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Vincent Liu

Traveling Team

State College, PA

State College Area High School

Grade: Senior


Graphic Design, Tennis, Video Games, Computers in general


Science Olympiad, Math Club (Plus tutoring)


USAPHO Semifinalist (Honorable Mention), AIME, Science Olympiad, PAML, National Merit Scholarship, National AP Scholar, German Honor Society


I wish I had discovered physics earlier.

In middle school and early high school, fits of fiery focus would explode and consume me–online RPGs, design, computer hardware–and I would spend countless hours scrutinizing every nuance, completely fixed on the subject at hand. After time, however, the passion would consistently subside. Ultimately, I felt directionless; as recently as tenth grade, I couldn’t fathom being a physicist, or much anything for that matter.

The summer after my sophomore year, I stumbled upon an enlightening series of online physics talks. The zeal of the lectures pushed to replace lifeless formulas with beautiful intuition–I was instantly hooked.

The innate beauty of physics, introduced to me by the talks and further developed by continuous exploration and devouring the Feynman Lectures, captivated my drive to understand the world. In retrospect, I can see that this curiosity has always defined me, that I have always been building and testing models, trying to piece together the inner mechanisms of anything I encounter. The elegance and simplicity of physics is what draws me to it: I am enraptured by the fact that incredibly complex phenomena can be explained by a few unassuming principles, that classical mechanics can be described with three laws of motion (or a principle of least action), that electromagnetism boils down to Maxwell’s equations, that quantum mechanics rests upon the Schrödinger equation.

Since that summer, I have devoted much of my time and effort to pursuing physics. In my junior year, I was introduced to the US Physics Olympiad competition, and after trying out my hand in the F=ma exam, I qualified as a semifinalist. In preparing for the semifinals, I discovered intriguing foreign concepts, opening my eyes to the amazing diversity of physics.

As I garnered more knowledge and experience, I slowly realized that the diversity I had observed was far more than a set of discrete subfields collectively categorized as “physics.” Instead, I discovered amazing interconnections, subtle themes that permeated mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics. This year, I am honored to be part of the US Physics Team and look forward to the training camp: to me, physics represents a symmetry and elegance that enables me to see the world around me through an entirely different lens and tantalizingly hints at the fabric of the universe.

I owe my thanks to my teachers, friends, and family, who have supported me throughout my quest for knowledge and understanding and without whom I would never have made it this far. Whether I choose to pursue physics as a career in the future, the intuition that physics has imparted to me, as well as its role in helping me discover my fundamental curiosity for the world, are invaluable.

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