“How SSP Changed Me”

alumni word cloud
This word cloud was made from alumni comments going all the way back to 1959.

The enthusiasm and longevity of the Summer Science Program’s support from its alumni and former faculty (aka “members”) may be unique among summer programs, and strong evidence of the profoundly positive effect it has on participants. SSP is perennially top-rated on GreatNonprofits. Last summer’s participants wrote these comments before they left campus:

SSP 2017 in Astrophysics @ Univ. of Colorado Boulder

SSP was challengingly fun–an oxymoron–that allowed me, a 17 year old, to contribute to the body of science in a real-world way. It opened my mind to whole world of possibilities and opportunities and for that I am forever grateful!  -Gauri Jaswal

SSP is an unparalleled experience for passionate students all around the world. It’s more than just a summer experimenting with telescopes and asteroids. This program opens a door to the vast possibilities and opportunities offered in STEM. The students and staff (or family) that I have met helped shape my future aspirations and morals; it is truly life-changing.  -Doris Li

SSP is by far the most authentic environment I have worked in. Here I am easily uplifted and motivated by peers, TAs, professors, and the ideas we share and contribute. It’s a community of passionate goofs who will continue to influence me and give me perspective as I move on to new learning environments.  -Odelia Lorch

SSP was a challenging academic experience that showed me just how awesome studying and working in science can be. It also showed me the importance of working with colleagues. SSP confirmed for me that science is something I want in my future and showed me how exciting that future could be.  -Kelsey Merrill

At SSP, I’ve learned how to depend on others and admit that I don’t understand something, which are different types of skills that will be equally beneficial in college and other collaborative work in the future.  -Elena Romashkova

The essence of SSP is the strong focus on scientific research and collaboration. It exposed me to real research and gave me valuable experience for my future scientific career.   -Ethan Silver

Being surrounded by an excellent, motivated and passionate peer group has been the best experience of my life. SSP exposed me to different worldviews and backgrounds that enriched my own perspective. I saw the collaborative and exciting side of research and was finally able to apply classroom knowledge to a real-life problem.   -Austin Sun

What is the essence of SSP? It is learning that knowledge is not the only key. It is a combination of cooperation, hard work, dedication and passion.   -Edgar Villegas

SSP 2017 in Astrophysics @ New Mexico Tech

SSP has taught me about what it means to be a real scientist. It’s not just about the material you learn or the data you collect, being a scientist is about how you approach work, how you interact with other to achieve your goals, how you manage yourself and your assignments. It’s about understanding your limits but also about learning how to push your boundaries. It has helped me understand that science isn’t just about being smart, it’s about learning to utilize all your available resources to create the best possible end result.   -Alya Al-Kibbi

SSP is like an entirely different world, in which everyone seeks a common goal, shares similar hopes and dreams, and loves research for the sake of research.   -Helen Burch

SSP is the essence of scientific research, contribution, and the sense of belonging to a whole network of wonderful people from all over the world. My eyes have been opened to the world of astrophysics research, and I will always remember SSP was the program that did that.   -Juliana Chew

SSP is about collaboration not competition. SSP is about struggling together and learning that you have to work together to solve problems.   -Denisse Cordova

SSP is loving what you are learning, where you are, who you are with, and who you are becoming.   -Charlie Cowen-Breen

Thank you SSP for giving me the opportunity of being myself, of getting to know the most wonderful and impressive people that I have ever met, of doing science and contributing to the scientific community.   -Paula Teresa Espinosa Alonso

Doing this hands-on research made the beauty and complexity of the universe more real than ever before.  This experience has truly made me become more confident in myself and my abilities in the scientific world.   -Madeline Gardner

SSP is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Can you say that you’ve stargazed with your best friends at the observatory and watched shooting stars spill stardust across the sky, or simply stood there in awe of the magnificent Milky Way galaxy span the horizon? I can. There is no better feeling in the world.   -Carolyn Ge

I think it’s rare to come across an atmosphere as closely-knit as that of SSP. My interactions with this amazing group of students has reinforced just how powerful collaboration is in every sense, and I’ll treasure the close relationships I’ve forged here for the remainder of my life.   -Eric He

SSP was a slap in the face for me. Yeah, it hurts at first; I never knew what it was like to be utterly confused. I realized how much I didn’t know about science, and I learned that that was okay. It’s okay to not understand things at first as long as you have the will to continue to learn. Each day, I reflected over how much I gained from that single day, learning so much I didn’t know before.   -Lenna Kanehara

There are two great tragedies of SSP: first, not finishing your OD, and then, finishing it.   -Jessica Lee

Before I came to SSP, I believed that science was something that people who were smarter than me or older than me did. I thought it was insane to imagine that I would be able to collect data myself and do complex calculations to determine the orbit of an asteroid. SSP has changed my belief in science. Now I know that I am capable of research and contributing to science. It has convinced me that I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it.   -Erin Leydon

The SSP community constantly strives for an atmosphere of compassion, inclusion, authenticity, and ethos. SSP changed my life because it stretched my imagination, perspective and ability to contemplate the universe and the vast world around us.   -Lawrence Phillips

SSP 2017 in Biochemistry @ Purdue

SSP has challenged me beyond what I had ever experienced before. Collaborating and forming lasting relationships with so many passionate people has strengthened my identity as a researcher and taught me so much about my own strengths and weaknesses. Most of all, SSP has made me feel like I belong to a diverse and motivated community of scientists who always stand ready to support one another.   -Joyce An

SSP has changed me for the better; it opened my eyes to new career options that I had never imagined before. This program has allowed me to explore scientific research at a higher level than I have previously experienced, challenging me to master new, complicated techniques. Thanks to SSP Biochemistry, my love for science has grown even more.   -Myria Chen

The Summer Science Program places you in a community of scholars who facilitate each other’s growth. In my 39 days with these scholars, I have become a better thinker and problem solver. Having collaborated so much, I have not only learned what scientists do, but I have learned how scientists think and tackle problems, and I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.   -Charles Coffey

The essence of SSP is the people. It doesn’t matter what kind of work we’re doing. No matter what, you still get the same incredible people working harder than most if not all of them have ever worked before, and getting stressed out and laughing and going crazy and having the time of their lives all at once. That’s what SSP is.   -Sabra Dunakey

Community is the essence of SSP. I’ve always valued teamwork and the importance of collaboration, but being part of SSP has shown me its true value put into a realistic situation.   -Leyna Duong

SSP pushes the boundaries of what you think you’re capable of doing, and then gives you a new family that supports you and helps you expand even further.   -Laney Flanagan

SSP is unique in that it truly is wholly immersive for every single person involved, from the participants to the TAs to the senior faculty. There were nights where our professors didn’t leave the lab or our dorm until almost midnight, and only after ensuring that all of our questions were answered. To be treated to that extent of dedication was extremely inspiring and motivating.   -May Huang

SSP is about being challenged like you’ve never been challenged before. It’s about learning to fail and pick yourself back up. You’re definitely pushed, and you will definitely struggle and become frustrated. But hands-down the most important lesson I’ve learned is to be resilient and work through these struggles, and through collaborating with others and complementing our strengths and weaknesses, we can accomplish so much more than we would ever expect.   -Caroline Katz

SSP is the joy, beauty, and community of science, of what it means to move humanity forward, distilled into a life changing, super spicy summer. It has given me a whole new understanding of what it means to be a researcher, and a new level of commitment to pursuing the passion and enthusiasm I felt when I was participating, which is something that will stay a key part of me for the rest of my life.   -Ayush Pandit

The essence of SSP can be summed up in one word: intensity. Every single aspect of SSP, from lab, to homework, to even friendships, can be described as intense. SSP certainly pushed me to new heights, making me perform tasks that I never would’ve thought possible, that I sometimes doubted I could do while in the program. Even now, I’m still in awe of the growth SSP evoked in me. SSP is undeniably the best academic environment I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in.   -Juan Serna

I have learned much more than science from living with my peers, emerging from SSP as a different person with a far broader sense of the professional world than I previously had. The outstanding community surrounding me at SSP encourages me to seek out a similar environment for college and life beyond.   -Michael Tian

SSP has left me with more confidence in my abilities, a better idea of what I want to do in the future, and amazing friends around the globe.   -Kathryn Tso

I felt so free at SSP – free to work hard, play hard, and live as myself. Through all our struggles and successes, I have not only created incredible memories, but also learned invaluable lessons.  -Emily Wang