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The Olympiad is a nine-day international competition among pre-university students from more than 60 nations. — AAPT.ORG

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Meet the Team


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Hannah Field

Bronx, NY

Stanford Online High School

Grade: Senior


dance, music composition, singing, Avalon, board games, non-stressful card games


Co-President of Stanford OHS Physics Club, NYC Math Team, Chorus


USAJMO (2011, 2012), USAMO (2014), MOP (2014), USAPhO Semifinalist (2014), National Merit Scholarship recipient


For me, it has always been about trying to understand things at the deepest, most fundamental level possible. I didn’t want to know that a battery “completed” a circuit; I wanted to know how those little electrons knew to swim right through. I didn’t want to know that light reflected off of some surfaces to make them look shiny, but passed through the car window allowing me to see what was on the other side; I wanted to know how light decided which to do! I remember in the 5th grade learning that the color we see is determined by which “colors” are not absorbed by the object and thinking it was the coolest thing ever that we could manufacture paint to do exactly the right thing (which I still think is really cool). Looking back now, it seems I had a fascination with how systems without “brains” knew how to “think,” or to rephrase, I had a yearning to understand the driving factors behind our universe.

That is why I regard my encounter with Physics last year (in particular, the second semester during which we learned about Electricity and Magnetism) as probably the most exciting time of my life. At last, I had a framework for asking—and more importantly, answering (not to mention sometimes even predicting!)—these questions that always zipped, tantalizingly around in my head.

For as long as I can remember, I have had an eye for simplicity and elegance; my creative outlet was ballet. When I became injured in the summer before 8th grade, my mom enrolled me in the New York Math Circle. That summer changed my life. It was there, under the guidance of my teacher Larry Zimmerman, that I discovered a new kind of math, the kind that made you think really hard, that kept you on your toes, that hid patterns and relations in unexpected places. Mr. Zimmerman taught me that there is something fundamental hidden within every problem, something that only the most elegant solutions can reveal. I have maintained this mindset ever since.

Of course, math and physics are similar in many ways: both begin with a set of axioms, both build a language upon those axioms, both attempt to allow us to understand the abstract, and in both, simplicity is knowledge. However, a key difference is that a mathematical paradox reflects an incongruence of our human chosen axioms, whereas a physical paradox reflects a misunderstanding of our world—a failure to properly describe it. The more physics I learn, the more I appreciate how just a few simple symmetries and fundamental interactions dictate the course of everything around us (and not). There is some intrinsic structure to our world, something invisible to the eye and beyond intuition, and we are quite lucky to be allowed to even get close to discovering it.

I would like to thank Dr. Alex McKale at the Stanford Online High School for kindling a love of physics in me, for encouraging me to investigate and question everything, for listening to my long confused ramblings and then helping me sort things out, and for the countless number of hours spent in F=MARATHON sessions. I would also like to thank Dr. Brian Cole at Columbia University for his infectious passion for physics, his influence on the very nature in which I perceive physics, and for helping me reach a comfortable balance between mathematical gymnastics, intuition, self-consistency, and experimental fact. It goes without saying that I owe the greatest appreciation of all to my family, for their constant support and ceaseless encouragement in my every pursuit and for making possible so very many things.

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