Del. whiz kid wins gold at global physics competition, continues path of supernova

YuQing Xie won a gold medal at the International Physics Olympiad in July. He graduated in June from Charter School of Wilmington and starts this week at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Courtesy of Charter School of Wilmington)

YuQing Xie won a gold medal at the International Physics Olympiad in July. He graduated in June from Charter School of Wilmington and starts this week at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Courtesy of Charter School of Wilmington)

Much has been made of Delaware’s poor-to-mediocre student test scores. That’s especially true for mathematics, where fewer than three in 10 public school high-schoolers are deemed proficient based on their SAT scores.

But thousands of kids do measure up in math. Then there’s YuQing Xie, a supernova of a student who not only shoots for the stars, but has a formula for them.

When Xie visited the library as a child, he didn’t pick up a sports or detective novel. This son of a biochemical engineer gravitated to books about science.

“Since I was very young, I was basically always curious about how things worked. So I would look at a bunch of random science books just for fun,” Xie said. “I think it was in middle school I read a book about what physics was, and then I started actually studying the subject.

“Physics is basically about trying to find the fundamental principles that the universe is based on.”

His passion for math and physics served Xie well at Charter School of Wilmington for high achievers, where he graduated in June.

In the SAT, he scored 1590, the closest score to perfection, including a perfect 800 in math. His English score was also sky high, at 790. He started college this month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Charter physics teacher Dave Stover praised his former star student, whom classmates and faculty called Chin Chin.

“Chin Chin has a first-rate mind with the rare ability to take a very complex physics problem and reduce it very quickly to its fundamental concepts,” Stover said.

This summer, Xie also achieved a milestone he had been yearning for since his sophomore year, becoming one of five students named to the U.S. Physics Team for high-schoolers. At the International Olympiad in Portugal in July, he won a gold medal and earned a perfect store on one theory problem.

So what’s this young man’s theory on how the universe works?

“It turns out, for whatever reason, that we can kind of describe the universe mathematically,” he explained.

“Physicists have narrowed down everything into like a bunch of equations that mostly describe how each thing works,” he said. “The way physics describes the universe basically is like an ongoing mathematical modeling project. They get more and more complicated as time goes on ‘cause we find more new things that we have to describe.”

At MIT, this whiz kid might double major — in electrical engineering and, you guessed it, physics.

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