Po-Shen Loh has harnessed his competitive impulses and iconoclastic tendencies to reinvigorate the U.S. Math Olympiad program.
Po-Shen Loh has resurrected the United States International Mathematical Olympiad team, leading it to four first-place rankings in the last six years as the team’s head coach.
But in 2002, when a friend suggested Loh apply for an open position as a grader with the team, he hesitated. “I had never thought to apply before,” Loh said. “Not because I didn’t want to. But because I thought there are better people out there.”
He eventually agreed, and by the end of the team’s June 2002 training program, he’d made an impression. “Somehow I got voted best lecturer,” he said. In 2013 the Mathematical Association of America, which coordinates the team, asked Loh to become the head coach. He accepted, and two years later the U.S. achieved a top ranking in the IMO for the first time in 21 years.