World's cleverest young chemist from Manchester


05 August 2010

A student from Manchester High School for Girls has proven herself the most outstanding young female chemist in the world at a global competition.

Ruth Franklin, 18, won a gold medal at the 42nd International Chemistry Olympiad in Japan last week (July 27) after a rigorous seven month competition. Her efforts contributed to the best overall UK team performance since 1994.

The Olympiad, organised in the UK by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), pits the best scientific brains of Britain against each other before a team of four is selected to travel abroad for the international finale. This year saw the greatest ever British response to the Olympiad with 2400 students from 376 schools entering.

In January, Ruth top scored in the first round with 60/61 in a challenging two-hour paper taken at each participants' own school. Teachers were allowed to submit as many students as they wish and questions are designed to be context based (for example perfume and road salt this year).

A total of 25 students made it through to Round 2 at the University of Cambridge in March. They sat a three hour practical exam followed by a three hour theoretical exam, which resulted in Ruth leading the British quartet to Tokyo, Japan.

The team, made up by Joshua Stedman, of Abingdon School, near Oxford, David Edey, of Alcester Grammar School, Warwickshire and David Wade, of Northgate High School, Ipswich, took part in a training weekend in April at the University of Oxford before returning to Cambridge for the final week's training. The quartet met the Presidents of the RSC and the Chemical Society of Japan last month at the signing of their co-operation agreement at Burlington House, Piccadilly, prior to departing to the Far East.

The final task was to complete a five hour practical and a three hour theoretical exam. Ruth, who will study natural sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the autumn, and who became the first girl in four years to make the team, said she was thrilled at becoming the world's top young female chemist.

"I was so excited at getting the gold medal, absolutely over the moon. They read the results out in reverse order and by the time they got to the top 10, my name had yet to be called so I knew then it was going to be good news.

"Tokyo was an amazing place to visit but the best thing about the Olympiad was meeting other students from around the world who will be studying the same course as me in Cambridge later this year. That was really special."

Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: "This is a wonderful achievement for Ruth, and goes to show that the best young scientists in the UK are indeed the very best. She has been a great ambassador for her country and for chemistry, and we wish her every success in her future studies and subsequent career."

Notes for editors

Picture caption 1: Jim Dawson, Director of INEOS Capital, congratulates Ruth on her award;
Picture caption 2: Jim Dawson and former RSC President Professor David Garner, with the British quartet.

The 42nd International Chemistry Olympiad comprised 272 students from 68 countries. Each year, the RSC organises the selection of the UK team in this competition for UK Upper Sixth Students.

Since 2007, INEOS has provided 50,000 per year towards the cost of the UK Olympiad.

The UK team's result were:

Ruth Franklin  Gold Joint 7th overall, Top Female Performance
Joshua Stedman Silver 75th overall
David Edey*  Silver 86th overall
David Wade  Bronze 145th overall

*David Edey is the first Lower Sixth student to make the UK team

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