Two Andover Students Head to Maryland to Participate in Physics Training Camp

David Field ’10 and James Lim ’12 traveled to the University of Maryland, College Park this week to participate in the United States Physics Team Training Camp. The camp is designed to educate the top 20 qualifiers from the prerequisite exam and filter the participants to determine the five members of the U.S. Physics Traveling Team that will compete in the International Physics Olympiad this July in Zagreb, Croatia. The selection process began in January when over 3300 students took the first round exam. Field and Lim, along with eight other Andover students, were selected as national semi-finalists. The ten Andover students took yet another exam but only Lim and Field qualified to attend the camp in Maryland. Lim said, “As a first-year team member, I hope to get myself ready for next year’s session, when I will be a returning member and have a much better aim for the [International Physics Olympics].” This is Field’s third trip to the camp. Last year, Field qualified in the camp to compete as part of the final team in Mexico. Field said, “[Competing at the Olympiad] was quite an experience. I really feel like I got a lot better at Physics. I was clearly challenged by it.” While at the Olympiad, Field said that he took two 5-hour exams—one being a practical lab and the other a written exam. “Because the grading took such a long time, we were able to attend lectures and interact with the other competitors for a week,” said Field. Lim said, “We get to take lecture notes from the country’s most renowned physics professors, and handle lab equipment that we’ve never even seen before.” Lim also mentioned that the camp will travel to Washington, D.C. to represent the high school Physics community in front of the United States Senate. Field said, “I developed my passion for Physics studying it and learning to understand the mathematical structure and explanatory ability [it possesses].” During the camp, Field and Lim will be attending lectures and testing the skills they learn in both exams and graded labs. According to Field, students must learn the equivalent of about two full years of undergraduate Physics curriculum in a week in order to succeed at the camp. Field explained that his favorite aspect of the camp is the written tests. “The exams are stressful, but they are the most challenging part. The problems are very different. I have to take a new mathematical and mental approach in order to figure them out,” he continued. Field is already familiar with the material, since he participated in the camp last year. “[Having previously attended] gives me an advantage competitively, however it is going to be a challenge to make the team this year,” he continued. Field said that he was aware from a very young age that he was particularly talented in mathematics, however it was not until he enrolled in Physics 580 in the fall of his Junior year that he knew his mathematical talents translated into physics. “I really enjoyed that class. It was not difficult, but it prepared me well to attend my first training camp later that year,” he continued. Lim, on the other hand, said that he has never taken a formal Physics class. “I have built a solid foundation of knowledge by reading through textbooks and e-resources that I could lay my hands on,” said Lim. Lim’s process of immersing himself in Physics was “gradual.” “It was around my eigth grade summer, and I guess I was craving a change from the ordinary routine, and physics provided me with a new sense of real-life application that quickly grasped my attention,” Lim continued. Lim said that a pivotal point in his physics career was when he won the gold medal at the 2008 Korean Physics Olympics. “Having self-taught physics, I was in need of an opportunity to test myself against some fellow physics students. [The competition] provided me just that,” he said. Lim had the opportunity to study at the Physics Center for Gifted Students at Seoul National University. “The deeper you delve into physics, the closer you get to the ultimate truth. I guess that is what I enjoy doing,” Lim said. Field plans on attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall after only three years at Andover. “I have already finished the Math and Science programs at Andover, so I decided to skip my Upper year so that I could continue to challenge myself in classes,” he said. Field plans to pursue a double major in Applied Math and Physics while at MIT. Lim said that as far as his high school career goes, he wishes to return to the national team training camp the next two years and make the International Physics Olympics. “Upon entering college, I might delve a bit deeper into [Physics]. In contrast to most of the other team members, I do not have a set future plan that directly relates to physics,” he continued. Lim continued, “[I still want to remain] open to any and all possibilities.”