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IU Northwest chemistry lecturer recognized by National Science Olympiad

Linda Wozniewski has devoted 17 years of service at regional, state, national level

IU Northwest file photo
Lecturer Linda Wozniewski, Dept. of Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy

Young math and science geniuses weren’t the only ones receiving awards at the 27th Annual National Science Olympiad Tournament, which took place in May at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After nearly 120 middle and high school teams across the nation had wrapped up another academically fierce competition, the state directors and national event supervisors of Science Olympiad, a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 science education, met to finalize next year’s competition, and to hand out one more award.

Linda Wozniewski, a lecturer in the Indiana University Northwest Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, collected a Distinguished Service Award. Only two such awards are given nationally each year to an individual who displays exemplary service to Science Olympiad.

Wozniewski says the award came as a complete surprise and that it feels “fantastic” to be singled out among “literally thousands” of people who work with Science Olympiad. Wozniewski has contributed to Science Olympiad at the regional, state and national levels for 17 years.

She is currently chairperson of the chemistry committee and supervisor of the forensics event for the national Science Olympiad. She heads the forensics event and serves on the board at the state level as well.

The Science Olympiad officials have recently afforded Wozniewski a greater level of responsibility that she sees as an integral part of her role at IU Northwest and an important community service. Just weeks after she received the award, Wozniewski was appointed the associate state director, commencing a tenure that will secure for her the top job in the state for Science Olympiad in two years.

In her volunteer role, Wozniewski provides the forensics event test at the national level and has a large hand in writing the rules. She prides herself on the difficulty of the event, making a win quite a prestigious accomplishment for the students.

In Wozniewski’s event, the students conduct qualitative analysis, polymer analysis and chromatography as well as “fun stuff” like finger printing and DNA analysis to solve a fictitious crime.

“I have to come up with a crime that has been committed and a crime scene that makes sense that they can solve by determining what powders and hairs and fibers and plastics were found on the suspects and at the crime scene and seeing how this implicates all or none of the suspects,” she said.

One student recently told Wozniewski that the forensics event is one of the hardest to face at nationals. She considers this quite a compliment and proof that she is truly pushing students to achieve their highest scholastic potential. A popular crime/sci-fi television show, “Fringe,” has even modeled parts of the show after the forensics event created by Wozniewski and her team.

“It’s a challenge to have extracurricular activities that will challenge the students to stretch their learning beyond the normal classroom and yet still have it be totally standards-based,” she said.

In February, IU Northwest hosted the 2011 Science Olympiad Regional Tournament, one of 240 competitions across the country that engaged nearly 200,000 students on 5,985 school teams nationwide.

The tournaments are academically rigorous competitions that consist of a series of team events in the science disciplines of biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and technology. Tournaments are designed to: emphasize problem-solving aspects of science and the understanding of scientific concepts; develop teamwork and cooperative learning strategies among students; and demonstrate that American students can perform at levels that surpass expectations of even practicing scientists and engineers.

“I was extremely surprised to get it,” Wozniewski said of hearing her name called at the national event. “Really, only the top people get it. . . I’m really thrilled.”


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Emily Banas
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Erika Rose
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Science Olympiad