Viet Nam News
Nguyễn Ngọc Long from the central province of Thanh Hoa is one of the two Vietnamese gold medalists at the 49th International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) held in Lisbon, Portugal in late July. This year, more than 400 students from 90 countries attended the annual international physics competition for high school students. Long beat out hundreds of international students to be ranked 16th in total points earned in the theoretical and experimental exams. In May 2018, Long also won a gold medal at the Asian Physics Olympiad and first prize at the National Physics Competition 2018. Long, who just finished high school, talks with Hồng Vân about his experiences at IPhO and his passion for physics.
How did you feel when you heard the result?
It was only three hours before the closing event that I heard the official result from the guide. I was tremendously happy and just wanted to send the news to my family. When my name was called, I was anxious because I hadn’t yet known the rank and I actually stumbled when I was coming onto the stage. It was also interesting that when the name Việt Nam was called, I could see that there was such a big round of applause from the audience that an award presenter told me that I must have lots of friends here.
After the competition, I have received loads of warm congratulations from my friends and family. I am still moved when thinking of the memories that I made at the competition. After the contestants finished the exams, we had a chance to see more of Portugal. We went out sightseeing and exchanged souvenirs with friends from other countries.
IPhO is a highly competitive and prestigious competition. What does this award mean to you?
The gold medal is truly a reward for my efforts and also a gift for my parents for the great upbringing they gave me. It’s also for my teachers who have cared a lot for me.
What was your goal when joining this competition?
I just told myself that I would bring home the best achievement as possible so that I wouldn’t regret anything when I looked back. As a representative of Việt Nam participating in this competition, I was also aware of the responsibility of keeping up the image of Vietnamese people, especially the young Vietnamese generation, in the eyes of international friends.
To what would you attribute your success?
Being well-prepared before the exams is crucial, from reviewing and expanding your knowledge to preparing items for the trip. Besides, I also try to be at ease during the exams. My performance on the experimental exam was not up to my expectations. Yet thanks to the support and encouragement from my delegation leader, I was calm and performed better on the theoretical exam.
Vietnamese students may be good at theoretical exams yet might not be competitive in the experiments. So how do you and other Vietnamese contestants overcome this weakness?
Actually, in recent years, the Ministry of Education and Training has put more emphasis on experimenting in the training sessions for the national team attending IPhO. Therefore our experimenting skill has been significantly improved. Besides these training sessions, we also learned from videos about physical phenomena on the internet and improved from this.
What do you like the most about physics?
I started having a special interest in physics when I was in secondary school. Physics can explain natural phenomena. Looking back the role of physics in history makes me want to study more about it. Physics is a highly systematic subject. With a proper learning method, it is no longer boring as many people might assume. Doing the experiments and seeing the physical phenomena also makes physics an exciting subject to pursue. For example, normally, light travels in straight paths but when it passes through a very heavy object, say a black hole, then the light rays will get bent. Or the diffraction phenomenon, when the light passes around the edge of an object, it will not go in straight paths but goes into different directions. It’s very interesting.
Which part of physics do you like the most?
I like quantum mechanics the most. We haven’t dug deep in this area at school but the achievements of quantum mechanics are tremendous and promising in the future.
With the gold medal at IPhO, you will be admitted to the University of Science at home. Will you take this offer or study abroad?
I am admitted to the Physics Faculty of University of Science of Hà Nội National University. Yet if I have an opportunity, I will study abroad. I haven’t had a specific plan for the future yet but I will continue to pursue science. VNS