APS News

U.S. Team Wins Top Honors at 34th International Physics Olympiad

Victorious members of the US Physics team line-up with their medals on display
Photo Credit: Mary Mogee

Victorious members of the US Physics team line-up with their medals on display. Left to right they are Daniel Gulotta, Chintan Hossain, Pavel Batrachenko, Emily Russell, and Immanuel Buder.
Representatives of the US Physics Team placed first out of 54 countries at the 34th annual International Physics Olympiad in Taipei, Taiwan, sweeping the competition with five medals and four special prizes yesterday for their knowledge of topics such as special relativity and properties of laser diodes. This is the first time a US student has taken the top honor since 1989, and the first time in the competition's history that the US team has been the top-ranking country.

The awards were presented at the closing ceremonies on August 10. The Olympiad was originally scheduled for late July, but concerns about SARS delayed the competition. Pavel Batrachenko of Marshall High School in Rochester, MN, took top honors in the 238-student competition, which began on August 2. He also received one of the two prizes for the best score in experiment, tying with Thaned Pruttivarasin from Thailand. Daniel Gulotta, Illinois Math & Science Academy, Aurora, IL, received a prize for the best score in theory. Emily Russell from Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, CT, received a prize as the best female participant.

"We're ecstatic about the success of the team-they worked really hard and they deserve it," said Bernard Khoury, executive officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers, which co-sponsored a training camp to prep the students for the international tests. "We've never had this kind of confluence of great students before. It's all the more remarkable, since the event might never have been held. The fact that they did so well speaks even better on behalf of the kids."

All five members of the US traveling team placed in the top 10%.

Batrachenko (ranked first), Gulotta (ranked 13th), and Chintan Hossain, from the Charter School of Wilmington Delaware, (ranked 19th) received gold medals.

Russell (tied for 21st place) and Immanuel Buder, from Thomas Jefferson High School, Alexandria, VA, (ranked 23rd) received silver medals. Although the competition is among individuals, an informal summary of scores showed that the US was the top-ranking country out of the fifty-four participating nations, followed by South Korea, Taiwan and Iran.

Members of the 2003 US Physics Team were selected from a group of semifinalists based on their screening exams, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. The 24 members of the team met at the University of Maryland's physics department for the training camp May 16 - 26, [see APS News, July 2003] and from that meeting five traveling members were selected.

The traveling members met again at Cal Poly Pomona, July 27-30, for a mini-camp devoted to enhancing their laboratory skills.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette