2012 team

Team Facts & News

From 1986 to 2011, the United States Teams have brought home: 43 Gold Medals, 31 Silver Medals, 29 Bronze Medals, and 11 Honorable Mentions. — AAPT.ORG

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Team Facts & News

In 1986, under the direction of the AAPT Executive Officer, Jack Wilson, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) organized the United States Physics Team for the first time. — AAPT.ORG

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Photo of Fengning Ding

Fengning Ding

Andover, MA

Phillips Andover Academy

Grade: Senior


Playing piano and violin; reading; learning mathematics and physics; computer programming; playing tennis


Science Bowl, Math Team, Academy Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra


Intel STS Fourth Place; Siemens Semifinalist; National Merit Finalist; USAPhO semifinalist (2011); USAMO Qualifier (2009, 2012); MOSP attendee (2009); MIT PRIMES student; Summer Science Program 2011; Cum Laude Society


My interest in science was born in second grade on my first trip to a library, when I found a children's book on astronomy. I was fascinated by the planets, the stars, and other objects unimaginably far away. That book introduced to the grandeur of the universe; for the first time, I realized how insignificant our everyday life is compared to the enormity of the universe.

When I was in fifth grade, I was shocked once again to find out that all the exotic objects I had learned about - quasars, supernovas, metallic hydrogen - obey the same scientific laws that govern objects in the ordinary world. The same physics behind falling objects - a seemingly boring subject - causes super-giants to collapse and black holes to manipulate the very nature of time and space. Having discovered this fact, I grew more interested in physics, a subject which previously bored me with its discussions of falling apples. As I read more into physics, I learned that there was far more to falling apples than meets the eye; the descent of the apple had something to do with warped space-time and exchanges of phantom particles that no one understands. As I went deeper into physics, I found out that rigorous physics require a lot of math. In the process of learning math so that I could do physics so that I could do astronomy, my first passion, I became far more interested in physics and math than I ever was in astronomy.

One of the best decisions I ever made, in terms of my scientific education, was to attend Phillips Academy starting in eleventh grade. I found at Andover numerous opportunities to pursue my interest in math and physics. For instance, I took a course in organic chemistry that greatly enhanced my understanding of molecules and bonds. A year later, when a judge at the Intel STS asked me why graphite is a good conductor, I immediately remembered my teacher stressing the significance of aligned p-orbitals and was able to answer the question. Another course I greatly enjoyed was fluid mechanics. Besides just learning about fluids, I also became familiar with transport equations and tensors, subjects that are hugely important in physics.

But the greatest experience I had in the last two years was doing math research at MIT through the PRIMES program. The impact of that program on my development as a mathematician could not be overstated. I learned a lot of mathematics while doing the research, but more importantly, I experienced the culture of the research community - the collaborative feel, the difficulty of problems, the joy in solving the problems, and so on. Participating in the program made me even more determined to continue studying mathematics and physics at Harvard, the college I will attend next year. The 2012 U.S. Physics Team will be the last academic program of my high school career, and I look forward to meeting the other members of team.

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