Jessica Huffman places first in chemistry competition

Wilton High School sophomore Jessica Huffman was awarded $1,500 for placing first in this year’s First Year Excellence in Chemistry scholarship competition.

Each Fairfield County high school was allowed to send one student currently enrolled in a first-year non-AP chemistry course to enter the competition, sponsored by the Western Connecticut Section of the American Chemistry Society.

The first part of the competition consisted of a written exam, which took place at Sacred Heart University on Saturday, May 10.

“There were 80 multiple-choice questions split into two 40-question sections, with a 10-minute break in between,” said Jessica.

“There were some questions that I had no idea how to answer, so I just guessed, but the majority of the questions were on things we had covered throughout the year in class and I was able to answer.”

Jessica said she was also able to figure out how to solve a few of the unfamiliar questions and “actually learned more chemistry while taking the test.”

The top five finishers of the written portion were then notified by May 12 that they could move on to the 20-minute oral exam portion of the competition on Friday, May 16.

“The second section was an oral test in front of three college professors, which was kind of intimidating,” said Jessica.

“I had to stand in the front of the classroom and explain the answers to the questions the professors asked by talking and drawing pictures.”

In preparation for the oral exam portion of the competition, Jessica said, she came in to school early for three days and science teacher Hermino Guevara taught her material her chemistry class had not yet covered.

“The vast majority of the questions they asked me in the oral section of the test were about the concepts Mr. Guevara taught me, and I wasn’t very confident about them because I had just learned some of it that morning,” she said.

The combined scores from both exams were used to determine the top three finishers of the competition.

Jessica said she received an email the night of the oral exam, informing her she had won first place.

“I was really excited to win first place. I wasn’t very confident about my performance in the second portion of the test and was surprised to know that I placed first,” said Jessica. “I was really happy that I had done so well and was very proud of myself.”

Jessica said she doesn’t consider chemistry, or any school subject, to be her favorite, but she likes to learn and explore new concepts.

“Whether they are mathematical concepts, scientific concepts or even philosophical concepts,” she said. “I like any class that challenges me and makes me think in new ways.”

Jessica said she really enjoys her chemistry class for that reason.

“My teacher, Mr. (James) Lucey, really makes the topics interesting and makes the classroom into a fun learning environment.”