ISSP UL young researcher receives Olainfarm AS scholarship

A research assistant from the ISSP UL’s Spectroscopy Laboratory, Toms Koķis, was awarded an Olainfarm AS scholarship in the amount of €3,000 on October 25. The young researcher is a 2nd-year Chemistry student at the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Latvia, who started working as a teacher at the Riga State Gymnasium No.2 in the International Baccalaureate programme right after secondary school. Alongside his studies at university and his work at school, Tots also researches nanoparticle synthesis at the ISSP UL’s Spectroscopy Laboratory.

Tots explains: "A teacher needs not only knowledge but also experience in the field to inspire students to pursue a career in chemistry. The Olainfarm scholarship is a great honor and an opportunity for me to devote even more time and resources to working with students, encouraging them to see the important role of chemistry and its practical application in everyday life."

T. Koķis also runs an interest club at school where he and the students work on solving non-standard chemistry Olympiad problems and apply the acquired knowledge in laboratory work.

A total of 11 young chemistry teachers applied for the Young Chemistry Teachers’ Scholarships this autumn, and two of the applicants received it. The applications were reviewed based on both applicants’ performance and their motivation letter.

In recognition of the importance, role and contribution of teachers to the overall development of the country, the leading Latvian manufacturer in the chemical and pharmaceutical sector of the Baltic States, AS Olainfarm, has established a EUR 75 000 scholarship programme for young chemistry teachers.

The scholarship comes at a time when there is a shortage of natural science subject teachers in Latvian schools. At the beginning of this school year, there was a shortage of 1,013 pedagogues in Latvian schools and preschools, mostly in natural science subjects, according to information from the Ministry of Education and Science. In addition, the rate of renewal of teachers remains at only 1%, which means that the shortage of pedagogues in schools will only increase every year. Accordingly, young people’s interest in in-depth learning of natural science subjects and taking centralized exams in these subjects remains steadily low, as there is a lack of pedagogues who can teach these subjects. For example, in the school year 2022/2023, less than 14% of all high school and special school graduates chose to take the centralized exam in chemistry, according to the statistics published by the National Center for Education of Latvia.

Tots Koķis was interviewed by the Latvian commercial TV channel TV3 Latvia news program about the Olainfarm scholarship. The interview was broadcast on October 28. The full news story in Latvian is available from here.

On October 25, the newspaper Diena published an article about both receivers of the Olainfarm scholarship. The full story in Latvian is available from here. Diena is a Latvian language national daily newspaper in Latvia, published since 23 November 1990. It is one of Latvia’s largest daily periodicals and used to be considered a paper of record.