Harvard Physics Circle

Attending the Physics Olympiad is a remarkable opportunity for high-school students. The recent International Physics Olympiad was held virtually, in July 2021, where teams of 5 from dozens of countries participated. 

To learn more about the International Physics Olympiad, click here.

We are preparing students for the first screening exam for the US Physics Olympiad team, known as the "F=ma" exam,  held annualy at the end of January. The material for this exam is mostly mechanics - you can find examples of previous exams here. The mentoring is done by undergraduate and graduate students, from Harvard and MIT, starting in the fall and continuing through January. In the spring (January through March) we start preparations for the Semi-Finals exam, which covers a much broader range of materials.

In fall 2021, we will be holding the Harvard Physics Circle meetings virtually over zoom, starting Saturday September 18, 2021 at 1 pm EST. Participation is open to any interested high school students. To receive the links for the virtual sessions, please email your name, school and grade to:  harvardphysicscircle@gmail.com 

Note that in the spring semester we cover topics other than mechanics, including electromagnetism, thermodynamics and relativity. The syllabus and relevant pdfs from 2020 can be found below.

Many thanks to our wonderful mentors in 2020-2021 for their hard work and dedication:

Atinc Cagan Sengul (Harvard Ph.D. student & former IPHO participant) 

Sabina Dragoi (Harvard undergraduate & former IPHO participant)

Yuan Lee (MIT alum & former IPHO participant)

Gopal Krishna Goel (former IPHO& Harvard Physics Circle participant)

Some words of appreciation from this year's students from across the globe:

I can't thank you all enough! Your lectures are fantastic, and your collections of problems are amazingly helpful. Y'all inspired me so much to keep studying physics.

As someone not living in the Boston area, I am incredibly thankful for what you have all done, and applaud you on the incredible feat of moving a class online. Having attended every session so far, the mentors are like role models to me. I hope to one day be like them, sharing the wonders of physics to other eager learners. Thank you so much for all you have done.

 Thank you so much! If it wasn't for your amazing sessions, I would not have gotten the score I got on the f=ma. The lesson notes were such high quality, and I really appreciate the time all of you took to answer questions and make sure everyone understood concepts. Thank you so much for making this such an awesome experience!

Thank you all so much for an amazing series of Physics lectures! I really deeply appreciate the handouts and I am looking forward to the next Harvard Physics circle!

Thank you so much for the work and effort you had put into the sessions. It was an amazing experience where I got to learn a lot, not only about physics but also about ways to approach problems. The material was also so helpful and well written with exercises and thrilling problems to challenge ourselves. Again, Thank you all!!

Thank you so much for everything you've done to make Harvard Physics Circle succeed in a virtual format! I know it mustn't have been easy, but I really appreciate it!

Thank you for making great handouts and giving this great opportunity to us students. Many students (and me) would've never had this opportunity if this were not online. Merci beaucoup!

The amount of effort put in by all the instructors in the Harvard Physics Circle is baffling. Thank you for providing concise and quality explanations of hard to understand topics. This class has given my study of physics much-needed structure and helped me perform well on the F = ma.

Thank you, I very much appreciate your help and dedication! Harvard Physics Circle has been a fun and great experience, and I enjoyed asking questions on topics such as dark matter.

Thank you to all the instructors that taught during the sessions. The material has been very useful, and I learnt a lot and had fun in the process. Once again, thanks a lot to all the instructors.

I really appreciate all the effort you've put in to the Harvard Physics Circle! I have learned so much from the lectures and handouts. Thank you for making this opportunity possible to students outside the Boston area like me.

Thank you very much to all of the mentors of this Physics Circle! I have really learned a lot and I appreciate the time all of you put into the lectures and the handouts. Thanks again!

Thank you for your time and dedication to teaching us physics at this Physics Circle! Your problems have really helped me develop new insights that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to develop. The mentors were patient and effective at teaching, and the handouts were very helpful.

Thank you for all of your support throughout this course, you taught a lot to us and if one day I manage to go to IPhO, you will be one of the most important parts of this journey. Finally, congratulations for all of your dedication and, once more, thank you so much!!

Thanks for all the time you've put into making your handouts, explaining everything, and coordinating all the lessons. I really feel like I gained much experience of physics problems and concepts from attending your lessons and doing the problems in the many handouts.

Thank you for the high quality handouts! I hadn't learned much calculus-based physics beyond basic derivations before this, and it inspired me to self-study harder.

Fall semester 2020 

Date Topic
Sep 19 Kinematics
Sep 26 Dimensional Analysis/Math
Oct 3 Statics
Oct 10 Momentum
Oct 17 Work-Energy
Oct 24 Circular Motion
Oct 31 Angular Momentum
Nov 7 Harmonic Motion
Nov 14 Gravitation Laws
Nov 21 Orbital Mechanics
Nov 28 Hydrostatics
Dec 5 F=ma mixed problems
Dec 12 F=ma mixed problems
Dec 19 F=ma mixed problems
Jan 9 Harvard Physics Circle Exam

Spring semester 2021 

Date Topic
Jan 16 Coulomb’s Law, Gauss’s Law,
Jan 23 Capacitors, Current,
Resistance, Resistors
Jan 30 Magnetism, Biot-Savart,
Ampere’s Law
Feb 6 Faraday’s Law, Inductors,
Inductance, RC/RL Circuits,
RLC Circuits
Feb 13 Continue RLC Circuits, Driven
RLC Circuits, Maxwell’s
Feb 20 Laws of Thermodynamics, Ideal
Gases, Heat Engines, Entropy
Feb 27 Relativistic Kinematics
(including Four-Vectors)
March 6 Relativistic Dynamics,
Collisions, Problem-Solving


physics_circle_kinematics.pdf2.02 MB
physics_circle_dimensional_analysis_and_math.pdf1.1 MB
physics_circle_statics.pdf391 KB
physics_circle_momentum.pdf1.05 MB
physics_circle_work_energy.pdf537 KB
physics_circle_circular_motion.pdf328 KB
physics_circle_angular_momentum.pdf1.07 MB
physics_circle_oscillations.pdf174 KB
physics_circle_gravitational_laws.pdf477 KB
physics_circle_orbital.pdf190 KB
physics_circle_hydrostatics.pdf826 KB
physics_circle_nonstandard.pdf188 KB
various_problems_physics_circle.pdf650 KB
various_problems_iii_physics_circle.pdf2.39 MB
physics_circle_topics_spring_202.pdf71 KB
physics_circle_coulomb_s_law_gauss_s_law_potential.pdf379 KB
physics_circle_magnetismbiot-savartslawampereslaw.pdf741 KB
math_notes.pdf359 KB
physics_circle_faraday_inductor_rlc.pdf373 KB
physics_circle_19.pdf1.07 MB
lecture_20_physics_circle.pdf1.05 MB
physics_circle_relativity.pdf105 KB
physics_circle_relativistic_dynamics.pdf212 KB