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Over 250 students traveled from 64 countries to take place in the world's largest biology competition, organised by the Royal Society of Biology.

The Royal Society of Biology, in partnership with the University of Warwick and volunteers from the RSB UK Biology Competitions special interest group, organised the 28th International Biology Olympiad (IBO), that took place from the 23rd to the 29th of July.

The IBO sees hundreds of pupils studying pre-university qualifications compete in a series of practical and theoretical examinations, in the hope of winning a medal and doing their country proud.


Medals ready for the participants of this year's IBO


This year was no exception; held in the UK for the first time, pupils traveled from as far as New Zealand to take part in this year’s competition for the brightest biology students in the world.

The opening ceremony kicked off the competition on Sunday, and included an address by Nobel Laureate and chief executive and director of the Francis Crick Institute Sir Paul Nurse, alongside Irish dancers, a Scottish bagpipe troupe, a British brass performance, songs from the Coventry Male choir and a parade for all of the competitors.

During the opening ceremony Dr Poonpipope Kasemsap, chair of the international IBO steering committee, also delivered a moving address explaining that despite the IBO being competitive in nature, its aim is also to foster friendships and forge connections for the next generation of bioscientists.  

Over 100 volunteers helped out throughout the week to ensure the whole competition ran smoothly, with practical and theory papers curated by the staff at the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick and past UK IBO finalists.


The students sat a variety of theory and practical examinations throughout the week


Papers were then translated into different languages by more than 300 jury members.

Between examinations, students went on a number of excursions, including a visit to Warwick Castle, Coventry cathedral, and Coventry transport museum. They also competed in a friendly sports day, and attended performances by Zombie Science and Simon Watt’s Ugly Animal Roadshow.

Medals were awarded to the top performing students at a lavish awards dinner at the end of the competition, with the top performing 10% of students receiving gold, the following 20% receiving silver and the following 30% taking home bronze.

The students representing the UK earned their place on the team by first triumphing over 7,500 other students in the British Biology Olympiad, which took place in March of this year.

The UK team with their medals


Rebecca Eden from St Paul's Girls' School, London, Jiaqi Chen from The Perse School, Cambridge, James Baudry from Wellington College, Berkshire, and William Chadwick, from Reading School, Reading, all took home medals following the competition, with Chen taking home gold.

This year, the competition has been organised with the help of the RSB Special Interest Group UK Biology Competitions and staff at the RSB, who have been working in the months leading up to the competition to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible.

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth FRSB, director of membership and professional affairs at the RSB and project manager for the UK IBO said of the event: “I would like to offer a huge thanks to all of the amazing volunteers, without whom the week would not have been possible, along with the incredible efforts of RSB staff, UKBC, the IBO organising committee in the run up to and during the event.

“We would also like to say thank you to the University of Warwick for providing a magnificent backdrop to the competition and to the school of life sciences who worked tirelessly to develop interesting and intricate practicals to test and enthuse the students.

This competition was truly a once-in-a-life-time event for these students. I am so proud of everyone who made it possible in bringing all of these young biologists together and allowing them to celebrate their enthusiasm for the subject and make lasting friendships.”

For daily updates from the competition, check out our IBO live blog. For photos from the week, go and visit the RSB Flickr account, and for videos from the competition, check out the RSB YouTube channel.

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