Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 U.S. Physics Team Visits Washington D.C.

Hello, I'm Brian Zhang, a senior from Palo Alto, CA and a member of this year's U.S. Physics Team. This year, AAPT is asking students to post about the camp experience on this blog. So I guess I'll start off!

Since we arrived at College Park, Maryland on May 20, most days have been pretty packed with physics. Our schedule starts with getting up at 7 am for breakfast at the hotel, after which we take a bus over to University of Maryland for our morning classes. They are taught by our wonderful coaches: Paul, Dave, JiaJia, Andrew, and Marianna. In the afternoon, we've had a 2-hour theoretical exam every day, as well as some lab instruction from Warren and QiuZi. Soon, we'll be ramping up the exams - we're taking our five-hour exam in two days and will also be starting "Mystery Labs" tomorrow.

But today, we got a delightful day off from physics to visit Washington D.C.! Upon arriving at the Capitol, we split up into groups to meet our congressional representatives. My group consisted of a bunch of Californians as well as Paul, Dave, and JiaJia. We were able to arrange meetings with three of our representatives: David Dreier, Tammy Baldwin, and Henry Waxman. It was exciting to see inside their offices and ask them a few questions about what happens in Congress.

At 1 pm, we had a special meeting with Representative Rush Holt from New Jersey, the only physicist currently in Congress. He spoke to us about the importance of science education for fostering a unique way of thinking and asking questions. We then had a break during which we visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Then at 5 pm, we were able to meet with Carl Wieman in the White House Conference Center. Mr. Wieman, a Nobel prize-winning physicist who now works on Science and Technology Policy, talked about his research on science education and his views on what it takes to be a good physicist.

And finally, a visit to Washington D.C. isn't complete without a stop at the Albert Einstein bronze statue! Below you can see pictures of all 20 of us piled on his lap and shoulders and more.

2011 U.S. Physics Team poses in front of the Albert Einstein memorial in D.C.
Group picture in front of the Capitol!
Rush Holt speaks to this year's U.S. Physics Team on the steps of the Capitol.
Some members of this year's Physics Team. (I'm at the very left.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 U.S. Physics Team Welcomed to Camp

College Park, MD, May 24, 2010—They came from Iowa and Ohio, Oregon and Massachusetts. Five came from California, two from New Jersey, and one from Connecticut. Students from the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, the Southwest, and the Pacific coast are beginning ten days of rigorous academic training, interactive learning, and friendship building as they prepare to test themselves on the world stage.

They are the top twenty high school physics students in the United States, selected through an examination process that included such upper level skills as the Lagrangian Formula of Mechanics, Differential Calculus for Electricity and Magnetism, and Complex Variables, skills usually learned at the end of the undergraduate experience.

They were welcomed to the University of Maryland, College Park campus by AAPT Executive Officer, Warren Hein and AIP Executive Director, Fred Dylla. Officers and staff from AAPT, AIP, APS, and the University of Maryland were on hand for the camp kick off.

Meet the U.S. Physics team at Get to know their coaches, Paul Stanley, Academic Director; Warren Turner, Senior Lab Coach; Qui Zi Li, Assistant Lab Coach; and Academic Coaches, Jia Jia Dong, David Fallest, and Andrew Linn at

In addition to learning a year of physics in two weeks, the team members will visit their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill, tour the National Air and Space Museum, and visit the Albert Einstein statue at the National Academy of Science. At the end of the camp, they will be tested again and five of the team members will be selected to travel to Zagreb, Croatia, representing the United States in the International Physics Olympiad, July 17 – 25, 2010.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bringing Home the Gold: U.S. Physics Team Wins Four Gold Medals and One Silver Medal

The students, from left to right, are Anand Nataranjan, Bowei Liu, David Field, Marianna Mao, and Joshua Oreman.
The proud coaches stand behind the students and are, from left to right Warren Turner and Paul Stanley.

The five student representatives of the United States Physics team won four gold medals and one silver medal at the 40th International Physics Olympiad held in Merida, Mexico in July of 2009. Students from China won five gold medals, coming in first on the overall medal count; while India and Korea also won four gold medals and one silver medal, tying for second with the United States on the overall medal count. Taiwan, Russia, and Romania each earned three gold and two silver medals. Countries winning at least two gold medals included Singapore, Kazakhstan and Japan; countries winning at least one gold medal included Thailand, Indonesia, Hungary, Hong Kong, Turkey, Serbia, Israel, Poland, and Slovakia.

The US team gold medal winners included Anand Nataranjan (with 14th highest theory score), Bowei Liu, Joshua Oreman (with 11th highest overall score), and Marianna Mao (with 6th highest experimental score). David Field won the silver medal. The overall highest score this year was Handuo Shi from China, marking the first time in the history of the Physics Olympiad that the top score was obtained by a female. Accompanying the US Physics Team to Mexico was Academic Director Paul Stanley of Beloit College and Senior Lab Coach Warren Turner of Westfield State College.

“They all did very well,” said Paul Stanley, Academic Director. “ Much of the success of the traveling five can be attributed to the collegial, supportive atmosphere of training camp; I thank each of the nineteen team members for working so hard to make this one of the best teams ever!”

The three theoretical problems this year included a question on the tidal drag affecting the moon, a question on laser cooling and optical molasses, and a question on the mass to radius ratio of stars and estimating a lower limit to the size of a star. The two experimental problems included measuring the wavelength of light using a razor blade and vernier calipers, and determining the index of refraction difference of a birefringent material. 316 students from about 70 countries took part in the examination.

The US physics team has participated in the International Physics Olympiad since 1986. On four occasions the team has won four gold medals: in Australia (1995), Singapore (2006), Vietnam (2008), and Mexico (2009). The United States hosted the International Physics Olympiad in 1993. In 2010 the Olympiad will be held in Croatia.

Traveling to Merida Mexico for the 40th International Physics Olympiad were:
David Field, of Andover, MA, a sophomore at the Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, MA;

Bowei Liu, of Freemont, CA, a sophomore at Mission San Jose High School in Freemont, CA;

Marianna Mao, of Freemont, CA, a senior at Mission San Jose High School in Freemont, CA;
Anand Natarajan, a senior at The Harker School in San Jose, CA;

Joshua Oreman, of Los Angeles, CA a senior at Harvard Westlake School, Los Angeles, CA;

Paul Stanley, Academic Director, Dobson Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Beloit College;

Warren Turner, Senior Coach, Assistant Professor at Westfield State , College in Massachusetts.

The three graduating seniors will be going to Harvard (Marianna), MIT (Joshua), and Stanford (Anand) next year.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Go Team USA! Traveling Members of The U.S. Physics Team Are in Mexico to Compete in the International Physics Olympiad

July 13, 2009, College Park, MD – The five students representing the U.S. Physics Team as the 2009 Traveling Team, and two of their coaches, are competing with high school students from 84 nations this week at the 40th International Physics Olympiad in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.

The U.S. Traveling Team Representatives are:

David Field, of Andover, MA, a sophomore at the Phillips Andover Academy in Andover, MA;

Bowei Liu, of Freemont, CA, a sophomore at Mission San Jose High School in Freemont, CA;

Marianna Mao, of Freemont, CA, a senior at Mission San Jose High School in Freemont, CA;

Anand Natarajan, of San Jose, CA, a senior at The Harker School;

Joshua Oreman, of Los Angeles, CA a senior at Harvard Westlake School, Los Angeles, CA.

The traveling team coaches are:
Paul Stanley, Academic Director, Dobson Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Beloit College;
Warren Turner, Senior Coach, Assistant Professor at Westfield State College in Massachusetts.

The US Physics Team Traveling Representatives participated in a two-day mini-camp at the University of Maryland, College Park, where they reviewed problem solving skills and sharpened their laboratory skills. The mini-camp ended with a visit to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC where the students met with Antonio Ortiz-Mena, Head of Section Economic Affairs. The team members presented an art glass globe representing the world, as a gift to the people of Mexico during their embassy visit.

The Traveling Representatives arrived in Merida on July 11 and will spend the next week participating in a unique opportunity to meet with other high school students, demonstrate their abilities in physics, exchange experiences, and build cross-cultural contacts. They will have the opportunity to make new and lasting friendships with peers from all over the world; visit archeological sites full of ancient history; and to attend talks by world renowned scientists regarding interesting research in physics.

Team members will have the opportunity to add to the medals received by previous U.S. Physics Teams. Last year's team brought home one silver medal and four gold medals. This year's awards will be presented on July 19, 2009.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Life As A Camper

At physics camp our daily traditions is to write the day of the week on the board because after a while we campers tend to lose track of time. I think the reason that happens is that we have so much fun here. What's been so remarkable about this camp isn't that 19 young students can have a great time together; that could happen anywhere. But here, unlike anywhere else, doing physics is our idea of fun, and I believe I speak for all of us when I say that the past 10 days have been some of the most exciting and rewarding days of our high school careers.

We've learned an incredible amount—that the Bernoulli effect is a lie, that IPHO is IHOP in Swahili, that E isn't always mc2 and that 2=2 isn't always 4. We've talked about the physics of Frisbees during breaks and gone out to play some amazing games of Ultimate at lunches. Our nights are alternately passed with water guns and problems sets. And we’ve annoyed the Hilton Inn staff to no end by spending dinner time testing the elastic modules of ice—in other words by engaging in ice-eating battles.

Though we've gone through dozens of high-level problems & worked through five challenging labs, I've never felt that the camp has been about setting up a competitive atmosphere for team spots. This is thanks in large part to our wonderful coaches who have challenged us, tested our limits, and drawn out our potential. Camp has been more about showing us that we each have the ability to succeed—that given a little push, we can all discover more about and better understand the world we live in. These are valuable lessons we’ll all benefit from not just in the short term but also in the long term whether or not we decide to pursue physics in college.

The purpose of this reception today is not only to honor the 19 students here, but also to express our gratitude towards those who have made everything possible for us—coaches, sponsors, teachers, family, friends, and the dedicated members of AAPT. Thank you for believing in us and for helping us reach where we stand today.

—Mariana Mao