Surbiton High School’s own Dr. Alex Caverley has recently returned from joining the UK team at the 16th International Olympiad on Astronomy & Astrophysics (IOAA) in Katowice, Poland with a stunning five gold medals, exceeding anything the UK has ever achieved in not only this competition but any Olympiad in recent memory.
During the IOAA the team of five faced a gruelling 5-hour theory exam, a tough 3-hour data analysis exam, and then an observational test split between 30 minutes with a telescope looking at distant screens in a completely dark stadium and 30 minutes in the Śląskie Planetarium with simulated skies from a century ago and on an alien world. Approximately 250 students from about 50 countries took part in this competition, with only 27 given gold medals, showing the incredible level of success of the UK team as their result also meant they topped the country medal table, with India and Iran in 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.
The final international rankings were Ben Woodrow from Hills Road Sixth Form College in 4th, Ryan Lin from Reading School in 8th, Charlotte Stevenson from Kings College London Maths School in 16th, Freddie Weir from the Royal Grammar School Guildford in 22nd and James Kennedy from Elizabeth College Guernsey in 25th. James was the first person from Guernsey to represent the UK at this level and proudly waved his flag on stage alongside his teammates, whilst Charlotte was one of only two girls to receive a gold medal.
The team leaders were Josh Brown and Tom Hillman (both of Trinity College, Cambridge) and they were supported by Sofia Vasieva (Girton College, Cambridge) and Dr Alex Calverley (Surbiton High School, and chair of the British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad). After the closing ceremony, Dr Calverley said “We are so grateful to G-Research for sponsoring all the training camps and travel costs for the students, and we hope that everyone connected with the team and the Olympiad this year can have a huge party tonight to celebrate these truly historic results”.
Next year’s competition will be hosted by Brazil in August 2024, and anyone keen to challenge for a place on next UK team will need to sit either the British Physics Olympiad (BPhO) Round 1 paper in November 2023 or the British Astronomy & Astrophysics Olympiad (BAAO) Round 1 paper (newly launching this coming academic year) in January 2024. Further details can be found on the British Physics Olympiad website.