Angus Gruen – 2013 APHO
Growing up in Canberra, Angus Gruen remembers visiting the south coast and wanting to understand why tides happened. “The idea that the moon could influence life on earth really fascinated me,” he says.
He has always enjoyed a challenge, and so he was attracted to the Science Olympiads. “It seemed like a great way to encounter some interesting problems that I wouldn’t have otherwise come across,” he says.
Angus was selected for the 2013 Asian Physics Olympiad in Bogor, Indonesia and loved the supportive team environment it fostered. “After the exams were over, we would all stay up late chatting about random science that interested us,” he says. The camps were also a highlight for him in Years 11 and 12.
After high school, he completed a PhB degree in mathematics and physics at the ANU. “It took me a long time at university to work out what type of maths I wanted do,” he says. “Eventually I realized that I needed something more hands on which got me interested in more computational mathematics.”
His proudest achievement was receiving the University Medal for his computational work in his Honours project. “While the last couple of weeks of my honours were hectic it was a huge amount of fun and I was really pleased with how well it all went,” he says.
In the same year, his team won in their division for Inward Bound, an annual endurance running and navigating race at the ANU. “Running served as an important outlet to stop me completely overworking myself,” he says.
He is currently a PhD candidate at Caltech, focusing on quantum topology which uses techniques from physics to answer maths questions. He is leaving career options open, considering whether to stay in academia or move to industry.
While it can be daunting, Angus recommends keen STEM students study some computer science. “One of the biggest surprises for me at university was how much I enjoyed computer science and how useful it was,” he says.
He also urges anyone thinking about sitting the Olympiad qualifying exams to go ahead. “The physics exam … is designed to test your thinking skills as opposed to how many formulas you know,” he says. “They are more interested in understanding how you think about various scenarios.”
Angus says that the Olympiad experience is “a really great place with great people and opened my eyes to all the possibilities of where physics (and maths) can take you.”
In his spare time, he plays soccer and tennis and runs long distances. He also enjoys computer games.