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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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Grace Lin

Palo Alto, CA

Palo Alto High School

Grade: Junior


Ballet, cross country, piano, baking, creative writing, choir, reading


Science Olympiad Club, Math Club, Running Club


USAJMO Qualifier (2011), USAMO Qualifier (2013), USAPhO Semi-finalist (2012-13), National Science Bowl (2013), National Science Olympiad (2013), MIT Leadership Award (2013)


When I first sat down to write this biography, I found this task more daunting than the USAPhO Semifinal. The bios I had read from previous years were all funny, original, and highly intelligent, or just impressive in the sheer arsenal of awards accumulated. As the typical child of my generation, I turned to Facebook for some inspiration. Well, not exactly. But I asked my friends how they would describe me "in a nutshell". Apparently, I'm "funny," which I find quite, well, funny. I also have a bunny (spotted English dwarf bunny) burdened with the name Pythagoras, know how to braid just about anything in under five minutes (and in the dark), and have the tendency to underestimate the recovery time of my ballet-induced podiatric injuries.

More relevantly, my journey to physics started with math, when I tried out for MathCounts in sixth grade. Unlike math homework, competition math is interesting because the problems put together various concepts like probability and number theory, and the solutions were always clean and logical. Because I liked math so much, I began to explore physics and other sciences. I think the a-ha moment when I realized that physics was amazing was when my brother explained relativity to me. Relativistic velocities don't add up, but relativity is proven. Physics can explain many questions, from molecular structure to the Big Bang. It is also directly applicable to maintaining maximum structural integrity when eating cream puffs.

My freshman year, I joined school's Science Olympiad Club and had the chance to explore more practical engineering problems such as building a mass-efficient tower out of balsa wood. To optimize the strength of the tower required force analysis on each joint and consideration of angle of contact and type of glue. The more practical problems I tried to solve, the more I saw the clarity of concepts we covered in class or that I had read about. I took AP Physics this year, and we built a mousetrap-powered vehicle by applying the ideas of rotational kinetics and translation of energy. Because we were working in the real world, we also had to consider friction in between each of the moving parts, and between the vehicle and the test surface. To see problems we solved on paper actually work in real life was really cool, and has only increased my fascination with physics.

I'd like to thank Mr. Leonard and Dr. Bowditch for organizing the Physics Olympiad at our school. I'd like to thank Ms. Slack, my 6th grade math teacher, for introducing me to MathCounts and other fun math problems, and lastly, I'd like to thank my family for all their love, encouragement and support. I am so excited to be on the U.S. Physics Team, and am looking forward to meeting my teammates!

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