T Minus 7 Days

by Arthur G.

SSP is a one-of-a-kind experience. We’re now on the thirty-first day of the program, with a week left to go. I’m currently sitting in the computer lab in the middle of the night- newly freed by the submission of my orbit determination code just a few minutes prior. It goes without saying that the program is more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced- the sheer speed of it is unparalleled. The average day sees some six hours of lecture, ranging from topics such as Python to general relativity and stellar nucleosynthesis. Individual work and problem sets probably take an average of three to five hours per afternoon, and if you’re on observation duty you can expect to add another two hours to that figure. Every so often we have a guest speaker- so far we’ve had three presentations on astrophysics: the first was on a NASA asteroid impactor mission that’ll be making contact in September, the second was on the near-paradoxical accelerating expansion of the universe, and the third (which we had today) was on the nature of black holes. The pace has definitely taken some getting used to- in all honesty, the first week left me winded.

But don’t get me wrong- it’s been absolutely worth it. The depth of the knowledge presented to us on a daily basis, the community of likeminded peers, and the collaborative learning we experience on a daily basis have made SSP a truly unique opportunity. Knowing that you’ve completed an advanced assignment or finally isolated your asteroid from a sea of a half-dozen different data layers provides a sense of purpose and genuine satisfaction one can’t find anywhere else- especially not as a high school student. In a sense, life is meaningless without a degree of suffering. The important life skills of discipline, motivation, teamwork, and determination can only be built hands-on, and there’s no better topic to hone those in than astrophysics. There hasn’t been a single morning where I’ve woken up feeling I would waste the day in a bored haze, and I’ve never regretted coming to UNC. SSP has been the most challenging experience of my life- and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

About Me:

Hi! My name is Arthur and I’m from Seattle, Washington. I enjoy amateur radio, rocketry, and mechanical work, especially machining and chemical synthesis. At SSP, you’ll likely find me working in the computer lab or strolling through the campus.