Live, Laugh, SSP | Janice Y.

As SSP is so quickly drawing to an end, I do not really know what to say nor how to feel. For the past five weeks, SSP has become a challenging yet irreplaceable part of my daily routine – waking up at 8:30, getting work done with our group in the TA block through the morning, watching lectures and answering quiz questions in the afternoon, hopping onto the class activity Zoom to learn more every evening, and finally finishing my days off having fun with the entire Purdue campus until 1 AM at night. Day by day, as we learn more and more and face more and more challenging tasks (especially the final report, not gonna lie <3), the realization and fear that SSP was going to end soon slowly began to sink in. 

Although I imagined the last official “work” day of SSP to be filled with lots of sad sentiments and lots of good-byes, it turned out to be just another day in which we celebrate the friendship we’ve developed so far and, of course, the day in which we’re all exhausted after submitting our final reports and begin wrapping up our adventurous days at SSP. 

As an international participant joining all the way from China, my day technically begins with the TA block of July 19th. At this point, the faculty have evaluated our final reports and returned them to us for revision. Honestly, I was very nervous about receiving comments for our report, but thankfully it turned out that we didn’t make any big mistake, even though a good part of that final report was written during all-nighters before the deadline (shoutout to my teammate Sara, thanks for all your dedication and effort! <3). Following guidelines and suggestions made by our dear professors and TA’s, we finished the revision for our final report during the day hours and submitted a final version. Reading our final report, I find it unbelievable that we have learned to write on such advanced scientific matters that would likely be incomprehensible to me months before. 

There are many “last”s on the (second) last day of the program. We finished up the last touches on our optimized inhibitor design, which has an improvement of over 2 kcal/mol (not the best, but good enough for us) from the original inhibitor. In our last class activity block, we tried again to complete the motif finder project, but it seemed that BLAST was just not working in our favor. Just like that, our last class activity block ended with a little regret, but it was a fun ride at the end of the day. 

Then came the last campus block, where we always have the most fun, and today was no exception. We took a warm group photo together to say all our thanks to SSP and finished up with fun games from groups 5 and 7 (and yes, I rickrolled my breakout room in the song game. Very proud. :D). 

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Our thank-you photo!

With our last TA block comes the most interesting tradition of SSP – the all-nighter!!! (or the all-dayer, depending on the location.) (I still managed to fall asleep even when it was daytime though.) The breakout rooms in the all-nighter Zoom were fairly chaotic (okay, maybe just the one with the majority of the Purdue late TA block) and most of the all-nighter in fact took place on July 21st, the last day of the program, so I will try to keep my description short and not give away too many details. Of all the ~fun~ things during the all-nighter, some honorable mentions are: celebrating Eid with Anushay, (constantly) scaring IU kids off (especially with the Rice Purity Test), caffeine (as always, why not), trying to wake people up, and loads and loads of fun. It is always so much fun (I must have overused this word at this point) to hang out with those amazing people, especially on this bittersweet special occasion.

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My initial reaction to the all-nighter

So that’s a brief (I doubt) summary of the day. Here I would also like to ramble a bit about the SSP experience in general. The content below is all written during or after the final graduation, so spoiler alert. 

Since the 2021 SSP program is ending (in fact, it is ending the right when I’m typing this sentence) and we’re all crying our eyes out during the graduation ceremony, I would like to mention one of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings: “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” 

Although we may no longer be having lessons and writing papers together, the collective experience of SSP will never end. I will forever be thankful for everyone, both the entire faculty and all the participants (who are now alumni!) for this once-in-a-lifetime, best summer of my life. 

P.S. We have had a great time over Zoom the past few weeks, but I really wish to meet all of my SSP ‘21 PUR family in person safely in the near future! 🙂