SUMMER SCIENCE PROGRAM Reviews
Let's knock off some simple questions that I'm sure other people have done a better job of answering with eloquence: Was SSP good? Yeah. Was it worth it? Of course. It's easy to talk about this program as life-changing, but I'm going to talk about it in those terms that I adore the most - that's right, I'm going to talk about SSP as a series of (somewhat cryptic) analogies. Is it strange? Sure. Is it fitting? Somewhat. Here goes:
SSP is like the archetypal cup of cocoa during a winter's day. It's nice and comforting to hold that cup and look at that cup, but to really indulge in the cup, one must drink.
SSP is like a black ink Bic pen. Only with the guidance of the writer do words bloom on a page.
SSP is like a rotating wire-frame fan. Get too close, and it becomes kind of uncomfortable; lean back a bit, and enjoy its breeze.
Aren't these kind of quirky? Of course. But hopefully, what I hoped to convey in analogies will become a bit clearer: reading about SSP isn't wholly satisfactory. Take the chance. Apply. Tell people about it. Got in? Great. Take advantage of the resources that are your peers, TAs, and senior faculty. Let them tease out who you really are. Struggling with the OD? You're not alone. People have struggled with similar for over several decades. People have struggled with understanding the cosmos for longer. Finished? No, not really. You'll keep those friends in contact for a long, long time.
Since I've returned home from the Summer Science Program, I find myself talking about or thinking about my experience almost constantly. SSP was one of *the* formative periods of my life. All thirty-six of us bloomed intellectually and academically, as we learned the methods of classical orbit determination along with physics, math, astronomy, and programming in general. Completing the orbit determination project was one of the greatest accomplishments in my short life.
I learned so much outside of the classroom as well, about all sorts of topics - philosophy, literature, math, chemistry, all just from talking to my friends and TAs. The environment was one of intellectual passion - it was one of the first times I had met people as excited to learn as I was. We stayed up late doing problem sets, observing, playing cards, or just socializing, and I made some of my closest friends through the process.
The Summer Science Program makes such a difference in the lives of its students. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend, which included a full scholarship to the program. This is truly one of the greatest educational experiences offered anywhere!
The 5.5 weeks at SSP were the best of my life, set in beautiful and breathtaking New Mexico. This was also a time in which I worked the hardest I have ever worked in my life. SSP is no trivial undertaking. When the organizers said this was one of the most academically rigorous available programs, they made no understatement. Only the network of friendships allowed one to sail past the hurdle that is scientific research. Perhaps it was the knowledge that we were students with the same interests passing through the same difficulties which allowed for a bonding experience. This gave me a first taste of true collaborative scientific research. Perhaps it was also the sight of the Milky Way stretching across the sky on every clear night which made it worth it. What was definitely worth the weeks of hard work was seeing our orbital elements printed from our orbit determination code. We always had support, always had help, were backed and lectured by top notch professors, went on field trips to beautiful locations, and truly did some hardcore astronomy. SSP is a once in a lifetime experience, one that I would not trade for anything in the world.
SSP will forever be my home. I was accepted by everyone and felt comfortable. But, I was also constantly on my toes because of the academic challenge. Those 5.5 weeks were no doubt the best few weeks of my life. There is nothing in this world that I would trade for that experience. I have learned a myriad of things about myself intellectually and socially. I feel like I took a huge step towards discovering who I am and what I am capable of, and, along the way, I made friends to last a lifetime.
This is cliche, but SSP was life changing. You want to do something that you'll have memories from for the rest of your life? SSP. It's more than just learning and science, it's an exposure to the world, a chance to make connections and find where you belong. It's amazing.
SSP is a truly incredible program. It combines the independence and intensity of an instense college course load of physics, calculus, and programming with the care of a summer program. So many steps were taken to make all of us comfortable at SSP: from being greeted with smiling faces at the airport, to having fun signs on our doors when we arrived at the dorms, to having fun activities throughout the program to keep us from being overwhelmed with the workload. I think the experience I had that is most exemplary of the quality of SSP was the day when we submitted our final reports. I couldn't get one of my programs to work and I was extremely frustrated, as the deadline was approaching. One of the TAs noticed and came over to talk to me. She told me to step outside and take a break, gave me a Coke (caffeine!) and got the AD to come to our lab. When I came back inside the AD was there, helped me fix my problem, and my team was able to submit our report on time. The staff at SSP care so much about us learning and being happy and it definitely shows.
SSP, while being one of my most memorable and life-changing experiences, is truly indescribable; words are simply inadequate. I arrived expecting merely a five-week academic challenge, but I have received so much more. This program has not only stretched me intellectually, but it has also unmasked to me the diversity of brilliant minds in this world. Each and every one of us has limitless potential so long as we continue to reach. And reaching is precisely what SSP has so artfully and deftly taught us to do -- reaching academically, reaching socially, reaching mentally, reaching psychologically.
SSP was by far the greatest 5.5 weeks of my entire life. It has brought wonders to me, not just in academics. After hearing so many great things about the program from online and the handbook, I had very very high expectations for the program. Even with these high expectations, SSP far surpassed it. Two weeks into senior year at school, I've realized the value of having challenges in the fields of math and science during the program and how I learned so much in 5.5 weeks. Through valuable lectures from teachers and even more valuable help from TAs and my fellow peers, I learned my true capabilities as a student and did some super cool scientific things during the summer. Perhaps the most valuable part of the experience though were the people I met and the times we shared together trying to finish our codes on time or relaxing in our free time. The fun I had with some of the greatest people I ever met made the program special. Even a month later, I still miss this program so much and realize how much it has changed me.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Allow me to spend my college years at the program and get a degree.
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SSP has been an amazing influence on my life. As an alumni, I was able to meet some of the most amazing friends, colleagues, and inspirations at the program. Moreover, SSP gave me a opportunity to challenge myself intellectually, really pushing me to see how far I could go. For sure, SSP has established itself as one of the most life-changing experiences of my life, and without it, I would not be the person who I am today.
SSP is an amazing experience. If you already know calculus/physics/astronomy/programming, you might not learn much in these subjects, but you will certainly become a more efficient worker and problem solver.