2012 team

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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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Photo of Allan Sadun

Allan Sadun

Traveling Team

Austin, TX

Liberal Arts & Science Academy High School

Grade: Junior


Playing piano (not very good), reading about politics (not very opinionated), explaining things to people like I'm Calvin's dad (very good at this one)


Science Olympiad, Quiz Bowl, Science Bowl, loose association with the Robotics team


All of the three above clubs which have achieved notable things at the national level, plus (individually) USACO Gold, USAMO qualifier since last year, USPhO semifinalist since freshman year, NACLO finalist since last year, IOL team member this year.


Most of what I've achieved so far, I've done by accident. That is, I either didn't prepare for it, or I managed to prepare without realizing it. This makes me bad at high school math competitions, because it's hard to learn about Titu's lemma without deliberately setting out to study for the USAMO, but (relatively) good at middle school math competitions, because asking one's dad for a math problem every night in order to fall asleep makes one decent at mental computation. It also gives me a permanent outsider's perspective on almost everything, because most people around me know the details of what they're doing when all I know is the big ideas. This is changing - for the first time, I recently sat down and said "I want to do well at this (2012 USPhO semifinal) and therefore I'm going to work hard learning things" - but it still influences me. I try to keep an outsider's perspective in mind, even when I'm not one, and I still manage to do well at things like USACO and NACLO without deliberate practice.

I was a math person up through 8th grade. Although I don't remember my childhood well, I'm guessing that's significantly due to my parents. My dad is a mathematician, and has never failed to explain something to me. (Thank you, Dad!) My mom pulled ~10% of my elementary school class out of math once a week to teach us about fancy random things like tessellations or prime numbers. (Thank you, Mom!) Somewhere in there, I was given a BASIC dialect, and played around with it, and so my second kind-of-love-but-more-like-hobby became programming. Then came 8th grade, with an Integrated Physics & Chemistry class and the Science Olympiad team, and my third subject of fun became physics. I've been enjoying those three subjects ever since.

That's how I got here. I hope to do well. But as much as competitions are fun, and as much as I spend a lot of time doing them, I try not to let them define me. What I think defines me is mostly my hipsterdom - not in the traditional funny-dress-and-indie-music sense, but in a constant need to rebel from the pack. This springs from being the lazy outsider, the Jew, the Austinite, and the socially awkward kid (though all but the Austinite have waned in recent years), and manifests in an argumentative stubbornness in classroom debate, a tendency to be teacher's pet when not teacher's nightmare, and remaining a picky eater. But if you're predictable, in a world of ideas, what good are you?

Because it doesn't tie in with anything else I've written, I'm dumping this at the end: Reading last year's bios, I really admire Eric Spieglan and his devotion to pedagogy. Although I don't share his devotion to that extent, I share his respect and interest, and am excited to have the opportunity to help my computer science teacher teach next year. Maybe I'll develop the devotion in the process.

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