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Daily Team Updates

Monday, August 11, 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 through 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.

Friday, June 20, 2003

The composition of the traveling team has changed. Steve Byrnes has withdrawn from the traveling team in order to attend the Lucent Scholars Program and Tim Abbott has withdrawn in order to attend the Informatics Olympiad and participate in the Ross Summer School Program. We wish them success in these programs. We’re very pleased to announce that Emily Russell and Daniel Gulotta have accepted spots on the traveling team.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The email messages ran rampant today as each student related the happenings of their trip back home and how they were already missing one another. One of the students wrote... “When I first got there I was really scared that I would be in a camp full of boring and esoteric people who would do nothing but study all day long. I'm glad I found myself wrong. This week ruled, we all had so much fun! I miss you all already.” Another one stated “The camp was awesome... it saddens me that we will all be scattered by the winds of college to well-spread places. Good luck to all, and thanks to all of you for making this a wonderful experience. I hope to see you all again!”

Monday, May 26, 2003

The morning was a somber one as each student said good-bye. They assured one another that they would keep the physics team list going and then wished each other a great summer.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Today was the big day. It started off as any other day in the training camp but by 3:15 p.m., five of the 24 would be selected to represent the team in Taipei, Taiwan, July 27- August 11, 2003. At 8:00 a.m. the students had their seventh and final exam. After lunch they had the pleasure of hearing Theresa Kucera, Astrophysicist in the Solar Physics Branch, Goddard Space Flight Center. Kucera's topic was New Views of the Sun: Observations of the Sun from Space. The students were then given a questionnaire and evaluation sheet to complete. At 3:15 p.m. the coaches came in from their meeting ready to announce the five representatives. The room was quiet as the names were called: Steven Byrnes, Pavel Batrachenko, Chintan Hossain, Timothy Abbott, Immanuel Buder and the alternate, Emily Russell. A round of applause went out to the representatives and alternate; each student of the traveling team received a CBL2 from Texas Instruments. Group pictures were taken in front of the Physics Building at the Univ. of Maryland. The one thing that was quite apparent with this latest group of U.S. Team members was the friendships that were made. It was clear that the time left on Sunday would not be wasted doing mundane chores like "packing." They continued to play frisbee in the mud, Mafia, and other cards games they enjoyed all week long and they also signed each other’s books and exchanged email addresses so that they could all stay connected. The students were reluctant to end the evening knowing that tomorrow they would be going their separate ways via plane, train, and automobile,but they assured one another that their paths would someday cross again.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Today's Frontier Speaker was Dr. Ellen Williams, Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland. Over the years, Dr. Williams has been a regular Frontier Speaker for the Team. Consistent with her pioneering and award winning research in the area, this year's topic was Scanning Probe Microscopes: The Beginning for Nanoscience. Following her lectures, the students relaxed at lunch and then went on for their 5-hour Practice Olympiad Exam. Friday evening the students took a Physics IQ Test, from experiments demonstrated by Physics Professor, Dr. Richard Berg, - University of Maryland. This fun-filled session is always a favorite of the students. Dr. Berg has also been a regular Frontier Speaker and supporter of the Team since ‘86.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

On May 20 at 1:00 p.m. the students boarded a Univ. of Maryland bus heading for the nation's capitol. First stop, the National Academy of Science where they took photos at the Einstein statue. Later the team was taken to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for a private tour. At 4:00 p.m. the students arrived on Capitol Hill at the Rayburn Building where a reception was held in their honor by Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), the only physicists in congress. The students had the opportunity to meet many of their local representatives. Following the reception there was a ceremony with talks given by Peter Faletra, of the Department of Energy, and Norman Neureiter, Science Advisor to Colin Powell. The keynote speaker was John Mather, Senior Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. But the highlight of the evening was when the U.S. Team Members were announced and received their official certificates of participation.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Today was the second day the students heard from a Frontier Speaker. Jordan Goodman, Chair of the Univ. of Maryland Physics Department, talked to them about his research. Goodman has spoken to the U.S. Physics Team each year the United States has sponsored a team. He has been a staunch supporter and cares deeply about young students and their interest in science. A welcoming reception followed at noon. In attendance were some faculty members from the Univ. of Maryland Physics Department and AIP and AAPT staff. Only two days into camp, the team already has had two labs and two exams.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Today the students were treated to the first in a series of Frontier Speakers. Michelle Steen, from IBM Research, came and talked with them about microchip fabrication. Steen received her Ph.D in Chemistry from Colorado State University. In 2001, Steen joined the research staff at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, developing industry-leading etch processes for microchip fabrication. Her presentation described how semiconductor processing involves a series of layering materials (semiconductors, metals, and insulators) to produce FETs (field effect transistors) and other devices. Steen emphasized how the development and manufacturing of these transistors relies on materials scientists, chemists, physicists, and engineers to understand and optimize the materials and processes (lithographic, etch, and deposition) used. Steen concluded with the preceived limits of semiconductor processing and presented the innovative solutions the industry is adopting to meet these challenges.

Friday, May 16, 2003

"Rain, rain, go away, the 2003 Physics Team is coming in today...." The weather was dreadful in College Park, MD, but that didn’t stop the arrival of the team. Although there were a few delays, the group arrived at camp in time for 7:30 p.m. dinner. After dinner, there was an orientation by Mary Mogge, Team Academic Director, who introduced the other six members of the coaching staff. She spoke about the rules of the training camp and gave each team member a box of 15 physics books (donated by AAPT publishers) and a calculator donated by Texas Instruments. These sponsors all exhibit at the AAPT annual meetings. All members were given the opportunity to introduce themselves and to share what they planned to be doing ten years from now. Most of the students plan to pursue their dreams in the physics area. However, there were a few who had bigger plans, such as one student who said he’d be running a small dictatorship.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

CAPITOL HILL PRESS RELEASE - U.S. Physics Olympiad Team To Congress – “Don’t Neglect Science”

Washington, DC (May 14, 2003) – “Congress should make sure that science is not neglected,” says Pavel Batrachenko, a student from John Marshall High School in Rochester, MN. Pavel is one of the 24 members of the 2003 United States Physics Olympiad Team who will arrive on Friday, May 16th for the 2003 Physics Olympiad Training Camp being held at the University of Maryland in College Park. Pavel, along with his 23 teammates, will be honored on Capitol Hill next week at a reception hosted by Congressmen Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), who are both physicists by training.

Pavel isn’t the only U.S. Physics Team member that thinks Congress needs to take more notice of science. “Congress needs to provide the incentives and funding to keep basic research, and its benefits, coming,” says Steven Byrnes, a senior from West Roxbury Latin School in Massachusetts. Steven has already won a $100,000 scholarship as part of the Siemens Westinghouse Competition and will attend Harvard University next year. He was also recently named as a Lucent Global Science Scholar. “By furthering science,” says Steven, “we can find ways to produce more food, cleaner water, and cheaper energy.”

These students also have a lot of ideas about what Congress can do to improve science education. “Congress should be most concerned with a more reasonable science education program,” says Timothy Abbott, a senior at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology in Alexandria, VA. Science education, says Abbott, “should be focused on problem solving and understanding instead of memorization.” Amy Leblang, one of five girls on the team echoes Timothy’s sentiments, emphasizing that all children should have access to science education. “We need,” she says “to be teaching basic science, along with everything else, to children with poor schools or no chance to go to school.”

The students may get the chance to broach these topics in person to their congressional representatives, who have been invited to the May 20th reception on Capitol Hill, which is being co-sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and the NASA Office of Space Science.