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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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Meet the Team

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Phil Chen

Irvine, CA

University HS - Irvine

Grade: Junior


Violin, Rock Climbing, Soccer, Running


Math Club, Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, Space Settlement Design, Junior Classical League, Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra (Concertmaster, 2015-2017)


USAJMO (2014); USAMO (2015-2017); USNCO (Invited to camp, 2017); USACO (Gold, 2016-2017); Physics Bowl (3rd place, 2016); USABO (Semifinalist, 2017); California All-State Orchestra Concertmaster (2016); Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition Winner (2017); 2-time Orange County Register Artist of the Week


Five years ago, I would have never imagined myself here. My dream was to become a professional violinist. “Physics” did not even exist in my vocabulary.

My journey began with an interest in mathematics, which was sparked when I was first introduced to competition math. Enjoying problems which required more than a simple formula, I delighted in the problem-solving process and the sense of accomplishment after arriving at each key insight.

My love of mathematics led to a related interest: mathematical modeling. Over the past few years, I have been developing a model of breast cancer cell populations. Fascinated with the power of mathematics in simplifying complex biological behavior, I became overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of mathematical relations throughout nature. While my research focused on breast cancer, my experience encouraged me to understand other seemingly qualitative aspects of my life through a quantitative lens.

In high school, I gained interest in a variety of new subjects. My desire to better understand the world fueled a passion for learning. Chemistry explained how Teflon works and why chlorofluorocarbons are so detrimental to the environment. Economics illuminated the underlying issues of the recent recession. Biology elucidated the mechanisms behind DNA replication, cellular signaling, and cell differentiation, all of which are processes relevant to cancer. Each new piece of knowledge produced additional questions and inspired me to learn even more about how the world works.

At the intersection of all these interests lies physics. Besides the abundance of opportunities to solve difficult problems, physics provides an explanation of the natural world through quantitative modeling. Upon taking my first F=ma, I was immediately captivated by several problems which required creative manipulations of basic concepts. Physics appealed to my interest in mathematical modeling; physics itself is essentially comprised of a set of mathematical models, such as Newton’s inverse-square law of universal gravitation to account for Kepler’s data or Maxwell’s famous equations to explain Faraday’s observations. While taking physics in school, I was intrigued by the relevance of physics to the world and by all of the explanations that physics had for various phenomena, like how diffraction produces rainbows or why diamonds seem to glow.

This incredible journey would not have been possible without all of the amazing teachers and mentors in my life. I would like to thank all of my science teachers at University High School for giving me an incomparable education and inspiring me to pursue a deeper understanding of the workings of our world. I would also like to thank my friends and family for their unwavering support.

I am excited and honored to be a part of this program, and I look forward to an amazing experience!

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For more details and information about the US Physics Team, please contact AAPT's Programs department at 301-209-3340 or