Mertonian leads UK team to success at Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad

Congratulations to Merton Astrophysics DPhil student Sandor Kruk, a member of the UK team that won two silver medals at the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics this month.

This was the first year the UK entered a team into the competition, an annual competition in Astronomy and Astrophysics for secondary school pupils from around the world. This year—the 9th year of the competition—was held in Magelang, Central Java in Indonesia between 26 July and 4 August.

The Olympiad consists of four rounds: Observations, Theory, Data Analysis and a Team Competition. 210 students competed from 41 countries, and the UK team came tenth in the medal table. Remarkably, the team, consisting of William McCorkindale (silver medal), Bob Cliffe (silver medal), and Rizwaan Mohammed, also came second in the Team Competition, after India.

Sandor, whose research focuses on the formation and evolution of galaxies, coached the team with Charles Barclay of Marlborough College. He says:

"I'm very proud to lead a team of such gifted students. Because we decided to enter the competition late this year, there was no time for a formal selection process, so the students were selected through the British Physics Olympiad. It's impressive that they managed to learn astronomy in such a short time, represent their country at international level and achieve excellent results. This year was particularly tough since the event took place in the Southern hemisphere and most students were seeing the southern sky for the first time. 

"Overall, it was a truly impressive event that lived up to its motto, 'Astronomy beyond the boundaries of humanity and culture', with the opening and closing ceremonies being held at the majestic temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. The opportunity for both leaders and students to spend time with so many different nationalities and cultures made it a really unique experience. For next year we have set up the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad and we plan to select a team of five students to take part in the IOAA 2016, in India. This thrilling result in IOAA 2015 will hopefully be an encouragement for other students to attempt this exciting challenge in the future."