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richardmathews

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Los Angeles, CA USA

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SUMMER SCIENCE PROGRAM
October 17, 2012

SSP continues to provide an unequaled program for exceptional science students. For 54 straight years, students have gotten a taste of doing real science, working in collaborative teams guided by scientists, forming life-long relationships. I was a student 35 years ago, and I still feel the effects that this program has had on my life. I volunteer on the Board and on committees because I want to give back to the program some of what it gave to me. I am rewarded by seeing 72 students thrilled each year by this amazing experience and by seeing all of the alumni rallying around this program to keep it going. The program is entirely run by the past students and faculty, who become members of the organization upon completion of the program. The alumni also provide the bulk of the funding, which really speaks to the success SSP has in changing lives.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

helping me get into the best college (Caltech), which helped me get into a great job, which evolved into a great career. Throughout my life, the relationships formed and life skills learned have helped me along my way.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

make the program available to even more students of the same exceptional calibre.

More feedback

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you tell others about this organization?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

MY ROLE:
Board Member

SUMMER SCIENCE PROGRAM
August 4, 2010

How do we raise the next generation of leaders in science and technology? It is important to have the general population informed about issues related to science, but we also need top people to form the foundation of our science program. The latter is the focus of SSP. Why help top students? Doesn't their raw intelligence give them all they need to succeed? SSP was founded in the days of Sputnik. The SSP founders had the wisdom to see that we needed the best technology to succeed in the new world, and that would take top scientists. That is still true today. I remember my first day as a student at SSP. I'd never been away from home. I'd never been challenged by being surrounded by so many extraordinary people. My father had recently been hospitalized, which was an emotional strain on me as well as a financial one on my family. I was terrified. SSP covered my tuition, as it has done with so many others year after year. That was the first of many hurdles SSP helped me get over. SSP made me feel at home. From the legendary Dr. Abell (known among many other things for the Abell catalog of galaxies), to Dr. Pierce (still a dear friend and colleague on the SSP board), to the TAs, to all of the other students. This was an amazing family I joined that day. I remember struggling on a primitive calculator (I had a TI-58, rather advanced for the day) to complete my orbit calculation. One at a time, my teammates and I reached the same conclusion, an inside-out orbit that made no sense. We ended up discovering that one observation was bad. Throwing that out and sharing data with colleagues (another team having similar problems), we eventually got a good orbit and demonstrated the problem with the original measurements. That was a great lesson on the difficulties of real science. I remember Dr. Abell encouraging everyone to play softball. What a pleasure it was to be involved in sports and not feel like the out-of-place geek that nobody wanted on their team. I remember late nights at the telescopes and late nights talking to my fellow students. It was not always easy to tell what was work and what was play. I remember listening to lectures and chatting over dinner with fabulous guest speakers like the Amazing Randi (famous magician and scientific skeptic) and Maarten Schmidt (who figured out the spectra of quasars). Ultimately, I feel certain that SSP helped me get into the best college for me (Caltech). It helped prepare me for what I needed to do to succeed at Caltech. Then being at Caltech helped me get opportunities and succeed throughout my career. It is impossible to know where I'd be without SSP, but I have no doubt that it changed my entire life. This is why we need SSP. We need to identify top students and help get them past the challenges they face, so they can reach their full potential. It costs a lot to run SSP, hiring college professors, TAs, and other staff; providing for room and board for the students and faculty; paying for guest speakers to travel to our sites; and keeping equipment functioning and up-to-date. Tuition is kept quite affordable, and financial aid is generous for those who need it. SSP leverages volunteers who perform a large fraction of the tasks such as the curriculum committee, the admissions committee, and the board; but that still leaves a lot we have to pay for. Please help any way you can.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I owe so much to this program. I donate and I volunteer, but my debt can never be repaid. SSP helped me prepare for college, for career, for life. I made lifelong friends and learned valuable lessons, academic and social.

More feedback

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Great people.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Brilliant. Distinguished. Extraordinary. Kind. Caring. Giving.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Continue and extend generous financial aid to students? Add another astronomy campus? Spin off a program in another science? Buy a campus site? Computers? Telescopes?

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every month

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

MY ROLE:
Board Member & I have been committed to the program for 33 years as a student, a volunteer, a donor, and now a board member.