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Johnny Li Represents St. Margaret’s in Prestigious State and International Science Competitions

7 May 2010 admin 3,474 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

JohnnyLiNext week, St. Margaret’s student Johnny Li, grade 11, will represent our school and Orange County at the California State Science Fair, May 17–18, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. He will be competing against 958 other participants from 394 schools throughout California. Although Johnny is excited about this great honor, resulting from his win at the Orange County Science Fair, this is not his only recent science victory. Just a few days ago, the members of the United States Physics Team were announced, and Johnny was among them. Students from this national team will represent the United States in the International Physics Olympiad, held in July, in Azgreb, Croatia. Johnny was selected in a rigorous process eliminating most of the almost 3,300 students who participated in the qualifying exam.

Johnny has traveled a long academic road that led to his science fair project and win. He explains, “After exhausting AP Calculus in 7th grade, I started to take classes at the University of California, Irvine. While studying Partial Differential Equations, I was fascinated by how we can describe real-world phenomenon using mathematical equations. At the time, I was taking AP Biology with Mrs. Carol Ann Ingalls, and I really liked it. So, I sought out the mentorship of Professor John Lowengrub, at UCI’s Center for the Computational Science of Microstructure, to explore research topic in Mathematical Biology. Because my grandparents are both cancer survivors, I was interested in developing mathematical models to study tumor growth. During the process, I enrolled in summer internship at the Cancer Research Institute at City of Hope to gain lab experience. I also learned several programming languages and tools on my own. The title of my science project is ‘Effects of Motility and Contact Inhibition on Tumor Viability: A Discrete Simulation Using the Cellular Potts Model’ I am continuing my research to expand my project.”

Has St. Margaret’s influenced Johnny’s successes in these recent competitions? Yes, he tells us. “St. Margaret’s has been very supportive, allowing me to take classes at UC Irvine, and allowing a flexible schedule. I thank Mr. David Boyle and Mrs. Jeannine Clarke for encouraging me to explore. Also, St. Margaret’s science classes, from Mr. Joe Ingalls to Mrs. Carol Ann Ingalls, Dr. Bob McDaniel, to Dr. Jennifer Viola, often require students to make PowerPoint presentations to the class during the year. These really helped with my public speaking and presentation of my project.

The Physics Olympiad Semifinal Exam was taken throughout the nation by more than 3000 students. This free-response exam is three hours long, covering topics including mechanics, thermodynamics and fluids, relativity, and nuclear and atomic physics. Johnny says of the experience, “Although three hours seems like a lot of time, the actual testing was very intense because of the depth of the questions.” His education and mentoring had prepared him well, and he states that “During the test, I felt like I knew the material for all the questions.”

When all exams had been graded and the selection process was complete, Johnny was invited to be on the team. He says, “I felt pretty surreal after I learned that I made it. I think the most rewarding part of it was seeing my hard work pay off. I particularly thank my Physics teacher, Mr. Ingalls, for helping me to see the beauty of physics. I am really glad to have this opportunity.” Dr. Warren Hein, Executive Officer of the American Association of Physics Teachers, which selects and trains team members, underscores the level of achievement attained by Johnny and his teammates. “Each student who participated in the 2010 U.S. Physics Team selection process is deserving of recognition. They are the future of physics and physics education in the United States.”

The International Physics Olympiad will be in a few months, after a rigorous training camp. First on Johnny’s schedule is his presentation at the California State Science Fair. His parents, instructors, and the St. Margaret’s community are supportive and excited about the week to come. St. Margaret’s Upper School Science Department Chair Dr. Jennifer Ross-Viola coordinated and mentored Johnny as he prepared his science project, “The Effects of Motility and Contact Inhibition on Tumor Viability: A Discrete Simulation Using the Cellular Potts Model.” She says, “Johnny’s project was an amazing blend of advanced mathematics applied to investigate a biological problem and was completed in collaboration with Dr. John S. Lowengrub, a professor researcher at UC Irvine. The awards that he received are a testament to his brilliant intellect and to his outstanding work ethic. I know that he will represent St. Margaret’s incredibly well and wish him all the best in the future steps of the competition.”

Read Johnny Li’s “Meet the Team” Profile for the U.S. Physics Team.

Read more about the U.S. Physics Team selection process.

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