Top high school chemistry students earn awards at MTSU tournament

Dec 08, 2023 at 06:00 am by WGNS News

L to R: MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Greg Van Patten, Page High School’s Evan Ingmire, overall winner Sophie McAtee of Ravenwood High, Jackson Stinson of Summit High, Brayden Zhang of Ravenwood High (no relation to the event director), Chemistry Department assoc. professor and tournament director Mengliang “Mike” Zhang, (MTSU photo by James Cessna)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Outstanding high school chemistry students from across the region participated in the recent Middle Tennessee State University Department of Chemistry Scholarship Tournament.

Held in the Science Building in early November, the competition recognized 45 outstanding chemistry students from 14 schools in Rutherford and surrounding counties. Participants included 29 seniors and 16 juniors who had completed a year of chemistry.


Incentives included scholarships to attend MTSU and cash awards to the top three seniors and one top junior from the 90-minute exam based on general chemistry that a high school student would have covered.

While on campus, they received an up-close look at the facilities as the consider MTSU as their college choice. The tournament is a way for the Chemistry Department to recruit exceptional students for 2024 and beyond.

Students came from Rockvale, Siegel, and Central Magnet high schools in Rutherford County; Independence, Ravenwood, Summit, Renaissance, Page and Nolensville high schools in Williamson County; MLK Academic Magnet and Hume-Fogg Academic high schools in Nashville; Lawrence County High School; Columbia Central High School in Maury County; and Cascade High School in Bedford County.

Sophie McAtee of Brentwood, a Ravenwood senior, earned first place and received a $2,000 MTSU scholarship and $500 cash award. Page High School senior Evan Ingmire of Franklin placed second and won a $1,500 scholarship and $300 cash prize. Summit High School’s Jackson Stinson placed third, earning a $1,000 scholarship and $100 in cash.

Brayden Zhang, of Franklin, was the top junior. The Ravenwood student earned $100.

“This is our largest tournament since we restarted the event in 2021. It is great to see so many students, parents and teachers visit us and show strong interest in various programs offered at MTSU,” said associate professor Mengliang “Mike” Zhang, the 2023 tournament chair.

After the chemistry exam, the students enjoyed the presentation from Eric B. Miller in the program advising office. MTSU students in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Forensic Science and Biology shared their experience at MTSU and led the groups to tour the 250,000-square-foot Science Building, Zhang said.

Kevin Cavey, a molecular biosciences doctoral student, created a live demonstration of real-time chemical analysis with the mass spectrometer, a technique could be used in forensic applications, food science and beyond.  “The students had fun time watching the demonstration and asked interesting and creative questions,” Zhang added.

“The students also had a fun time watching a demonstration in my group to see how to detect trace chemicals from a $5 bill in seconds with an analytical instrument called DART-MS, which is widely used in forensic labs,” Zhang added.

The participants enjoyed lunch with College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Greg Van Patten, the former Chemistry Department chair. He shared remarks and presented students with their awards at the Nov. 4 event. Students also received a certificate for their outstanding participation in the event.

Chemistry is one of 11 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, a sponsor along with the MTSU Women in STEM Center, University Honors College and MT One Stop.

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