Joseph Houck Named National Chemistry Olympiad Team Mentor

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22 April 2019

Congratulations to Dr. Joseph Houck, assistant teaching professor at Penn State, who was recently selected to be a mentor for the US National Chemistry Olympiad Team (USNCO). As a mentor, Dr. Houck will work with some of the top high school students from across the country and accompany them to the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) next summer in Istanbul.

The IChO program is a chemistry competition for high school students that aims to encourage and recognize talented young scientists.

Dr. Houck first learned about the USNCO mentorship program during graduate school and notes that he was immediately drawn to the idea of working with driven young students and representing the United States at IChO.

“I have always enjoyed working with students—especially younger students—where there is an opportunity to spark an interest in science,” he explains.

As a teaching professor at Penn State, Dr. Houck spends a great deal of time working with aspiring young chemists. However, as a mentor, Dr. Houck will have a unique opportunity to inspire talented students to pursue careers in chemistry.

Mentors like Dr. Houck play an important role in the USNCO program. They work with twenty high school students from across the United States who earned top scores on the Chemistry Olympiad exam, helping them to prepare for the international competition during a study camp held in June.

While at the study camp, students learn about a variety of chemistry topics through instructional materials and lab exercises designed by the mentors. During the camp, four students are selected to represent the United States at the IChO. The mentors accompany the students to the international competition where they will review exam materials, assist with scoring, and support the students as they compete.

As well as supporting the students as they strive for excellence, Dr. Houck says that IChO will also be a chance to form relationships with other chemists from around the world. “I see this as not only an amazing opportunity to work with students in a unique way, but also as professional development,” he explains, “I will get to engage and work closely with two other US mentors.  During the international competition I will be able to network with mentors from around the world. I hope to deepen relationships with my colleagues and engage them in conversation about the preparatory problems and dig into chemistry topics that are outside of my area of expertise.”

Dr. Houck hopes his work as a mentor will help to inspire the next generation of chemists. “UNSCO is an opportunity for high school students to fuel their curiosity and deepen their knowledge in chemistry,” he says, “I want to support them in this journey!”

Maria Landschoot

Communications Coordinator

Department of Chemistry

Penn State University

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