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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



Meet the Team

Photo of Graham O'Donnell

Graham O'Donnell

Tallahassee, FL

Lincoln High School

Grade: Senior


Reading, Stargazing, Meteorology


Florida Student Association of Mathematics (Co-President), Mu Alpha Theta (Math Club), Brain Bowl, Ultimate Frisbee Club


Perfect Score on AP Physics C: Mechanics 2016; National Merit Finalist; USA Math Olympiad 6-Time Qualifier (USAJMO 2013-16, USAMO 2017 and 18); USA Computing Olympiad Platinum Level since December 2016; AMS Who Wants to Be a Mathematician National Champion 2017; Florida MATHCOUNTS State Champion 2013 and 2014; Commissioner’s Academic Challenge (quiz bowl) Team Florida 2017; and many other awards.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been good with numbers. I began taking classes above my grade level in 1st grade and completed Algebra I in 4th grade. At about the same time, I began to compete in local math contests, which I have continued to do through high school. By my eighth grade year, after putting in hours per day into improving my math skills, my efforts paid off when I won Florida MATHCOUNTS for the second year in a row and placed seventh nationally. However, when I first participated in the USA Junior Mathematical Olympiad in 7th and 8th grade, I began to realize that pure math wasn’t my specialty. When I took AP Physics 1 in my freshman year, I learned that I enjoyed applying my grasp of mathematics to real-world scenarios, and thus my love for physics was born.

Even before that, I had some significant experience with physics. My home city of Tallahassee, Florida, is also home to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. This lab held (and still holds) an annual open house for local students to see the kinds of science performed there. While I didn’t understand the physics behind most of it yet, I still enjoyed watching the demonstrations in middle school, such as shrinking a quarter with magnetism (I still have the quarter) and levitating a model train using superconductivity. I also regularly attended Florida State University’s Saturday Morning Physics, designed to show local students the wonders of physics. I’ve always been a curious person, and I’ve learned physics will help me understand these mysteries I couldn’t understand years ago, much as it helps modern physicists unravel the mysteries of the universe.

More recently, I have begun taking higher-level physics classes. I took the highest class offered at my high school, AP Physics C: Mechanics, in 10th grade, largely by teaching myself out of the textbook because the class time conflicted with my dual-enrollment. After that, I took a lab-based General Physics B, on electromagnetism, at FSU in my 11th grade year, and I took Intermediate Modern Physics, covering special relativity, introductory quantum mechanics, and introductory general relativity this year. The prior two classes both involved large amounts of experimentation, and when I finished the experiments, I would often conduct some of my own. This contributed even more to my love of physics, as I could see the results of my calculations at work while also learning how systems behave in new scenarios.

For the future, I have committed to attending Florida State University as a full-time rather than dual-enrolled student. At the very least, I intend to dual major in physics and math, possibly with a third major in either meteorology or computer science. Further in the future, I intend to attend graduate school at a top university, and eventually work on solving some of the world’s great remaining science mysteries. With the US Physics Team Training Camp, I hope to meet many other top physics students and professors to make connections that last through college with people as enthusiastic as I am.

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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