Sydney Schoolgirl Rocks Elite Science Comp

The stadia are far from ready, but a Sydney schoolgirl has already claimed gold in Brazil.

This year Australia participated for the first time at the International Earth Science Olympiad, in which nearly 100 top high school students from 22 nations compete.

Redlands student Zoe Thompson was the only girl to make the top 10 at the competition, held in Pocos de Caldas, and earned a gold medal by taking fifth place overall.

“It didn’t really quite sink in … I didn’t really expect my name to be called,” Thompson said.

The year 11 student was one of four competitors selected to represent Australia in Brazil after outperforming nearly 4000 other geology students from across the country.

From examining rocks and geological features in the field to gruelling theory exams that covered all areas of earth sciences, the competition was fierce.

Seventeen-year-old Zoe described her experience in Brazil as a small step toward a career in science – one she hopes more girls will make.

“Don’t feel like it is only guys who can do it, if it is what you are passionate about and it’s what you enjoy try as hard as you can to be successful in that area,” she said.

Two other members of the Australian contingent, Victorian students Sacha Mann and Tim Hume, took home silver medals.

Earth and Environmental Science Program Director at Australian Science Innovations Greg McNamara, who travelled with the team, said the students’ achievements were a good sign for science in Australia.

“I think the other nations were a bit stunned that as newcomers we did so well,” he said.

“Our team’s achievement is inspirational, and I hope it will encourage many other students to look at earth and environmental science with new eyes.”