Physics Chair Mary Mogge Guides U.S. Physics Team to Top Honors at International Competition

Physics Chair Mary Mogge Guides U.S. Physics Team to Top Honors at International Competition
Mary Mogge, physics chair and academic director of the United States Physics Team.

The 2003 United States Physics Team, coached by Cal Poly Pomona physics chair Mary Mogge, won five medals and four special prizes at the 34th International Physics Olympiad Competition in Taipei, Taiwan, from Aug. 2-11. Mogge, who is the team?s academic director, accompanied the five high school students to the competition along with another coach.

“Working with the U.S. team gives me a great sense of satisfaction,” says Mogge, who has coached the team since 1996. “The students are the brightest of the bright and I?m doing something to help and encourage them.”

Pre-university students from nearly 60 nations participated in the intense nine-day international competition. The U.S. Physics Team was chosen from the 1,400 best high school physics scholars in the nation.

In preparation for the competition, the team participated in a mini-camp devoted to enhancing their laboratory skills from July 28-30 at Cal Poly Pomona.

The International Physics Olympiad required the students to take a five-hour theoretical exam, which included problems that featured a swing with a falling weight; piezoelectric quartz crystal; and a two-part problem that dealt with special relativity and the power of a laser. In addition, an experimental competition required students to measure properties of laser diodes and liquid crystal cells.

Of the 238 students competing, U.S. team members were awarded first prize, best score in experiment, best score in theory and best female participant. Three members received gold medals and two received silver medals. All five U.S. students placed in the top 10 percent.

Although the competition is among individuals, an informal summary of scores showed that the United States was the top-ranking country out of the 54 participating nations followed by South Korea, Taiwan and Iran.

“This is the best the team has done since the United States got involved in the program in 1986,” says Mogge. “It?s important for students to be recognized for academic success, and hopefully this type of recognition will encourage more students to take physics and excel in it.”