Westborough student wins national ‘You Be the Chemist’ Challenge

(l to r) Bruce Schechinger, president, CEF Board and president and owner, BHS Marketing LLC; National You Be The Chemist Challenge® Champion Ananthan Sadagopan; Miss USA Kára McCullough; and CEF Executive Director Dwayne Sattler. Photo/Colella Digital

Westborough – Eighth-grader Ananthan Sadagopan from Westborough won the title of national “You Be the Chemist Challenge” champion June 19 by correctly answering science and chemistry-related questions throughout a grueling day-long 11 rounds of academic competition in Arlington, Va. It was the third time competing for Ananthan, who is a student at the Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School.

“Participating in the Challenge sparked my interest in science,” Ananthan said. “In sixth grade when I qualified for the National Challenge, it made me take science more seriously. It also made me realize the numerous opportunities in the field.”

Miss USA Kára McCullough, who is from the District of Columbia and earned her bachelor of science degree in chemistry with a concentration in radiochemistry, shared why chemistry is her passion and awarded the Challenge Champion as well as the second, third and fourth place finishers. McCullough is a scientist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and an advocate for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

The top four placing students won academic scholarships totaling $22,500, TI-84 Plus calculators, and other science-related prizes.

The challenge is an academic competition hosted by the Chemical Educational Foundation (CEF) that engages middle school students, grades 5-8, in the importance of chemistry in their everyday lives. This year’s contestants qualified from among 55,000 middle school students across 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who participated in the local and state levels of the challenge program throughout the 2016-2017 school year.

“I am amazed by the passion, dedication and in-depth chemistry knowledge of Ananthan Sadagopan and all of the more than 55,000 local, state and national challenge competitors,” said CEF Executive Director Dwayne Sattler. “We look forward to continuing to work to make STEM education accessible to our future leaders.”