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Catherine Wu

Saratoga, CA

Saratoga High School

Grade: Sophomore


Reading novels, writing, watching movies, playing tennis, singing off-key


Math Club, Writing Club, Computer Science Club, Future Business Leaders of America


USAPhO HM (2016); MOP (2016 & 2017); USAJMO Winner (2016); AIME Perfect Score (2017); Math Prize for Girls Tied for 1st place (2016), Youth Prize winner and 7th place (2015), Youth Prize winner and 4th Place (2014); Math Prize for Girls Olympiad Gold Medalist (2016), Bronze Medalist (2014 & 2015); USACO Platinum Division (2016); Scholastic Writing 2 Gold Keys (2017); FBLA CA State Qualifier (2017)


I’ve heard it said that those who are good at physics are always good at math, but those good at math aren’t necessarily good at physics; that’s why I was apprehensive when I started learning physics two years ago as an application of math, a natural step forwards from the competitive math I had been learning. Yet as I delved into the world of physics, I found myself fascinated by its ability to explain and predict the world around us—a task mathematics by itself can rarely accomplish—and simultaneous regions of uncertainty, where only probability can be relied upon: a balance of order and disorder that explains everything around us.

After a year of weekend classes allowed me to earn an Honorable Mention on the USAPhO last year, I have spent this year continuing to read through physics textbooks and ponder interesting questions found online. Still, I was surprised—but undeniably excited—when I received my invitation to camp this year. I hope to make new friends, have fun, and, of course, be introduced to new ideas in physics and different questions to think about. I am particularly excited to be able to witness demonstrations, experience the direct applicability of physics in our surroundings, because I haven’t had many opportunities to do so thus far. I anticipate having my mind blown and my interest in physics being inspired even further.

I’ve always been boundlessly curious about the future of science and humankind: Will artificial intelligence be able to give machines emotions and let them develop new scientific ideas on their own? Is it possible for the human species to live for an infinitely long time by constantly moving to different planets? Physics allows me a different perspective on these questions, helps me gain insight into the development of robots and whether the universe will keep expanding and exist forever. It sparks my imagination from zooming out to consider the detail and actual size of each speck of light in pictures of the Milky Way to narrowing my focus to intangibly spacious atoms. As I studied physics, it became a new perspective on the world, explanations about the way life works—so much more than just a field to apply mathematics in.

I would not be going to camp this year if not for my ever-supportive parents: my mom, who always knows how to encourage me and whom I can talk to about anything, and my dad, who helps me work through particularly difficult physics problems and whom I can discuss my opinions about the world with. Thank you to both of them, for everything. Thank you also to my teachers for nurturing my interest in physics and motivating me to work harder; in particular, thank you to my physics teacher Mr. Davis for always promptly answering my questions about physics, giving great advice, and helping me better prepare for camp. Additionally, thank you to my math club advisor Mr. Yim for initially encouraging my interest in STEM. I would not be where I am today without all of the people around me.

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