Traveling Team    The Team    Semi-finalists    Coaches    Contacts    Sponsors    Schedule    AAPT Home
International Results        Daily Team Updates        Camp Photos        Physics_Team Home
34th International Physics Olympiad

"First in the World in Physics" — U.S. Physics_Team Fulfills Goal in 2003

Representatives of the 2003 U.S. Physics_Team won five medals and four special prizes at the 34th International Physics Olympiad held August 2-11 in Taipei, Taiwan.

The awards were presented at the closing ceremonies on August 10. Pavel Batrachenko was the absolute winner (first prize) of the 238 student competition. Pavel also received one of the two prizes for the best score in experiment. He was tied with Thaned Pruttivarasin from Thailand. Daniel Gulotta received a prize for the best score in theory and Emily Russell received a prize as the best female participant. All five students placed in the top ten percent. Pavel Batrachenko (ranked 1), Daniel Gulotta (ranked 13th), and Chintan Hossain (ranked 19th) received gold medals. Emily Russell (ranked 21st) and Immanuel Buder (ranked 23rd) received silver medals. Although the competition is among individuals, an informal summary of scores showed that the United States was the top-ranking country out of the fifty-four participating nations followed by South Korea, Taiwan and Iran.

"We're ecstatic about the success of the team -- they worked really hard and they deserve it," said Dr. Bernard Khoury, Executive Officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers, College Park, MD, 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."

The selection process for the 2003 U.S. Physics_Team began in January, when high school physics teachers from throughout the country nominated over 1400 physics students to be members of the 2003 Team. The first round of exams in late January produced approximately 185 semi-finalists who were given a second exam in March. The 24 members of the 2003 U. S. Physics_Team were selected from the group of semi-finalists based on their screening exams, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. The members of the team met at the University of Maryland Physics Department for an intensive training camp May 16 - 26.

The team representatives met again at Cal Poly Pomona, July 27-30, for a mini-camp devoted to enhancing their laboratory skills. On July 30th, the five team representatives flew to Taiwan accompanied by coaches Mary Mogge (Physics Department, Cal Poly Pomona) and Robert Shurtz (Hawken School, Gates Mills, Ohio). The students took the five-hour theoretical exam on Monday, August 4. Their first problem featured a swing with a falling weight. The second problem dealt with a piezoelectric quartz crystal. The final theoretical problem consisted of two parts: one part dealing with special relativity and the other with the power of a laser. The experimental competition was held on Wednesday, August 6. The experiment required students to measure properties of laser diodes and liquid crystal cells.

Coaches and Teachers Make a Difference

Vital to the team's success was the highly talented and thoroughly experienced coaching staff. Mogge, chair of the physics department at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, has served as the Academic Director of the Team since 1999, and has been a coach on the team since 1996. Senior coach Shurtz, physics teacher at Hawken School in Gates Mills, OH, has been a coach since 2001 and as a teacher, has mentored many students who have gone on to be named to the Team. Pictures and information on the entire coaching staff can be found on the coaches page.

Also essential to the students' success were their teachers. In addition to mentoring the students in many important ways, the teachers nominated their pupils to take the AAPT exams that gained them entry on the U.S. Physics_Team. Pavel Batrachenko was nominated by John Samuell at John Marshall High School, Rochester, MN. Immanuel Buder was nominated by Philip Whalin at Thomas Jefferson High School, Alexandria, VA. Daniel Gulotta was nominated by Laura Nickerson at Illinois Math & Science Academy, Aurora, IL. Chintan Hossain was nominated by David Stover at the Charter School of Wilmington Delaware, Wilmington, DE. Emily Russell was nominated by Lawrence Stowe at Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, CT. Bios of these finalists are available here.


The 2003 U.S. Physics_Team was sponsored by numerous scientific societies, corporations, foundations, and individuals. A list of sponsors can be found on the sponsors page.

Relevant Links

Photos from the mini-camp and International Competition
Coach's Site Photos
High-resolution image of the U.S. Physics_Team with their awards
Further information about the International Competition
AAPT home page