other Cardozo students qualified to compete in the national round, but were unable to because they were not American citizens."These students work very hard," said Chan, who coached the students. "They are not born here and have just been able to overcome a lot of obstacles."Among the two students excluded from the national competition is Pang Jao, a 17-year-old student who emigrated from Taiwan a few years ago. Jao was first introduced to chemistry his sophomore year at Cardozo and said his passion for the science developed from there."Every aspect of life consists of some chemistry," he said. "You can find it in anything."Jao plans to continue his chemistry education next year in college. He is still waiting to hear back from his top school choices, including Cornell University and the University of Chicago.Jingyi Mo, 19, was the third Cardozo student selected to compete at national level. Mo moved to Queens with her younger brother and mother in 2006. She said the school system in Queens is less intense than in her native China, where she recalls waking up at 6 a.m. to attend school six days a week. To Mo her life in Queens is more fun and interesting."It's a real shame not all the students will be able to compete," Chan said. "I was hoping they would change the rules."Jao and Mo said it was exciting to be selected to go to the nationals, but admitted they are a little disappointed they will not be able to compete."I really want to see how far can I go," Mo said. "I don't care about the prize. I just want to see how good I am."

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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