Senior prepares to compete with the US Physics Team

Paly represented on US Physics Team for second year in a row

Palo Alto High School senior Grace Lin will be following the footsteps of Paly alumni Jeffrey Yan (‘13) in placing on the US Physics Team for the second year in a row. While on the team, Lin, along with some new and returning members, will be participating in training camps to prepare for the 45th International Physics Competition that will be taking place on July 13-21, 2014 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Students who wish to join the US Physics Team must undergo an extensive selection process. First, in early January, students must find a physics teacher who is willing to proctor their test,the F=MA, a 25 question mechanics test, in which any student can participate in. Next, the top 300-400 students are invited to participate in the second round of testing, the semi-final round, which is a two-part free response exam that is around three hours long; the first part has four questions and the second part has two. Then, 18 students are selected to be on the US Physics Team. From there, the finalists are flown to Washington D.C. to partake in an extensive training camp to practice and utilize their skills in preparation for a final exam in which five are selected to compete in the International Physics competition.

Although Lin was the only one selected to be on the US Physics Team this year, other Paly students, whose medal rankings were determined by their results on the semi-final exams, were awarded medals for partaking in the semi-final round. Juniors Joseph Chang and Gary Chen, were awarded the bronze medals, juniors Matthew Li, Luke Liao, and Winston Wang were awarded the silver, and junior Wilson Wang and Lin were awarded the gold. Around 23.2% semi-finalists were awarded for honorable mention, 18.9% for bronze, 9.5% for silver, and 15.8% for gold.

“I have been a [national] gold medalist for two years, and I was selected to go to camp last year,“ Lin said. “At the time, it was a very new experience, and it was mindblowing. I was unfortunately not selected to participate in the International Physics competition last year, but I’m hoping to give it a shot this year.”

Lin, who took Advanced Placement Physics last year, stated that the class has helped her prepare for the first physics exam and semi-final exam of the US Physics Team. In addition, she stated that she did not need to do much preparation other than reviewing AP Physics material and studied by herself, with occasional help from her older brother.

“Up until this point [final round preparations], it’s just getting comfortable with the material and being able to play with it and the relationship between variables,” Lin said

Lin has experience due to being on the US Physics team last year, and believes that she will be more mentally and emotionally prepared for the intense training and learning this year.

“I have a little more sense of what we will be doing and how it’s going to feel because it can a little brutal at times,” Lin said. “I don’t know if my physics level has actually increased, but I know that I will be more mentally prepared.”

Lin believes that being on the US Physics team has exposed her to a more in-depth world of physics. Lin believes that the physics taught at school gives students a broad foundation and just barely scratches the surface of the physics world, while the physics taught in training camp at D.C. gives students a more comprehensive range of real-world physics. Lin will be joining Yan at Harvard University this fall and hopes to be one of the five selected to compete at the International Physics Olympiad Competition.