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Photo of Brian Zhang

Brian Zhang

Palo Alto, CA

Henry M. Gunn High School

Grade: Junior


Tennis and Water Polo, Piano, Math Tutoring, Puzzle Hunts


Math Club, Quiz Kids Club, Tennis Team, Water Polo Team


USAMO qualifier (2007, 2009, 2010), USAMTS first place in 2009, Mandelbrot 16th place in 2008, 9th place in State Mathcounts in 2007, USACO Silver Division


I was born in San Jose, California, moved to a house on Stanford campus when I was 5, and have lived there since. My dad is a physicist, and as a kid I remember going to parties where there were many famous physicists, including taking a picture with C. N. Yang. One day when I was about 8, my dad brought home a superconductor kit and a flask of liquid nitrogen from the Stanford labs. He showed my younger sister and me the famous demo of the Meissner effect, and as we watched with transfixed eyes he explained how superconductors could be used to design Maglev trains. (Afterwards, we used the leftover liquid nitrogen for exploding plastic water bottles.) Preparing for the Physics Olympiad has been a great opportunity for me to have discussions with my dad about his passion, which he has been trying to kindle in me for many years.

While physics is hard for a kid to pick up, I have enjoyed math for a long time. In the summers of '07 and '08, I attended the summer programs Mathpath and Canada/USA Mathcamp, both of which were outstanding experiences. At Mathcamp, I was exposed to the vast horizons of math beyond high school, and took classes on Linear Algebra, Theoretical Computer Science, and Group Theory. My favorite was a class called Math of Music, where we learned about the wave equations for strings, why the same note played on a violin and clarinet sound different, and mathematical theories for why certain chords sound good. A lot of this was a preview of the physics of sound, which I revisited while studying for this year's Semifinal Exam.

I am taking my first physics class this year, AP C Physics. I am amazed at how all the phenomena of the universe can be described by a few simple and beautiful laws, and appreciate the connections between different fields of physics, such as the concept of energy. I also love the creative teaching methods of my teacher, Mr. Dunbar, who dressed up in a suit and played opera music in our classroom to show us how the physics of electricity is really the physics of attraction and repulsion - the physics of romance.

This is my first year participating in the Physics Olympiad, and I would like to thank my parents and teachers for their support in helping me achieve this goal. This is the first Olympiad training camp I have qualified for, and I look forward to making new friends and exploring the wonders of physics. Besides math and physics, I enjoy playing piano and sports, and am very interested in my US History class this year, especially the period of the Cold War.

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