9th International Biology Olympiad in Kiel

The IPN organized the 9th IBO 1998 with guests from 36 countries.


The olympic spirit reigned for a week in Kiel, from July 19 - 26. 132 students from 33 nations tested their knowledge about biology subjects in theoretical and practical tasks. Even the best students from each of the countries had trouble solving the tasks, but even the ones that won no medals had an exciting week and made new friends from all over the world.

Three years ago after the federal government said it would organize and finance the 1998 competition in Germany, the IPN, which also coordinates the national selection rounds, started to organize the IBO 98. Two committees prepared the practical and the theoretical tasks for the examinations as well as the framework of the scheduled event. The first team was made up of eight professors from the Christian Albrechts University Kiel and the University of Rostock. Their aim was to develop types of tasks with problem solving questions, giving them priority over pure questions of knowledge. They were also to prove that it is possible to set "real" practical tasks in which the students reach the goal just by applying a certain method. According to general belief, these ideas did not receive enough attention in the last two Biology Olympiads in Artek on the Krim (Ukraine) and in Ashghabad (Turkmenistan).
Of course, a challenging social program had to be developed, allowing the international delegates a chance to learn about the landscape, lifestyle and culture of Germany. This was prepared and organized by an IPN team.

Finally, about 35 sponsors from industry and business were found to financially support the IBO, including six main sponsors: Ferring Arzneimittel GmbH, Kiel; Monsanto GmbH, Düsseldorf; Novartis GmbH, Wehr; Eppendorf-Netheler-Hinz GmbH, Hamburg; Verband forschender Arzneimittelhersteller (VfA), Bonn; Pasteur-Merieux M.S.D., Leimen.

Nobel prize winner Prof. Dr. Erwin Neher made the gala speech at the opening ceremony of the IBO

The big day finally came on Sunday, July 19th: 33 countries sent four students and up to six adult delegates each to the high level comparison of abilities and skills in biology. A further three countries sent observers to be able to participate in future Olympiads. According to the regulations, the adults and the students had separate accommodations. The adults were at the PRISMA Hotel in Neumuenster and the students at the Youth Hostel in Westensee.

Ceremonial Opening in the festively decorated Kiel Castle. The President of the IBO, Prof. Dr. Horst Bayrhuber greeted his invited guests, the BMBF Parliamentary Secretary, Bernd Neumann, Vice President of the State Schleswig-Holstein, Rainder Steenblock, the Lord Major of Kiel, Norbert Gansel, and the Rector of the University of Kiel, Prof. Dr. Ruprecht Haensel, on Monday in the midst of classical Baroque and swinging modern music. After the teams marched in behind their flags - some admitted to getting goosebumps - Jessica Trebilco (Australia) and Pavel Nikanorkin (Russia) made the Olympic pledge in the name of all of them.

Four laboratories, a genetic-molecular biology one, a metabolic one, a botanic one and an ethological one had to be mastered by the competitors on Tuesday in the practical examination in the biology building of the University of Kiel. That meant six hours of hard work with tasks that many biology students in the midst of their studies would have had problems with.

Wednesday - a break in the competition

Praktikum Excurs Uhlarz
Prof. Dr. Uhlarz talking to one of the Olympiad participants

While they were in Hamburg enjoying themselves, the jury met to confer about the theoretical tasks set for the next day. On Thursday things got serious again. Theoretical knowledge was tested in a four-hour examination. Again it was not so much a question of calling on their knowledge, rather it was a question of their ability to apply their knowledge to solving complex problems.

Then it was over for the students. While the jury had to worry about grading the competition, for the competitors fun and games with their new friends was on the agenda. The afternoon was taken up with a visit to the UNESCO town of Lubeck and Friday morning was for a visit to the tidelands on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein. "Instead of desert sand under their feet there was alluvial mud" was what the Husumer Nachrichten (a newspaper) wrote. The guided tour of the tidelands with the rangers from the national parks was an impressive experience for most of them.
With or without medals, for many of the students Friday evening was the high light of the IBP. The youth hostel team prepared a fantastic party: barbecue and dancing to live music on Lake Westen. The members of the jury just had a little time for a visit; they then had to discuss the results of the theoretical examination as well as the rankings for the complete competition. These discussions went on until very late that night.

The individual winner with the highest number of points: Guo Jing from China/center>

The Minister of Education from the state Schleswig-Holstein, Gisela Böhrk, together with the Vice Lord Major of Kiel, Dr. Peter Kirschnick, presented the successful participants with their certificates and medals. The individual winner was Guo Jing from China. Together with her team she also won the inofficial national competition. The German team came in just behind them. Niels Dreyer (Burg auf Fehmarn), in sixth place in the individual competition, the best in his team, and Arite Franz (Chemnitz) got gold, Stanley Heinze (Wilthen near Bautzen) and Thorsten Piotrowsky (Plettenberg near Lüdenscheid) each got silver. The Australian team came in third.

On the whole, satisfied teams were accompanied to their departure point or a shuttle service took them to the airport on Sunday. In the end all of the teams could look back on a really successful Olympiad.

Der Preis Binding
Dr. Eckhard Lucius, main organizer of the IBO 1998, (left) together with Prof. Dr. H. Binding, Biologist at the CAU Kiel

Further Information:

Dr. Eckhard R. Lucius, IPN