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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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Meet the Team

Photo of Cynthia Liu

Cynthia Liu

Silver Spring, MD

Montgomery Blair High School

Grade: Senior


Painting, writing poems, KenKen, ping-pong, reading articles about politics, singing Chinese songs


Math Team, Physics Team, Founder and Coach of Potomac MathCounts, Symphonic Band (also: 3-time clarinetist in NAfME All-National Concert Band), Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society


USAPhO Qualifier (2015-2016), AIME Qualifier, MPfG, Math Prize Olympiad Bronze Medal (2015), USABO Semifinals (2016), ARML, HMMT, Physics Bowl, UMD Math Competition HM (2012-2015), JHMT, CMIMC


I remember taking my first F=ma exam in 2013. I earned 5 points.

Discouraged, I resolved to move onto some other academic activity. Computer team looked attractive, but I was also unwilling to join such an immense team. I took the tryouts test for Science Bowl and found myself guessing on nearly all of the questions. I missed a mock test for It’s Academic, and still wonder whether a chemistry team exists in my school.

So I trudged through the rest of freshman year feeling somewhat hollow. The spark of my middle school talent was gone. I questioned whether I was “worthy” enough to speak with the academic luminaries of the school.

However, several things helped me overcome that trough. Firstly, I had participated in math team since middle school. I was skeptical at first, because before math team I had only been exposed to tedious factoring worksheets and “Jennifer buys 3 apples and 2 oranges.” However, I soon witnessed math’s more elegant and creative side. The beauty with which concepts and equations connected with one another convinced me to persist in math, and to found Potomac MathCounts so I could spread mathematical passion to more students. Knowing that much of physics uses mathematical models and abstractions to explain the world, I told myself to continue learning physics.

Secondly, I do not accept loss easily, and strive for improvement. I spent half of 8th grade convincing my parents to let me attend Blair, which housed one of the most prestigious math and science programs in the nation. That same stubbornness insisted that I could improve in physics.

Finally, I was lucky to have very patient and encouraging people around me. These people include but not limited to my physics teacher Mr. Schafer, several alums including Mike Winer and Alex Bourzutschky, and my parents.

Looking back, the process of learning and experiencing physics was far more memorable than the numbers representing my scores. I remember learning the derivation of the period of a pendulum, the first derivation in physics I understood. I remember laughing and complaining when my fellow captains gave me the physics team captain title “Tumbleweed.” (I mean, seriously?). I remember visiting Fermilab in Chicago, absorbing the details of a new experiment to observe muon-to-electron decay and wondering what was up with Bob Wilson and the color blue. And then I remember spreading the knowledge and enjoyment of physics to more students, through weekly physics team meetings. All of these experiences encouraged me to continue my ongoing discovery that physics is more elegant than I had ever imagined.

I am extremely excited and thankful to attend the 2016 U.S. Physics Team. I hope to learn new concepts while reinforcing familiar ones. I also hope this experience will improve my analytical and collaborative skills. Finally, I hope to form long-lasting friendships with fellow team members and teachers.

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Contact Information

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