Wednesday, August 01, 2007

US Physics Olympiad Team Returns Victorious!

Okay, so the US isn't quite the top country (4th in my estimation), but out of 76, I think it's safe to say that the American students made an excellent showing. And look how happy they are!

US Physics Olympiad team with medals! From left, Kenan Diab (silver), Haofei Wei (gold), Jenny Kwan (silver), Jason LaRue (gold), Rui Hu (silver).

The results, taken from coach Paul Stanley's reports, are:
China: four gold, one silver (total score 226.7)
Russia: Three gold, one silver, one honorable mention (216.1)
Korea: Two gold, three silver (217.2)
USA: Two gold, three silver (204.2)
Japan: Two gold, two silver, one bronze (206.9)
Iran: Two gold, two silver, one bronze (202.4)

Some say that the performance of a country has a lot to do with its size, and I think it's rather telling that three of the largest nations landed in the top four slots. Anyway, congrats to all the students who competed. And to the all-medaling US team, Physics Buzz salutes you.


  1. I am really puzzled why such a disproportionate percentage of olympiad students from the US are either naturalized (Asian) Americans, or first-generation Asian-Americans - considering their overall demographic is less than 5 percent of the total student population. Don't white students take interest in math or science subjects?

  2. The short answer is, yes, white students certainly take interest in math and science.

    The long answer is statistics. A sample size of 5 students is very small and can't be relied upon to reflect the demographics of the nation. A larger sample size, say students graduating with a bachelors in physics, can reveal true disparities. Granted this data is a bit old, but 4 to 7 years isn't bad when dealing with populations.

    White students earned 87% of the physics bachelors degrees awarded in America, 2003. This is disproportionately high considering that white people account for only 69.1% of the population according to the 2000 US Census.

    Asians actually account for about 4% of the 2000 population and of 2003 physics bachelors degrees.

    Black and Latino populations are under-represented. While about 12% of Americans are black, black students earned 4% of the bachelors degrees.

    In 2000, Latin Americans accounted for about 12% of the population and 3% of the physics bachelors degrees.

    A danger of bringing statistics like these to light is the "affirmation" of racist thinking. For data on the ways that unequal K-12 education sets generally lower-income Latino and black students behind the commonly higher-income white students well before college, check out Teach For America.

    2000 US Census info
    2003 Physics Degree Data

  3. Thank you for the statistics. Are similar ones available for students graduating with a PhD in Physics? Would be nice to know.