Students Travel to International Olympiads

Three Andover students represented the United States in academic olympiads this summer. Jae Shin ’11, who represented the United States in the Girls’ Math Olympiad in China, earned a gold medal. David Field ’10 traveled to Washington D.C. to join the U.S. National Physics Team in the International Physics Olympiad and earned a bronze medal. James Lim ’12 also joined him in D.C. Shin earned a gold medal at the China Girls’ Math Olympiad as the top scorer on her team. The American team ranked 2nd in the competition, behind the Chinese team. Shin traveled to Nebraska to compete with fifty other girls, all of whom were selected through a series of tests. Eight of the fifty girls were selected to compete in an international competition in Shijiazhuang, China. The eight competitors were divided into two teams of four and Shin competed on Team 1—the top United States team. The competition consisted of eight problems covering algebra, combinatorics, geometry and number theory. Shin too fondly remembers the bond she shared with her fellow participants. “I got really close to my teammates and the coaches. They are all in the math profession, so they gave us good advice…. As of now, I think I will go into math as well. Some people do sports, some do music, I do math,” she said. The head coach is a teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy, one assistant coach is a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the other is an undergraduate student at Harvard University. Shin said that her favorite aspect of the competition was the connections she established, especially with the locals. Shin, who studies Mandarin, said that knowing the local language really helped her connect with the people. “Even apart from the math, it was a great experience traveling around for two weeks,” she said. Preparation for the Olympiads was intense, and all of the students began as early as last Spring. The application process for the National Physics Team, which began last winter, is comprised of a series of tests. From the test results, the top twenty high school physicists in the country are selected. After Field and Lim qualified for the team, they traveled to the University of Maryland to participate in a two-week physics camp. The camp consisted of multiple lectures as well as extensive testing that determined the top five students who would travel to Croatia to compete in the International Physics Olympiad. This year was Field’s third year at the national conference and his second year at the International Olympiad. Last year, Field won a silver medal at the International Physics Olympiad in Mexico City. Field remembered the competition to be very worrisome at times. “There’s a lot of anticipation before hand, and if you’re having trouble during the exam it can be very stressful… It’s especially important for the whole team to come together and support each other,” he continued. Field says, “Preparing for the [International Physics Olympiad] made me a much stronger physicist, both theoretically and experimentally.” “I was really stressed out… what kept me sane was my friends. If it were not for them I don’t think I would have made the team. PA really is everything to me,” he continued. Field said, “The quality of physics at PA definitely helped me make the team, especially Dr. Watt and Ms. Yao’s classes.” Field now attends MIT, where he plans on double majoring in Physics and Applied Math. Lim holds high hopes for his experience at the conference next year. He said, “[I like physics because I] can never get sick of it. It’s more than just memorization, because it tests your ability to solve problems.” Lim said, “If anything, the Physics Olympiad gave me a great mentor in David Field… He and Dr. Watt were huge inspirations.”