What I Learned from Melting for Twenty-Nine Days | Edward S.

Incredibly, we have less than a week before SSP 2021 is officially over. 

It’s no surprise that time flies here. As anyone who’s attended a summer camp can attest, the days are long and the weeks are short: thrust into a new environment, our minds soak up every detail, increasing the intensity with which we experience each moment. On the flip side, this intensity constantly keeps our minds “busy,” and we lose track of time, days passing in a blink.

And when it comes to being busy, precious few summer programs could hope to rival SSP! From purifying proteins to perusing scientific papers, participants are in a constant whirlwind of fascinating things to learn and do. Just today, we were lucky enough to learn about the birth of a new pillar of cancer treatment directly from the Nobel prize-winning researchers who pioneered it! Next up, we visualized how different inhibitors interact with our enzymes with MOE, carefully balancing between RMSD values, docking affinities, and our own judgement of the 3-D models. In the break afterward, we launched into a lecture on how drugs are synthesized from natural sources and in the lab. 

This onslaught of activities is downright withering. And for good reason: everyone in SSP signed up to launch ourselves into this crucible of lectures and reports, hoping to reforge ourselves into people with the knowledge and skills to better face the future. We’re melting spectacularly, casting new pieces of ourselves with each lesson. But the most striking thing is that somehow, in this searing crucible, SSP manages to also feel like a Jacuzzi. Previous posts have heartily celebrated this spirit that has us writing diss tracks and hosting Avalon tutorials in a schedule packed tighter than a tin of sardines in a garbage compactor. Like the bacteria in geothermal vents, we haven’t just survived, but thrived and built a community. 

I’m not here today to write an ode to this spirit; others’ posts have done magnificent jobs of that already. Instead, I’m asking everyone at SSP to keep this spark alive. For the vast majority of SSPers who are rising seniors, the program’s end isn’t the only major transition looming. In just a few months, we’ll be applying to colleges, and a year from now, most of us will be moving out, facing independence and education in the next chapter of our lives. 

Much like SSP, this period will have little time for relaxation. Our futures are doubtless lined with exams and sleepless nights. With the drive and talent I’ve seen in my fellow participants, I have no doubt that we will succeed. But I hope that we also remember the playful streak that makes the community of SSP truly special, to laugh and wonder even when we’re pushing beyond our limits. Though the idea is tempting, past the crest of the next major goal, there won’t be a lazy field for us to stop and smell the roses. We’ll always have new challenges and opportunities to meet. So when you’re preparing for a late night writing college essays, or have five tests in one day, remember to stand up and stretch. Pet your cat, talk to your friends, and make sure you’re staying hydrated. As you’re climbing toward your goals, make room for life in the crevices and slivers of time. This is key not only to happiness, but to thriving and functioning in challenging environments in the long term. Wherever you end up, always remember the spirit that made a crucible feel like a Jacuzzi.