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Marianna Mao

Traveling Team

Fremont, CA

Mission San Jose High School

Grade: Senior


piano, cross-country, biking, photography, music (last.fm)


Math Club, Academic Challenge, The Smoke Signal (school newspaper), Speech and Debate


Contest/Competition Experience or Honors: China Girls’ Math Olympiad Bronze Medalist (2007), USA Math Olympiad qualifier (2006-2009), Intel Science Talent Search Finalist (2009), Siemens Competition Semifinalist (2008-09, 2007-08), Siemens Award for Advanced Placement (2009), National Merit Winner (2009), US Physics Olympiad team member (2008) and semifinalist (2007), Research Science Institute Scholar (2008), USA Mathematical Talent Search Gold Medalist (2008), US Biology Olympiad Semifinalist (2008), National Science Bowl 9th place (2007)


I was born and raised in the sleepy town of Slidell, Louisiana, where I spent the majority of my time catching lizards or crashing my bike into mailboxes. That was when I still cherished hopes of becoming a manga artist, decorating my notebooks with sketches of girls with spookily large eyes. After moving to California's Bay Area in fifth grade, I was introduced to an education system with a strong emphasis on math and science. Having recognized how awful my drawings were, I looked for another interest and found it in junior high, when I was captivated by the challenges of problem solving in the Mathcounts competition. As I wrote in last year's biography, my experiences with math competitions led me to the Physics Olympiad in ninth grade.

Though I didn't know it then, my introduction to physics through the Olympiad would be richly rewarding in terms of the amount I would learn, the experiences I would live, and the people I would meet. I soon began to understand physics not as a set of equations and symbols but as a part of the age-old quest to "follow knowledge like a sinking star beyond the utmost bounds of human thought." I got the chance to further pursue my interests through last year's Olympiad camp and also through the Research Science Institute, which matched me with research mentors at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics. The knowledge I gained through the Physics Olympiad was instrumental in the project I did at MIT, which involved building a model for gravitational wave signals. Since then, I have to come to love this field, and I now hope to study physics and applied math at Harvard this fall. I look forward to reuniting with old friends and making new ones at this year's camp!

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