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IBO Challenge 2020: German team wins gold, silver and two bronze medals and a "Champion Award”

August 25th, 2020

This year, the final round of the International Biology Olympiad could not be held in Nagasaki, Japan, as planned due to travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Instead, the Japanese organizers had prepared an "IBO Challenge 2020".Students from more than 50 countries, each of whom had qualified for their national team in national competitions, met in virtual space to write four challenging exams online under the aegis of the Japanese organizers. This was a completely new experience that presented many students with challenges that were not just technical.

The first two exams focused on animal physiology and bioinformatics. In two further theoretical exams, the participants then worked on questions from a broad spectrum of biology, ranging from molecular biology and plant physiology to ecology and questions of evolution.

The exam questions were very well designed by the Japanese scientific team. In addition, an international jury including German participants had commented on the tasks in advance and corrected them where appropriate. The challenging exams were then translated from English into German directly before the challenge by the German jury team, which was connected via video conference from various locations in Germany, Malta and Singapore. At the same time, final questions about the exams could be put to the scientific management in Japan.

Over two days, the students worked on the exams under strict safety precautions and supervision in the schools or student laboratories at their home locations. The bioinformatics exam posed a particular challenge, as the participants had to access servers for processing that were assigned to the respective national time zone. An internal school firewall proved to be an almost insurmountable obstacle, yet the exam was successfully mastered with a lot of technical know-how. By the end of the exam days, which were characterized by intensive work, it was an unusual feeling for participants and supervisors not to be able to celebrate the completion of the exams together, but to be relieved in a " private little room".

The German team achieved a great result:

  • Gold for Fynn Kessels (17, Carl-Zeiss-Gymnasium Jena)
  • Silver for Damian Groß (17, Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium Magdeburg)
  • Bronze for Ilka Jaschinsky (18, Martin-Anderson-Nexö-Gymnasium Dresden) and David Sauer (16, Life Science Lab Heidelberg)

Despite the unusual circumstances, Germany was thus able to continue the success of the past years in the International Biology Olympiad.

Fynn Kessels, who received a gold medal and the Special Award "The Champions of Hard Questions (Theoretical 1 & 2)" alongside two Taiwanese students, deserves special mention. The German national team is once again among the ten best of the more than 50 participating countries.

Special thanks go to the German jury team, which, in addition to PD Dr. Burkhard Schroeter (IPN, Kiel) as coordinator for Germany, included Dr. Dennis Kappei (Singapore), Dr. Christiane Mühle (Erlangen), Dr. Toni Goßmann (Bielefeld), Cedric Cappel (Kiel), Patricia Scholz (Göttingen), Jan Krieghoff (Leipzig) and Arne Jahn (Dresden), without whose support during the preparatory training and the Challenge itself this success would not have been possible. In addition, a big thank you goes to the IBO Germany Support Association and to the supervisors during the exams on site in Dresden, Jena, Magdeburg and Heidelberg!

We are looking forward to a personal reunion in Portugal in 2021!

Contact the competition management of the Biology Olympiad in Germany:

PD Dr. Burkhard Schroeter

IPN, Olshausenstrasse 62, 24098 Kiel

Ph.: +49 (0)431 8803135