The Beginning of a Journey

By: Sunny W

To be completely transparent, I had absolutely no idea that I volunteered myself to write this first blog. Kimberly had offered a hand-drawn portrait of whoever volunteered first, so needless to say, I confidently took the offer without any knowledge of what it was. Pictured below is the fruit of my labor:

Now, onto my thoughts: 


The first day definitely took me by storm. From everything I’ve heard about SSP, I knew going in that it would be notoriously difficult. But it still managed to exceed my expectations. Class moved at a relatively fast pace, the first Pset looks pretty daunting (can’t wait to start it), and I’m surprised at how much we were able to cover in just one day. I’m one of many SSP students who came in with a decent amount of programming experience but no astrophysics experience whatsoever, and it felt like I was constantly bombarded with new terms and definitions.

Watching the North Star from a small French Village.

But in a sense, that difficulty was what made it so enjoyable for me. It reminded me of the first time I attempted to learn calculus or programming; the exhilaration of diving into a brand-new subject is simply unmatched. The open-ended nature of exploring the different asteroids and browsing through Stellarium was an experience that no school assignment could offer. Even though my hand hurts from clicking through JPL Horizons hundreds of times, I found that struggling through something is often the best way to learn it.

Some data from researching a couple of asteroids.

Aside from all the academics, the people were what made the program great for me. The emphasis on collaboration was apparent even on the first day, with frequent opportunities to work and discuss in groups. Instructors and TA’s were eager to help, and the overall environment was encouraging and collaborative. It was impressive how “social” the program was, despite not being able to meet in person.

The correct pronunciation of LaTeX, courtesy of ZP.

The soup theme has spawned the creation of “The Primordial Soups,” the observatory group consisting of myself, Amanda, and Sarah B. While working through the 5 hour break analyzing the twelve different asteroids and formatting our proposal in LaTeX, we were able to bond over a common theme: that SSP was kind of hard. If this would be considered the “easy” portion of the program, I can’t wait to see what’s left in store for us.

A tiktaalik reminiscing about the days in the primordial soup, contemplating whether evolution was truly worth it. Credit to Sarah B for the excellent photoshop.

Only SSP could make sitting at my computer for 11 hours enjoyable.

-Sunny W, SSP ‘21

About Me

Hi! My name is Sunny W and I am a rising senior at Camas High School in Camas, Washington. I live with my parents, my sister, and my cat, Mochi, who is very fluffy and almost one year old. My hobbies include programming, playing tennis, folding origami, playing piano, and now astrophysics. I’m an avid competitor in Science Olympiad as well as science fairs such as ISEF, and I plan to major in a STEM field such as computer science. I’m really enjoying SSP so far and I’m excited to see where it goes!

Mochi + Me!