Kára McCullough Awarded Middle School STEM Champs
20 Jun 2017

Kára McCullough Awarded Middle School STEM Champs

ARLINGTON, VA – 13-year-old 8th-grader Ananthan Sadagopan from Westborough, Massachusetts, today won the title of National You Be The Chemist Challenge® Champion by correctly answering science and chemistry-related questions throughout a grueling day-long 11 rounds of academic competition. It was his third time competing at the National Challenge.   

At today’s event, Miss USA Kára McCullough, who is from the District of Columbia and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a concentration in Radiochemistry, shared why chemistry is her passion and awarded the Challenge Champion as well as the second, third and fourth place finishers of You Be The Chemist Challenge®. Kára is a scientist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and an advocate for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. As the founder of her own self-funded community outreach program, Science Exploration for Kids (SE4K), Kára cultivates an understanding for STEM and advocates for students to explore STEM career fields. 

The top four placing students won academic scholarships totaling $22,500, TI-84 Plus calculators, and other science-related prizes. The top four participants are:

Challenge Champion
Ananthan Sadagopan, 8th Grade
Westborough, MA
Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School
“Participating in the Challenge sparked my interest in science. In 6th grade when I qualified for the National Challenge, it made me take science more seriously. It also made me realize the numerous opportunities in the field.”

2nd Place Participant
Nikhil Seshadri, 8th Grade
San Diego, CA
Standley Middle School

3rd Place Participant
Ameya Belamkar, 8th Grade
Carmel, IN
Creekside Middle School

4th Place Participant
Jonathan Gunasekaran, 7th Grade
Ruston, LA
Ruston Junior High School

“At CEF, we believe that instilling a life-long love of science that can lead to more STEM majors and a 21st Century jobs-ready workforce starts with early science education – supporting educators and engaging elementary and middle school students to spark their interest in science before they reach high school,” said CEF Executive Director Dwayne Sattler.  “I am amazed by the passion, dedication and in-depth chemistry knowledge of Ananthan Sadagopan and all of the more than 55,000 Local, State and National Challenge competitors. We look forward to continuing to work to make STEM education accessible to our future leaders.”

The Challenge is an academic competition hosted by the Chemical Educational Foundation® (CEF) that engages middle school students, grades 5-8, in the importance of chemistry in our everyday lives. Local, State, and National You Be The Chemist Challenge® competitions throughout the school year encourage collaboration among industry, schools, educators and community partners to support early STEM education. This year’s Challenge contestants qualified from among 55,000 middle school students across 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who participated in the local and state levels of the Challenge program throughout the 2016-2017 school year. 

The competition brought together nearly 400 chemical industry representatives, family members and educators in a celebration of science-related careers and the role of chemistry in everyday life. Over the course of the four-day event, participants toured Washington, DC, visited Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall, and were celebrated at a dinner and awards ceremony where students had the opportunity to interact with business leaders, chemists and science educators. The Dow Chemical Company sponsored the competition and celebration dinner.

CEF congratulates Ananthan Sadagopan and all the students, educators and schools that participated in the 2017 You Be The Chemist Challenge®. We would like to thank our National Challenge sponsors for helping foster STEM Education nationwide. Information on the 2017 National You Be The Chemist Challenge® and this year’s student participants can be found at

For photos of the Challenge Champion or the other top finalists, please send an email to

The Chemical Educational Foundation® (CEF) is dedicated to inspiring young learners to pursue science-related education and careers. Last year, CEF’s You Be The Chemist® STEM programs reached nearly one million students nationwide. For more information, please visit