SSP: Summer Slay Program

Hello! This is Madeline (the TA), and I am feeling right at home this summer in Bloomington! I just graduated from IU in May, and I have been enjoying my last moments here with SSP. 

I’m far less creative with my writing, so this blog post will read like my diary! Let’s do a weekly recap. 

Start-up week:

The faculty got to campus a week before the participants, and I felt like I was constantly working. I have been an RA here for three years, so I was especially excited to work on the creative elements, like bulletin boards and door decs. Conversely, it took me soooo long to calibrate my chemostat! I felt like I was walking in circles at some points, so I definitely sympathize with our participants. However, I finally pulled it together, and I was looking forward to getting this show on the road! Two huge pros from start-up week: no dining halls and getting the go ahead to run the Instagram (I am once again asking you to share your pics with me). 

Week 1:

Arrival day! Honestly, I was super anxious about how the day would go. I did not sleep the night before. At all. However, my mood quickly turned around when our first three participants arrived around 9:30 am. Nelson’s cheery arrival put a smile on my face for the rest of the day! Despite the change of plans due to weather, I was still very pleased with how the day went. 

To keep the trend going, I had trouble sleeping on Sunday night, too. I had too much on my mind, but I got up on Monday ready to learn. The first thing I learned was that our participants walk slow. Literally … so … slow. After our long walk to breakfast, the day went rather well (at least from what I can remember). I was especially excited to have my own dinner table, although they did seem to hate my recent addiction to cottage cheese (you know who you are). 

Suddenly, I can’t remember anything else that happened, so here are my disjointed memories from the week. After ten straight days of working, I had my first day off. I did laundry. I went to the grocery. Normal things mostly. Notably, it was super exciting to see the participants reach their first milestones at the end of the week!

Chemostats blew up, problem sets were difficult, but we made it! Honestly, I probably yelled more this week than I have in my entire life. I AM BEGGING YOU GUYS TO WALK A BIT FASTER. Is this how teachers feel every day?

Week 2:

I started getting into the groove of things once I had a set routine, and the prospect of all the incoming microbiology content kept me going. Watching the participants do gDNA extractions was … interesting. They say that teaching is the best way to learn, and I’ll admit that I, too, used to mix my clear liquids with other clear liquids with little knowledge of what was actually happening. However, it felt extremely rewarding to see the light bulb moment for some of our participants when I explained what was going on. The same goes for PCR and DNA gels … did you watch my vlog?

Week 2 brought us lots of Instagram-able content – I mean learning moments. We had two guest speakers with drastically different research interests. It was nice to have someone else doing the teaching for a few hours! Further, we went to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, where I forced some of the faculty to experience the Dinosphere thunderstorm (it loops every 20 minutes). I am convinced that they loved it!

On our last night of Week 2 dinner, Dr. Duffy pulled up the video of Cate Blanchett performing with The Sparks at the Glastonbury Music Festival in Scotland; he knows I adore her. Of course, I had already seen the video (from multiple angles), but I think this was a good note to end the week on. 

Week 2 woes: the thespians … at least they provided my dessert every night! Also, Ms. McIntosh beating me in bowling ??? With the acrylic nails ??? My ego is bruised. 

As I sit here writing on the first night of Week 3 (you’re welcome, Alvin), I can’t help but smile at the week we have ahead of us. We have lots of fun planned, and I am especially excited to celebrate our first SSP birthday! 

I have to say thank you to our wonderful participants for keeping my life interesting (someone said they thought I was 30 years old ???), but my biggest thank you goes to my fellow faculty members. I used to think I was on top of it, but then Ms. McIntosh waltzed in. We all need to thank her for the sheer amount of work and effort she puts in behind the scenes to allow our summer to run smoothly. Thank you, Ms. McIntosh! Dr. M and Dr. D make sure we are never bored. I learn new things every day, and I feel like I’m constantly grading problem sets. Thank you for keeping us out of trouble, Dr. M and Dr. D! And to my fellow TAs, thank you for putting up with my morning attitude … stay safe out there. 

Keep slaying, everyone.