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Fortino ’05 and Whalen ’06 Selected as Members of U.S. Physics Team

Nickolas Fortino ’05 and Daniel Whalen ’06, members of the 2005 United States Physics Olympiad Team, will travel to Salamanca, Spain this July to compete in an international event. Instructor in Physics Dr. Peter Watt nominated Fortino and Whalen for the team. The American Association of Physics Teachers is responsible for recruiting, selecting, and training the team to compete in the International Physics Olympiad Competition. In early January, teachers nominate their top students to take the first test. Approximately 200 of the top scoring students advance to the semi-final round. Then, coaches scrutinize transcripts, letters of recommendations, and a second test to select the 24-members of the United States Physics Team. Each year, at the end of May, the team members meet at the U.S. Physics Team Training Camp at the University of Maryland-College Park where they study, solve problems, and take tests intensively for nine days. Whalen said of the training camp, “It was fun. It included 16 hours of graded exams and ten hours of graded labs. The kids were, obviously, very bright.” Fortino said, “We basically did physics all day, everyday, and we quietly complained when we weren’t. The more physics, the better.” At the camp, the students participated in a number of science-related events. Dr. Jordan Goodman, Physics Department Chair at the University of Maryland spoke to the students about his research May 16. The following day, the Physics Team visited NASA Goddard, home to the Engineering Integration and Test Facilities and the Hubble Space Telescope Simulator. The students went on a private tour of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and visited Einstein’s statue at the National Institute of Science. A Congressional reception was held May 18 to recognize the team members’ achievements. The reception, hosted by Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-Michigan) and Rush Holt (D-New Jersey), included an address by the President of the Carnegie Institution, Dr. Richard Meserve. On May 23, the coaches announced which of the US Physics Team’s 24 members would form the Traveling Team Monday. The Traveling Team, consisting of five students and an alternate, will represent the United States at the International Physics Olympiad this year in Salamanca, to which over 70 other nations will send representatives. The Traveling Team undergoes three additional days of concentrated laboratory work, along with a recommended 20 hours per week of self-study, before embarking on the trip. Fortino and Whalen, along with Menyoung Lee of Virginia, Timothy Credo of Illinois, and Eric Mecklenburg of Ohio won places on the Traveling Team. The alternate is William Throwe of New York. The Traveling Team members each received a calculator from Texas Instruments. The International Physics Olympiad Competition began in Eastern Europe in 1965. The United States joined the competition in 1986 and won three bronze medals, the most any debut team had ever won at an Olympiad. Whalen and Fortino took Advanced Placement Physics two years ago before going on to take every elective offered by the Physics Department. “They taught us just about everything we know,” said Fortino.