Fourth-Form Student Earns Honors at National Chemistry Competition

Last spring, Xingchuan “Ryan” Ma ’25 asked his teachers at Portsmouth Abbey School if he could compete in the second tier of the 2023 United States Chemistry Olympiad, held at Providence College in April. After spending nearly all year studying for the three-part exam, Ma, a sophomore, placed in the Top 150 Honors list, the only student from Rhode Island to do so.

According to the USNCO, approximately 1000 students compete every year, with two students allowed per U.S. high school. Along with Ma, Portsmouth Abbey School was represented by Quinn Brighton, who is graduating this May. The all-day test consisted of 90 minutes worth of multiple-choice questions, 105 minutes to solve eight chemistry problems, and 90 minutes to work through two lab practicals. The competition has been sponsored by the American Chemistry Society since 1984.

Susan McCarthy, a Chemistry teacher at the Abbey, said Ma and Brighton both felt confident about their exams. “It was impressive to hear them talk about the problems and lab scenarios that they had to work through,” she said.

The STEM program at Portsmouth Abbey combines a practical, hands-on approach with a holistic, cross-discipline understanding of the world and humanity’s place in it.

Pictured: Ryan at the Abbey's Art & Science Expo in April 2023.