There are many stereotypes about Slovenians, and there are two things I am sure about them: they wake up early, and they are good at maths. But today's genius a 17-year-old Aleksej Jurca is not only good in maths; he loves the stars as well. He is the first Slovenian who won the 11th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics that took place in Thailand from November 12 to November 20, 2017. Competitions included theory tests, data analysis, observation competitions, and team competitions.
This event helps proficient youth to expand their capabilities further, and allow teachers and students from around the world to exchange their experiences and knowledge, promoting the interest in astronomy which will lead to further studies in related fields such as physics, satellites, space, and environment. At this year's Olympiad, there were 214 contestants from 44 countires and, as the experts have said, it was the most difficult Olympiad so far, which makes Aleksej's achievement a historic one.
Who is Aleksej Jurca
At five, he compiled his own toy, a washing machine from a gaming kit.He skipped grades, was incredibly bored at school. At his High School Gymnasium Bezigrad he would sometimes fall asleep during classes, and at the faculty, professors give him additional materials for reading to keep his mind busy. His parents recall that when he was a baby he was also very restless and an inquisitive child, they had to keep him busy somehow so that he would be calm.
As reported by the Slovenian media, he is uncomfortable giving interviews and answering journalist questions because this for him is harder than calculating how far a particular star is, or solving complicated tasks. He gets excited when it comes to physics, astrophysics, astronomy, observing the sky, etc. He's getting more and more known, the public loves him: Radio Val 20 listeners chose him for the name of the week.
Growing up as a genius
Growing up for this extraordinary child was quite difficult. Being constantly bored at school, as well as unsociable and distant, he was often sent to school counsellor's office. He was only too smart for this world, so following the recommendation of psychologists who tested his exceptional mental abilities, he skipped two grades and immediately continued in fifth grade. Teachers also noticed his excellent skills and luckily some of them wanted and could work with him. During the years, Aleksej as well never let himself become discouraged.
For years his parents had to listen to councillors and psychologists complaining about Aleksej not socialising with his schoolmates, but that finally changed when in the 7th grade Aleksej started winning competitions and getting awards, thus raising the reputation of the school in the field of natural sciences.
In high school, he also skipped two years, and competitions and olympics became his way of life. Some of his achievements involve Bronze Medal at the Olympics in Physics (2015); silver team medal at the European Olympic Games in Science (2015); 1st prize at the International Sankt-Petersburg Astronomical Olympiad (2015); 1st place at the national competition in mathematics (2015); 2nd place at the State Astronomy Competition (2016); 2nd place at the national competition AMC programming - 3rd group (2016); 1st place at the State Astronomy Competition (2015); 1st place at the national physics competition - 1st group (2014); 1st place at the national competition in mathematics (2014); 2nd place at the national competition in logic (2013).
However, to be even able to compete at the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics he had to win several difficult competitions, and with the help of his mentors and the rest of the team he won the Olympiad with maximum points thus becoming an absolute winner of the competition, and became the first Slovenian ( not Slovakian, as some international media wrongly reported) to win an international olympiad in the field of natural sciences.
Since this October Aleksej has been a student at the University of Nova Gorica at the bachelor programme in Physics and Astrophysics, the only university programme in Slovenia in this field. As he says, he's really happy there, and he likes his professors who work with him and include him in different studies. He decided to stay and study in Slovenia because today one can get every information through the internet, and doesn't need to go and study abroad, he adds.
So, dear Aleksej, since you are staying here, I know you hate giving interviews, but wait for my call, I have some questions to ask you.