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Oriel student to compete in international theoretical physics competition final

The quartet won first place in last year’s preliminaries as “Oxonians” and have won again this year as “Oxonians Reloaded.”

Half the team were unable to make it to the international finals in Milan last year due to visa issues. However, despite this setback, the remaining two (Chambocheri Veetil being one) managed to finish twelfth out of 48 teams.

We caught up with Chambocheri Veetil to learn more about the PLANCKS competition and his strategy for the international finals in Dublin this year.

What does the PLANCKS competition entail?

The competition itself is a 4-hour contest where you work in a team of four to solve ten Olympiad-style physics problems in topics across undergraduate physics. I think a lot of the fun in physics comes from trying out different approaches to problems and finding one that works — I think PLANCKS embodies this idea well, with fun problems that make you think hard! There are also other events like guest lectures, social events and poster presentations that happen over the competition weekend.

How did you first hear about it?

I first heard about the competition through a friend (a fellow teammate)! I’m very glad I agreed to join the team.

How was this year different to last year?

It was very similar to last year, but there probably was a bit more pressure to do well this year after last year’s win — last year, we went in with no expectations and were very pleasantly surprised with how it turned out! On the bright side, I guess you also know more people so there’s a feeling of familiarity with it, which is nice. Surrey is very different from Liverpool, and we met new people which is always wonderful. 

What was the best part about being in the international finals in Milan last year?

Getting to travel to another country and meeting other physics-loving people from all around the world!

What is your strategy for the finals this year?

I typically try to practice for these competitions by exposing myself to various physics problems, so it’ll probably be similar this year. We usually each have our focus areas, and during the competition, we split the problem tasks among ourselves by having a glance at all the problems and deciding which ones each of us feels comfortable with. 

What are you most looking forward to in Ireland this year?

I’ve never been to Ireland before so I’m excited! We don’t have too much time there and will only be in Dublin, but it’d be really nice to go to an actual Irish pub, maybe even visit the Guinness Storehouse!

Has Oriel College supported/assisted your participation? How?

College has been very supportive the last two years — they’ve provided financial support for travel expenses during the preliminary rounds of the competition through its Travel Grant scheme. My tutors have been very kind and helped with discussing physics problems not within the scope of our courses. 

More information:

PLANCKS is a theoretical physics competition for teams of three to four undergraduate students and is organised by the International Association of Physics Students (IAPS) and supported by the Institute of Physics. For this year’s competition, 40 teams representing 28 universities from the UK and Ireland, converged at the University of Surrey in February for a weekend of challenging theoretical physics.