By Jolyn H.
June 17th, the fated beginning of SSP Biochem. A day that was years in the making, ever since I learned of SSP in eighth grade and everything it had to offer.
My acceptance filled me with a sense of disbelief and accomplishment. I spent the next two months using whatever free time I had to check on the SSP Discord, the members of which I’ve learned are some of the most interesting, talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. We had bonding sessions filled with zany moments and heated online games (thanks Justin!) All in all, I was incredibly excited to start the “science” in Summer Science Program.
The first day did not disappoint. Although, I wasn’t expecting a disembodied voice telling me terrible science puns on demand.
As I’m typing this, I am currently vacationing in Honolulu, HI. By sheer coincidence, another person from IU was also in the area and we planned to meet up to pull a prank on the others (a smashing success!). Twenty minutes and one brown sugar oatmilk espresso later, I was ready to begin my first official day of SSP.
The Zoom meeting kicked off with some words from the gracious IU staff. Collectively, they really hammered home the whole new family of SSP, a concept that was already in the making since the day admissions decisions were released. From there, more words from the site directors and TAs that were just as insightful as they were long. By the end of the first fourty minutes, I was reasonably hyped for the rest of the day.
After a rundown of the schedule and student expectations, we got to know our supergroups with a game of participant bingo. More people were outside of California than I was expecting, though I’m definitely not complaining. We heard more about Matthew’s fossil collection, which was certainly the highlight of the entire day. Despite getting a bingo within the first row that we worked on, hearing about the varied experiences of my group was still a joy.
Our supergroup is divided into three groups, which are our research teams for the ever looming final project. I met Andrew, who due to tragic circumstances was forced to change his iconic Discord nickname, and Natasha, a fellow speech enthusiast who seems to be suffering from severe technical issues. Together, we are the unstoppable Team Jokkmokk of IKEAs yore.
One false alarm and seventeen flights of stairs later (long story), I logged onto Canvas and began working on the modules in relative silence. Labster is, how should I say this, a unique program. That is to say, you’re told by a floating robot how to use a micropipette until the whole process becomes virtual muscle memory. Nevertheless, Labster is surprisingly more complex than the Flash science simulations I played with as a kid and infinitely more wacky.
As I would soon learn, though, the real challenge of SSP was only beginning.
On the morning of June 18th, I snuck out of my hotel room in relative silence and set up shop in the hotel lobby. Though I was only beginning to recover from waking up at 4:40 AM, I was immediately thrust into a torrent of organic chemistry questions. The limited knowledge I had from an eighth grade summer fling with o-chem and high school science classes helped a lot less than I would have thought. Apparently, learning the rules of grammar from what is essentially another language was more complicated than I thought.
However, if I thought that was hard, then past was woefully unprepared for the mess to come. For I had no idea that we would be covering a topic I had not touched since sophomore year: preparing solutions.
Sure, I had the classic M1V1=M2V2 equation set up, but the flurry of SI units and necessary conversions was a pain to track without the help of my notebook. Even then, writing everything down was time consuming and did not mean I understood it conceptually. I agonized over my misfortune throughout the day—if I couldn’t do this, how could I survive the rest of SSP? Little did I know that the frustration was part of these SSP experience.
Devin, who is the recipient of Rachel’s constant bullying, walked my team through the problem deliberately and, most importantly, with annotations that I could see in real time. I took the leap and asked my peers for help.
It’s okay to not know everything, just as it’s okay to ask for help. SSP is just designed to be that intense.
Having signed up for the first blog post, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough material to write about. And well, the word count on this says otherwise.
Do I wonder what could have been if a certain virus never existed? Of course. But am I incredibly excited for the experience of a lifetime? I think this blog post can answer that question for you.
For all of you future nervous applicants, don’t be afraid to showcase everything aboutt you and your drivers in life. You might just be surprised with a “Congratulations!” email.