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Amazing experience at MOP 2018 (Mathematical Olympiad Program)

I first started dreaming about qualifying for MOP when I found out about it via some random conversations with the instructors at one of the summer math camps I attended in the 8th grade. I met a few Moppers (as they call themselves) and was inspired to learn about the program and most importantly the experience of attending the program.

It is really tough to make it to MOP whether you make it via scoring high in USAJMO or USAMO so I always thought it would be highly unlikely that I actually would qualify for it. After all, they take 50-60 students across all high schools from 100s of thousands of students who self select to participate via initial rounds of American Mathematics Competitions.

So what is MOP? It is basically an awesome summer program that is held annually at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for 3+ weeks. The main purpose of MOP has always been to select and train the six members of the United States team for the International Math Olympiad and recently, to train qualifier girls to also represent United States to European Girl Math Olympiad (EGMO).

When I got the email from Dr. Po-Shen Loh on May 7th inviting me to MOP 2018, I just could not believe it for a few minutes followed by some crying, and then screaming loudly in my room. I ran and shared the news with my mom, brother, and texted my dad who was traveling. I also was proud to share it with my friends, math teachers, and math coach.

The program started on June 3rd and ended on June 27th. I have attended many excellent math camps in previous summers but my experience and learnings at MOP were absolutely the best. It was an amazing experience as not only was I with the top students in math from USA but also, they invited 20 students from the top 10 countries (in math) in addition. We took past International Math Olympiad style tests every other day including Saturdays and there were classes and seminars related to various math topics, math research, and applying math to every day life.

Dr. Loh who is the coach for the team USA and overall director of the program did an amazing job in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment. We had study sessions with great teachers and teaching assistants where students in all of the classes worked together on problems in either number theory, combinatorics, geometry, or algebra. We played foosball, table tennis, and board games and explored Pittsburgh on Sundays. I learnt a lot especially during group study sessions where you see how different students approach problems in a very different way and still get to the same answers. It was really nice to be with a community that loves math and I am really happy that I made many new and strong local and international friendships. It was also inspiring to see the IMO team representing USA being trained there. The US team went to Romania after MOP and won 1st prize at the IMO with many Gold Medals.
Dr. Loh wrote the following in his invitation email the following which turned out to be more than  100% true and exceeded all my expectations. “Although this may sound like a competition camp, I do not run it that way. When I attended MOP in the late 1990s, I enjoyed the camaraderie and witty conversations, and I made lifelong friends, and our paths continue to cross to this day. It is our mission to ensure that MOP is a similarly memorable, fun, and inspiring experience for you.”

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