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Welcome from Petra Ménová, Chair of the IChO Steering Committee

Last year, Petra Ménová was elected chair of the IChO Steering Committee. Her journey from competing as a participant in 2004 and 2005 to becoming a mentor and now head of the Steering Committee is definitely one worth following. In her welcome message, she tells us more about this fascinating story.

Petra won't be able to come o Zurich this summer and you can look forward to meeting her in person again in 2024 in Saudi Arabia.

Dear students, dear mentors, dear IChO friends,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to IChO 2023.

In the past three years, we faced many different challenges (that arose from the pandemic of covid-19). Because of travel restrictions, we could not meet in Turkey, Japan and China as originally planned, but the competition survived and went on in a remote mode. This brought many different sacrifices, out of which the lack of a practical part and the lack of social interactions were the most serious. But as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In those past three years, we introduced OlyExams, an on-line tool that allows for commenting, translating and grading problems, which speeds up the work of the Jury and Scientific committee considerably. We also proved that we have a very strong community that can take decisions in online votes, we kept the social media alive and we managed to set up a foundation whose task is to support the organization of IChO. In other words, the IChO wasn’t asleep for three years, on the very contrary.

Now, after three long years of (chemical) isolation, we are finally about to meet again. The students will be able to prove their practical skills in labs, mentors will meet old friends and everyone will experience Swiss culture, cuisine and landscape. Do take advantage of the social contact and make as many new friends as possible. These connections will be extremely valuable in the future. I participated back in 2004 and 2005 as student and it changed my life forever. It was the breaking moment when I decided not to do only chemistry as science, but also chemical education and stay in the IChO community. You cannot imagine my surprise when ten years later, as a mentor, I met two of my friends from the student years who became mentors too. Later on, I made friends among mentors and organizers and whenever I travel somewhere, be it for scientific conferences or on holidays, I am always happy to meet them. Our friendships made it through the pandemic and I dare say some will last for the whole life.

Last year, I was honoured to be elected chair of the IChO Steering Committee. Working for IChO allows me to pay back at least a little of what it gave me – passion for chemistry, lifelong friendships and possibility to travel and meet even more similarly passionate people. I would like to thank all who supported me and gave me a helping hand.

Since I am expecting a baby and I am not allowed to travel anymore, I won’t be able to come to Zurich and celebrate with you this great festival of excellent chemistry and friendship. My duties will be taken over by the past Chair and experienced member of the Steering Committee – Gábor Magyarfalvi, and the speech at the Closing Ceremony will be delivered by another past Chair – I-Jy Chang. I am sure this IChO will be a great event that you will all enjoy and that will fill you with wonderful memories.

I will be with you at least remotely and I hope to see you next summer in Saudi Arabia.

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