Praying to Gauss

by Ai-Dan L.

If you told me 33 days ago that I would be seriously considering praying to a mathematician that has been dead for 167 years for a functioning orbit determination code, I would genuinely have been worried for your sanity. I don’t know if praying to Gauss helped or not, but yesterday I turned in my (functioning!) OD code, and since then it’s felt a little strange. Of course, we still have a good amount of work left to do – code for the report and then the report itself – but finally turning in something that I’ve been working on for a month tends to leave you with a sense of finality that you don’t know how to deal with. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the experience so far and the memories that I’ll take from it.

Although we’ve spent a decent amount of 7pm-1am nights in the computer lab, and a lot of time commiserating together over psets and code, I think that there’s more to this program than just working (despite what the schedule may suggest). Although effectively from when you get up to when you go to sleep you’re either working or eating, it’s extremely rewarding to see the work pay off. For example, although sometimes I consider CS to be the bane of my existence, there isn’t a feeling better than finally debugging your code and getting it to work. Just a couple days ago one of my teammates nearly squealed once he found out that his code worked, and the joy was so infectious that I wish I got it on camera.

In addition to that, I’ve been trying to pick out and be mindful of the small moments of joy that I have in my life. I’ll probably always remember making instant food in the kitchen with plastic utensils, playing Super Smash Bros in the lounge, playing computer games on the observatory pc, and of course hitting Cosmic Cantina for burritos, all at ungodly hours of the morning. I’ve also started drawing a little countdown counter on the blackboard every day, and that along with other routines are what keep us sane.

Most importantly, what makes these memories possible here at SSP are the people. I’m not going to try to lie, when I first arrived at SSP and learned about the credentials of my peers and the faculty, I was very intimidated. I was even nervous to talk to the TAs because they just seemed so unreachable in terms of experience. However, something I learned from basically being around these people 24/7 for the past month is that they’re also human. Over time they’ve become less intimidating and I’ve been less afraid to go to them for help, and I’ve even started helping out a little myself.

The people I’ve met here have such interesting stories as to how they got here, and are interested in a wide variety of things – one of my peers is a pilot, and the professors (who happen to all be international) are willing to tell us very interesting stories about how they got where they are. One of my professors went from meteorology to astrophysics and one of the TAs is an SSP alumni! Although this might all sound loosely connected, the point I’m trying to get across is that the people here at SSP are amazing, and I’m glad that I met them. It’s a very collaborative and open environment, and people are willing to give each other a hand when asked (which I am more than thankful for).

Although the work-life balance is pretty heavily skewed, the people and experiences that come with it here at SSP make it that much more rewarding.

P.S. if my teammates are reading this, stop and go back to work please

About Me:

I’m Ai-Dan :-] Here at SSP, when I’m not working on the next assignment or the OD you can find me catching up on sleep, whether that’s in the computer lab lounge, right outside of Phillips Hall, or inside the dining hall waiting for dinner. Back at home in CA, you can find me participating in basically every STEM-related club after school and drawing in my spare time.