“SSP is a highly h̶i̶l̶a̶r̶i̶o̶u̶s̶ prestigious program”

By Tushar D. and Jang C.

Amino acids, enzymes, bacteria, fungi. For the past three weeks, we’ve been incessantly studying everything from molecules to microorganisms. But today, we zoomed out to take a closer look at macroorganisms and their evolutionary history with a TA lecture by Helen. 

Some essential quotes that I think summed up the lecture pretty well: 

  • “We’re just a bunch of skin cells walking everywhere.” If you’re one of the participants (or TAs) who can’t remember their germ layers, this quote certainly requires context. As we traced the lineage of craniata, we were reminded that our nervous system actually comes from the ectoderm–the same layer that creates our skin. 
  • “Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V a couple of times and boom we’re done.” You would think that when someone brings up Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, they’re referring to computers. Instead, Helen came up with this analogy for the replication of the phalanges in our skeletal system and the repetition of units in a snake skeleton.  
  • “Chunky.” A description of a turtle shell. 

And if there’s one main takeaway from this lecture, it’s that placental mammals have a complex evolutionary history filled with notochords, concentration gradients, symmetry, and more (no Micah, not Creationism). 

What I then expected to be an early dismissal for lunch break soon became a fully-fledged faculty fiasco. Dr. Martha, Dr. Jessica, and Dr. Jill blame each other for forgetting the next part of campus block. Ms. Latus scrambles to calm the faculty down. We, the participants, give each other a bewildered look on Zoom. 

Rachel saves the day, and a slide with the text “JUST KIDDING!” is screenshared. Although we would’ve enjoyed a continuation of the faculty beef, what we received was just as entertaining–a TA rap battle! 

Filled with quality production, MOE references, and some serious shade, the TA diss track is going to be hard to top. But with the lyrical skills of all 36 IU participants, the TAs should prepare to be demolished. 

As we enter the last full week of SSP, I can definitely say that we’ve reached a slight awkward point in the program. We’ve finally gotten super comfortable with each other, but we only have less than two weeks left. Apart from all of the science, we’ve grown accustomed to Micah’s antics, embarrassing Zoom backgrounds, Aaron’s reading of the Gettysburg Address (ASMR edition), the immortal Rachel v Devin fight, and so much more, and it’s a bit weird to think that this will all be over in a mere two weeks. I remember the first day when the advisors let us know that the “days would be long, but the weeks will go by fast” and that could not have been more true. In fact, I might change the saying to “days AND weeks will go by fast.”

Before today, Tushar and I had a little bit of dilemma given that we didn’t have a class activity which meant twice the blog content, but 2/3rds of SSP content to go off of and when they announced that we wouldn’t have TA block either, a 1/3rd of the content. But today we quickly learned that that would not be an issue. On Thursday during TA block, we actually asked the TA’s to give us some fun activities on Friday and whether it was pre-planned or they listened to our advice, they did not disappoint.

Today, Helen gave us her TA lecture on her senior thesis and broke down the evolutionary history of mammals. Although normally I wouldn’t say phylogeny or evolutionary biology is my favorite subject, the lecture was great at explaining everything in a sequential and entertaining manner. Of course, it being SSP there were bound to be some highlights during the lecture both in the chat as well as with the TA’s and here are some of the few that I thought were the most memorable.

1. Rachel’s many faces (Sorry in advance)

2. Helen’s pop quiz questions for med school students Rachel and (almost) Devin

Helen then wrapped up her lecture and ended with a few tips which included everything from sleep-hygiene to taking film studies in college to why you shouldn’t do SSP on your bed:

However, we can’t forget the great ending to Friday’s session. We’d all been anticipating this event for a long time, asking probably every day when this would occur. After the success of the Romeo and Juliet Balcony scene, we’d requested a version 2.0 only this time it would be a Habanera from Carmen rap battle, and the TA’s did not disappoint.

From the moment Devin started singing the “Bum bum bum,” we knew we were in for a wild ride. From Devin’s bass to Rachel and Saj’s singing to Helen’s high notes (we now know why you were in choir) and Kevin’s rapping, they could all become theater majors and I’m sure there would be no problem. If everyone’s acting skills are all on par with Devin’s Dobby/Mickey-Mouse Juliet and Rachel’s heart-wrenching interpretation of Romeo, I’m sure this production of Habanera could end up on Broadway. They ended with another intense rap about MOE ft. DDOLLA$$, Rachel the lost tourist, Saj the green screen, Lil Kev, and Helen the lifeguard. I’m pretty sure words can’t do it justice, but the production quality definitely went from 1 – 100 from last time.

Here are some memorable moments along with some TA reactions:

Although it’s sad that SSP is coming to an end soon, we still have time, and so I hope that we can make the most of it and who knows? Maybe they’ll be a part 3 to the TA Broadway show coming soon to a theater near you.