UCSB Physics professor Tengiz Bibilashvili has been named academic director, equivalent to a head coach, of the United States team in the International Physics Olympiad (IPhO), which will be composed of five students to represent the country in 2022.
“I feel a big honor and responsibility for maintaining the U.S. team’s reputation,” Bibilashvili said. “I also want to extend Olympic involvement to the U.S. schools and regions with lower or no participation.”
Each year, students are recruited and trained to compete in the IPhO, though IPhO participants do not compete against each other directly like in athletic competitions. The students will solve theoretical and experimental problems during two rounds of competition to score points, and victories are awarded based on these scores. “It makes the competition friendly and motivates students to study physics, rather than compete,” Bibilashvili said.
As a high school student in the Soviet-occupied Republic of Georgia, Bibilashvili participated in math and physics Olympiads, and he would help establish the Georgian National Olympiads years later. Once Georgia was an independent country and began participating in the IPhO, Bibilashvili served as the team’s lead coach in 1998. He continued coaching teams until he immigrated to the U.S. in 2002. The five high school students set to represent the United States have yet to be chosen, and the last time the country has won this competition was in 2003.