Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Supplemental Missions Log

Here we are after five weeks of being on the East Coast.  What an amazing experience to be a part of.  I still remember last year during my Sophomore year when Don Gosney came to Pinole Valley High to tell us about the Ivy League Connection for the first time and how I backed out of the program just before it was time to start sending in applications.  When it was time for Don to come back for his ILC presentation back in November, I was still skeptical about joining the ILC.  I kept thinking about how much more busy I would be if I got in and how I would have to take such a long time off from work.  It wasn't until the last night before applications were due that I finally decided that I would try to get accepted and see what would happen.  Looking back, I can’t believe at how stupid I would have been to not apply.  I don’t know what I would have done this summer without this program. 

Once I passed the preliminary stages of the ILC, it was time for the essay and interview portion.  When the interview rolled around I remember being nervous and anxious about what questions would be asked.  If I have to give any advice for anyone being nervous for the interview I would say to just act confident and use plenty of diagrams.  After I was accepted into experimental physics, all I can remember is how shocked I was at getting in.  I felt really relieved about being accepted but at the same time I knew that the class wouldn't be until the summer time still six months away.  It never really dawned upon me about the magnitude of this trip until just a few days before departure. 

 Before summer time I can remember all of the stress involved in the application process for Penn after being accepted into the ILC.  There were dozens of forms to fill out and to scan.  The most stressful forms to fill out were the doctor forms that needed to be filled out by an actual physician.  I was so nervous about those doctor forms because Penn never seemed to send any conformation emails out saying that they received the forms.  One thing that the ILC could improve on would be some more guidance when it comes to filling out the mandatory paperwork.  Often time I would be confused about the different forms and what they were asking for.

As for the ILC experience, I would say that my favorite part of the trip would have to be the first week before classes started.  During this time we had a lot more free time for ourselves while at the same time we had the opportunity to go all over the East Coast on a daily basis.  I really enjoyed visiting Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, which got into thinking about applying to smaller private colleges instead of all the big name universities.  I find that there is less pressure for students to succeed and to be successful in smaller schools than larger school that are famous for producing the most successful people on the planet. 

Once class started, all I wanted to do was to prove myself to my professors.  However, it seemed that the entire class had that same thought in mind, which made it difficult to be noticed.  Then I realized that the point of the class was not to turn heads but to learn the material at hand. So I then shifted my goal and focused on the learning.  One thing that I loved about the Experimental Physics Academy was the fact that it covered such a broad range of different categories in physics while also exposing us to real researchers in the field.   Another thing that I loved was the vast number of experiments that we conducted.  I know that I can use most of these experiments in my high school science clubs to use in our science outreaches to local elementary schools.  I’m sure that these new experiments are just what my club needs.   Not only did we conduct experiments that can be duplicated at home but we also did complex experiments that could only be conducted in a lab, which is something unique that most people will never get to do.

As for college life and living at UPenn, there was always lot to do rarely was there a moment of boredom.  I took advantage of the many trips and activities offered by the Summer Discovery program by attending almost every event; activities ranging from ice skating, movies, museums, and of course Philly Cheese Steaks.  I did my best to try to see and do it all in the short time that I had.  When I wasn't at any of these activities, I was playing cards with friends or walking about through the campus after finishing with studying of course.  If I could recommend anything for someone going to the ILC it would be to not get locked into your room.  You can’t feel the complete experience if you are isolated from everything around you, so get out there and make a new friend. 

Now that everything is over I realize how important a program like the ILC is.  Almost everyone that I met at Penn had been going to academic summer camps for years and if you want to be able to compete to get into the best universities, it is imperative that you go to a camp like this.  The ILC provides the perfect opportunity to attend one of these camps and you would be a fool to pass it up.  Looking back I also realize that it is a good idea to have backup majors for college in case you find that your dream career isn’t what you expected it to be.  Not that I did enjoy physics or anything but there were a few times were it was easy to feel overwhelmed or lost.  But at the end of the day, my passion for physics didn’t crumble, it was only amplified.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reflections / In Summary ...

"The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself." -C. JoyBell C.

After receiving the Ivy League Connection scholarship, I was very happy. I was excited for this chance to attend a class at a university, an Ivy League university no less. I continued with my classes at school, attended the ILC events, and filled out applications for Summer Discovery. Even though I was doing all of this, and reading the books for the Social Justice class, it still had not hit me that I would be leaving my family for a month and living on the UPenn campus. That was until my family dropped me off at El Cerrito High School with Don, Mr. Hillyer, and my other ILC cohorts. When we were on the plane, I realized that I would not see my family or friends for 5 weeks, and I would be transported to a whole new environment. I have never been away from my family for more than a week, I have never been to the East Coast, but here I was doing both. 

The first week was filled with eating a lot and visiting colleges. In the beginning it felt like we -- Jun, Mike, Hannah, Kai, Mr. Hillyer, and me -- were all strangers travelling the East Coast together. But by the end of the week we all came to understand each other better and become friends. 

Finally, we moved into our dorms at the University of Pennsylvania and said our goodbyes to Mr. Hillyer. We would end up seeing him occasionally and go out to dinner with him sometimes, but we would not see him everyday like we were used to. My dorm room was large and I had two great roommates who became real friends to me throughout the month. Even though I was in a new environment with people I did not know, I became comfortable quickly. Living in my dorm room, hanging out with friends in the Quad, going to the Van Pelt Library, and eating at campus restaurants like The Greek Lady became my life for four weeks. It felt completely normal and I loved it. Coming back home felt so unusual because I had adapted to the life I had at Penn; but I was happy to see my family and friends again.

As for the class, I walked in the first day completely tense and not sure what to expect. All the students were early to class with numerous notebooks, with their computers and iPads, and writing instruments. But starting that first day in class, we all knew that this was not going to be a "normal" class. Throughout the next four weeks I learned so much, and in such an unorthodox way. I was treated as an equal and people listened when I spoke. I enjoyed being in class from nine to five, and every day I was excited to go to class. Even though I had opportunities to sleep in or to not go to class, I went anyway. It was a joy to go to class and learn everyday. I was learning useful skills, I was observing life, I was becoming a critical thinker. I was understanding myself and my contradictions, along with others'. I benefited so much from my Social Justice class, and I can honestly say that it changed my life. 

The last couple of days were very sad, and I hated having to say goodbye to people I had come to love. With some people it felt like I would see them again, but with others it felt like I would never see them again. Whether I am reunited with any of my UPenn friends again, I wish the best for them all. Coming back home was bittersweet; I was glad to be with my family again, but I was sad to be leaving my new friends and family.

This has been such an amazing experience and I am so appreciative for this opportunity that was given to me. I have honestly changed as a person and I am excited to see myself grow more as a person and as an intellectual. 

As Heath L. Buckmaster said, "Often, it's not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don't know how to be." My experience has helped me to begin the process of becoming the person I am meant to be. 

Summer Discovery

Penn on the first day.
The clock has struck its full 24-hours and this year's Ivy League Connection at Penn has come to an end. I arrived back in California on Saturday night and I've been thinking since then. The experience, laughter, exposure, and knowledge that I have gained not only through the month that I was in the East Coast, but the program as a whole has given me insight for the future. Before the actual experience, I heard many tales and anecdotes from alumni of the program, and I vicariously imagined it to be an adventure filled with new thoughts everyday. There were new thoughts that popped up, but most of the time it was just reevaluation of previous thoughts. Thinking the same questions: “Why do I want to go here? Where do I belong? Is this what I want? What do I like here? Do I want to major in this? What do I do with my major? What about graduate school? What is a college experience?” - it really takes a toll on the mind. With all these thoughts going through my head, I'll attempt to put them all down in this blog. 

Way back when the application process for Penn (ILC part) was still underway, I was extremely nervous. I had previously applied for the Vanderbilt program, but I was not chosen for the interview – not even for the program as a whole. My confidence had been struck down like lightning in the East Coast – sudden and swift. Back then, I thought that my essay was solid, but now that I look back – after my writing has greatly improved – I realize that the essay wasn't that great. However, I'm surprisingly glad that I wasn't selected for Vanderbilt; it might have been a “blessing in disguise”. If I had gone to Vanderbilt instead of Penn, I might not have changed as much as I did at Penn. I wouldn't have met the amazing people that have influenced me – although, Vanderbilt could have the same effect. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet the amazing Bill, Craig, and Mary combination. I would not have decided to pursue a career in science,rather than engineering. There are a lot of "would not haves", but that's what made the Penn experience so influential to me. Coincidentally, this played out just exactly like my mom had predicted. The day I was not selected to the Vanderbilt interview, my mom consulted me and told me (by the way, this is translated from my thoughts): “Don't feel disheartened. This may be destined, didn't you tell me your most favored program was physics at Penn? Maybe you didn't get accepted so that you could go to Penn. Would you rather go to Vanderbilt while wondering what it would have been like to go to Penn or would you rather feel sad now and be beyond satisfied at Penn? Hui-hui (my mother calls me that), don't feel discouraged, try harder for the Penn application.” Never have I been more stupefied by my mother's sayings. She's been the biggest pillar of support for me my entire life, and little did I know that she had everything predicted. I'm content that I was not selected for Vanderbilt, Penn has been such a life-changing and mind-morphing experience. I'm not going to think of how I would have changed if I went to Vanderbilt, Penn has been the best, especially the class. 

After we were chosen.
During the interview process, I was surprisingly calm. Because I was so calm, I conversed with the others very frequently, talking about physics, high-school, and ourselves. In the hours that we were there, we became friends – knowing that we would not all be accepted – and at that point, we were close enough that we would not spite each other. We were all competing for the same thing, but we weren't enemies; everyone was on the same team. Although, this is what I had thought, the others could have thought differently. I was confident that I would do well in the interview: I thoroughly prepped on physics before the interview and from my experience in Speech and Debate, I had the speaking and interviewing skills to impress the panel. However, once I stepped in the room, my mind quickly became pressured. It was as if some unknown entity filled my head with discouraging thoughts: “What if I don't get in? What do I do?”. But, at that point, I spoke out of instinct, not really elaborately thinking like I do at Speech and Debate competitions. I didn't have the enthusiasm and charisma that my voice had at competitions. It was my first time interviewing for a program of such a large scale - $10,000 a person. In retrospect, it was an advantageous experience – being interviewed by professionals for a large sum of money, much like an interview for a job. Anyways, after the interview, I wasn't as confident as I was previously; I talked for a relatively long time compared to the others and I didn't answer all the questions to an extent where I was satisfied. The atmosphere grew heavy after I was done with my interview – I was the last one to be interviewed – and everyone knew that the end was coming near. I tried fixing the atmosphere by creating small talk and giving encouraging words. When we were all called to the room, the atmosphere grew even heavier. Name-by-name, our hopes plummeted – and after Kai and Michael were chosen, there was one name left. At that point, I felt discouraged and I thought what I would do to do better next year and my plans for the summer. While I was thinking of the future, I heard my name. At that point, a big smile grew on my face and it was embarrassing – I was smiling full of pride. Realizing that the amazing friends that I made just hours ago were struck with disappointment like I was with Vanderbilt, I thought of what to do. I resorted to calling for a “huddle-up” and giving some last words before we departed back home either happy or not. I told my mom and she gave me the most sincere and happiest “congratulations” I've ever heard from her. She was proud of me. 

After the application process, don't expect to have the “calm after the storm”. At that point, I had to apply for the actual school and I thought that it would be relatively easier because the application was much more lenient. However, I had to send in multiple “papers” to Penn, even before I got in. On their website, June 1st is the deadline for the application, but that's a lie – don't think of it like that. It's a trap laid for the unexpected. I planned to send in the application a month before the deadline, but I got a call from Don a month and half before the application was due that time was running out. I had everything done except my teacher recommendation because I wanted to give time for my teacher to do it, but I had to e-mail her that it was urgent. Lesson from this experience: make sure to finish the application two weeks after you're accepted, it gets hectic if you don't. Especially because the deadlines aren't very helpful. 

Hours before our flight.
After being accepted, it was a time of extended wait. Actually, we had a couple of events to go to, but those weren't as worrisome as the other parts of the program. During that time, I didn't think about the ILC because school work was growing bigger-and-bigger towards the end of the year. Tick-tock-tick-tock, then the day arrived. It hit me; I was leaving for Pennsylvania in twenty hours. I thought every second of what I was going to experience in the East Coast. Not a minute passed that I didn't think about it. 

The East Coast was completely different than what I had originally thought. The buildings were mostly brick, the atmosphere of Penn inspired me to rethink my college choices, and the community that I met felt much more fitting for me than home – probably because I had to open up myself since I was away from home. The Experimental Physics Research Academy was the most diverse; the class was more orientated towards learning the concepts than drilling the students into remember the concepts. We did many experiments that tested theories and we built a sense of the relationships of nature by being physicists. Now that we've arrived in the East Coast in the blog, the majority of my entries after this sentence will be about my thoughts at the end of the program. 

Princeton Perspective.
Before the program, my thoughts on colleges were different than that of now. For the majority of my college choices, I was looking for a “good” engineering department and communities that would fit me. I blindly picked colleges based on their reputation and prepared objective colleges. After really experiencing a “college life”, it makes me really think of what I want out of a college. Do I look for mostly education? What about socially? After Penn, I can confidently say that I'm looking for an equilibrium of the two. I wasn't able to fully explore my academic interests at Penn, I spent most of my time meeting and learning about new people. In retrospect, I'm glad that I spent my time more socially than academically because it's made me think much more broadly about college. 

Columbia, nothing to do with Connor. Sadly, I didn't
get a picture with him.Columbia relates to Connor
because he was the philosopher of Penn.
Columbia's freshmen are required to take the Classics.
However, I did have an engaging academic experience. I expected there to be people much, much “smarter” than me in the physics program, but actually meeting them is a different story. I had the opportunity to meet Connor Dube, who is probably the wisest person I've met, and at first, I felt intimidated and discouraged to be in his presence. He would answer elaborately every question that Bill had and it shocked Bill as well. I felt discouraged because I was unable to challenge Bill with answers such as Connor's, but I had the chance to personally talk to Connor later in the program. Connor and I do many of the same activities: chess, policy debate, physics, and chemistry. He has such a broader and detailed perspective of those activities than I do, and just listening to him endlessly talk about them was so inspiring. I threw away my pride, being a liability, and consulted Connor about practically everything. He's the fuel that I needed to throw away my pride. Knowing that there are people like him out there – and even more people smarter – it inspires me to catch up to them. Not in the sense of competition where I need to beat them, but to gain enough knowledge to think like them. If I was so stupefied listening to Connor, I wonder how more stupefied I would be if I were to think at such a high level. As a result of the “Connor Effect”, I consulted Bill about my plans on not taking a physics class and what to do. He gave me a path to follow – M.I.T. Courseware and 2 semester's worth of college level physics textbooks. I've also met people other than Connor that pushed me to this path, but he has been the biggest figure in this experience. I put together my resolve and wrote down a couple of goals. Whenever I'm lazy and procrastinate, I'll remind myself that I need to pull myself together to push towards the Path. 

A representation of my change in perspective.
In the end, I've rethought my career and decided to become a scientist. I planned on becoming an engineer because it's much more applicable and there are more engineering jobs than research-orientated jobs. But, after researching more about chemical engineering – what I wanted to do – I've realized that it's not what I want. Chemical engineering seems as if it'll get progressively boring compared to the opportunities and frontiers that biophysics (molecular biology with applied physics) offers. I'm into diving into new concepts, theories, and applications than improving current techniques. Sure, it's possible to think of new ways to perform chemical engineering, but that's much more apparent in biophysics than that of chemistry. Connor, Bill, and Craig have influenced me into making this decision. Hopefully, I don't regret it in the future. Actually, I still have time to rethink my career path, so this may not be important at all. 

Bill was a representation of Penn
for me.
Are Ivy League colleges fit for me? What about Penn? From the experience that I had at Penn, I can say that Ivy Leagues are fit for me. The exposure to people from all around the world is amazing. It's interesting to hear of the differences of Californian life from Guam's, Shanghai's, New Jersey's, New York's, Michigan's, and culture as a whole. I'll be able to see much more of this if I attend an Ivy League. Also, from the guest lectures offered by actual Penn professors, I can say that I love the learning environment of Penn. The professors are genuinely interesting and they can really speak to the students. The manner they present their research and the research itself captivates students to keep their ears open. Not only the professors, but also the environment itself gives off a scholarly feeling that makes me want to be productive. Also, the people that I've met at the program felt like family to me. I opened up to them much more than I did at home and school, and it was stress-relieving to release my thoughts without heavy scrutiny. Being far enough away from home that family cannot visit really does that to students. This may be one of the reasons I want to go to a school in the East Coast rather than the West. I love my family, but I won't fully develop unless I am released from their grasp. 

I'm like the bubble captured in the tank.
Being an ambassador of the WCCUSD, I had – and still have – great pride of my school and the District. I'm proud to say I am from Pinole Valley High School; we have many diverse students that engage themselves in activities that otherwise would not be as big if it were not for the students. PV's Marching Band is synonymous with the city, Interact helps out the community dinners all the time, and the Forensics Speech and Debate team broadens the perspective of its students, not only to debate but also life. We may not be the best academically but we offer the most in terms of community. I have unrelenting pride for the efforts of the WE Science Body (science club at my school) to expand science to elementary school students. An effort started by the ILC's own Austin Long, it has been exponentially expanding its reaches. Through my experience in experimental physics, I plan to bring back new ideas and experiments to show to elementary school students. 

My amazing friend Sophia; she's a poet,
physicist, singer, and friend.
Even a five-hour event like the Talent Show(hosted by Summer Discovery on the last day of the program) influenced me. I had originally expected a boring talent show with nothing but singers, but the variety that Penn offered was mind-blowing. There was a magic act; who has the confidence to do a magic act now-a-days, especially a student! Even the spoken word acts were diverse: we had Malachi(not the one in the ILC) perform a Black-style spoken word, one filled with subtle anger, and Sophia perform a playful-rhyme piece. 

How the ILC may affect my future? I can say, for sure, that the ILC has done so much for me. It has developed my mind intellectually, maturely, and emotionally – nothing has done all three for me in one bundle. I've rethought my college ideals and options, and frankly, I've become more open when it comes to conversing. I'm not intimidated with talking about controversial topics and my experiences at Penn. The ILC has created a different path for me to take and it has given me the opportunity to experience college and practically the world in a sense. The ILC has provided me the knowledge to strengthen my science club, and it has given me the connections that will last a lifetime. Being an ambassador of such a great program puts me under scrutiny of the world and I'm grateful for it, I want to show the world what the District has to offer. The ILC gave me the opportunity to meet fascinating people that have given me the drive to improve myself. Not only do I plan to give back to my community through my school's science club, but also through prospective college underclassmen. I want to tell the underclassmen of my school about my experiences, tales, and changes at Penn. I hope to influence them to partake in this program and get a feel of what college is. The ILC not only provides a perspective on Ivy League Colleges, but colleges as a whole. Through my interactions with a college life, I am much more knowledgeable about it and I'm capable of providing insight to underclassmen. I can create a long, very long, list of “The ILC has”, but it would not represent my gratitude for it. The only way to show my gratitude is through results, and being an obliged person, I will give back. I want to end this blog by just saying:

Michael's not in the picture.
We're representing Pinole Valley High School!
My role model, Dyana So, an alumni of my school.
“Thanks, Mr. Gosney, Mrs. Kronenberg, Mr. Ramsey, and of course the donors, for providing such a life-changing experience for not only me, but the students of the District. It has provided an alternative path for us and I am grateful for your efforts to expand college culture outside the West Coast. I hope that this program continues and for the years to improve. With my humblest and most gratuitous text: 
Thanks.” Sometimes, it's the simplest of messages conveyed in a long blog that convey gratitude. It has truly been a "Summer Discovery" this summer. I've learned much more about college and I've discovered myself.
Not everyone I met is in this picture, but thanks for giving me the opportunity to meet
such amazing people! By the way, I literally fell two seconds after the picture.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dream Come True

The trip that seemed like a distant dream for so many months has finally happened and came to an end. These past five weeks have gone by so fast. I originally thought that a four week course would feel like forever, that I would have plenty of time to do everything I wanted to do in the next couple weeks. It turned out to be way shorter than I would have liked to stay. There are some things I wish I had been able to do but didn't, but I keep telling myself that if I keep it up and work hard enough I can get into UPENN for college, or a nearby school on the East Coast, and do it then. This trip has made me beyond motivated. 

The college environment I got to experience was amazing. I can't wait for dorm life, even with the slightly gross communal bathrooms and the small living areas. I think that being able to walk outside your room and see other people you can talk to makes it completely worth it. Being able to say I've experienced this before going to college is rare and remarkable, as is taking a course in and taught by a professor who teaches at one of the most prestigious universities in the United States and world. 

I also believe that there was no better option for course or location that the ILC could have sent me to. Social Justice is something I am extremely interested in and passionate about. I want my major and future career to be influenced by this passion. I don't think I will ever enroll in a class that will be similar to that which Professor Lamas and Michael Nairn taught. They were truly incredible. I also found out on this trip that UPENN is my top choice for college. I absolutely loved Philadelphia and everything the university had to offer. Throughout the whole four weeks there, I automatically kept assuming I will be back which proves how much I can see myself going there. Without ILC, I would have never thought to attend school on the East Coast whereas now I don't think there's anywhere I'd rather be. 

I do wish we could have seen and toured more colleges in the East Coast, but I'm already so grateful for those we did get to see that it's not much of an issue. I would have loved to see Brown, Harvard, Yale and more although they were not very close to where we were staying. The schools I did see I was impressed with, but I don't think I'll be applying to any that we toured except UPENN.

The people I studied with and met through this program were such an inspiration to me. I've never been in a place where so much talent and intelligence came together and bonded in this way. The final talent show really proved how talented these people are. Something I am going to really miss is being able to go outside and strike up a discussion about important and deep matters. I'm hoping and expecting that college will be more like this than high school is because college is made up of all students who want to be there, and very few that would rather be anywhere else. 

I wouldn't think twice before advising someone to try as hard as they can to be a part of the ILC. I hope that my younger siblings will apply when their time comes, as well as my younger friends. The worst that could happen if they apply is that they get a valuable practice at applications, essay writing and interviews. The application process was tough, but all too worth it. I don't regret a single thing about the ILC. I have come to enjoy blogging, although I often had to write them in the late hours of the night with everything going on on campus. When encouraging people to apply, I will tell them not to be scared off by Evil Don or the vigorous application process and mandatory events because it will seriously be the best decision of their lifes if they go through with it and experience an adventure like the one I just got done with. I will never have enough words to thank those who made this trip possible for me, so I will end this reflection with a simple "Thank you! My distant dream has come true.

Getting Off the Roller Coaster

The roller coaster has come to a stop. After the initial descent of visiting colleges and zooming around the twists and turns of my class, it is finally over. It was a fun experience; nerve-wracking in places, but amazing overall. This was truly an amazing opportunity. It isn't everyone who can say they got to study at one of the top universities in the nation over the summer. The class itself was wonderful. It focused on learning. It didn't care about assessment. Learning was the goal. In the interview, months ago, that got me in to this program, I said that I loved learning. This class was the perfect fit. It answered so many questions I had about how the world works. I felt like I learned how to think more deeply. I felt like I have a much better grasp on what science really is. It is not getting some specific answer. It is about learning how the universe works. I would certainly recommend this class to future people. It was fully worth it.

However, I don't think that I will do ILC next year. The main reason for this is the classes offered. Physics was the class on the list that really caught my eye. Furthermore, physics seems to be the only class that focuses purely on learning. While I haven't read everybody else's blogs in depth, it seems like there is a larger component of assessment in the other classes. The focus on learning was a major reason why I liked this class. In addition, a smaller component of why I would not do ILC next year is what I had to do to get in. Many of the events before I came to the East Coast were a pain to go to. I am not sure that I would be willing to put up with Evil Don's emails to go to a class I'm less interested in. However, if you are a future student, if there's a class that you are really interested in, do not let this deter you. 

There a a couple things I would change about how the Ivy League Connection functions. First of all, I would create deadlines. Admission to schools this year was supposedly much more of a pain, since many people did not apply promptly. While I did get in in a reasonable timeframe, it was still perhaps later than would be preferred. In my opinion, the main reason admissions were an issue was because we had very little idea when we were supposed to complete them by. After the interview, Don told us to check the website for admission information. On the website, it said the deadline was June 1. I realized that completing it early would be a good idea, but I set a mental deadline of April 1, since I didn't have much experience. At the beginning of March, Don sent us emails asking why we hadn't been accepted yet. I would recommend that in the future, after interviews, Don tells us "The website may say June 1, but for our purposes your application is due February 1." This would give us a decent amount of time to get them in along with making sure they got in at a more reasonable time. Really, this deadline idea applies to most things we had to do for ILC. If you want us to do something tell us when to do it by. "Soon" is too vague. I would also tell students more about what to expect. Perhaps it is new this year, but we had to send rather a lot of information to Don. Don did not communicate much of last year's information to us, so I didn't know what to expect very well. One thing I would not change is blogging. While at the beginning I though that it was a pain, now I think that it is quite valuable. I wouldn't quite call it fun... perhaps enjoyable. While it does take up a bit of time each day, it is a good part of the program. Future students: it may feel onerous at first, but stick with it. It gets to be natural.

As I get off this roller coaster, I am thankful to ILC and to Penn for such a great experience. When I first applied, I was sort of lukewarm about the idea of going and taking this class. I figured that I should apply, and if I didn't get in the decision would be made for me. Soon enough I had gotten in. I was caught up in the ILC process, and suddenly I was here at Penn. If any future students are in a similar position, go for it. Apply. Try to get in. If you don't get in, it's a valuable low stakes practice at college admissions. Practicing interviews and essays is almost always a good idea. If you do get in, it is a great program. It exposes you to a wonderful learning environment. My main complaint is that regular school next year will probably feel boring by comparison. Go for it. Get in line for the roller coaster.

From Coffee with Dyana to Airplanes

It's an odd time of the year where feelings are as ambiguous as the amount of printer paper I have in my room. There are literally bundles of printer paper spread across my room, just like how I felt before we departed to the airport. I was happy that I had such a life-changing experience, but I was regretful that it had to end; I didn't do everything that I planned. I made many, many, many friends, but there were still groups of people that I had not approached. Looking back, four-weeks is the perfect amount of time for a summer camp; it's not too long to the extent of becoming boring, but not too short to the extent of not experiencing anything. I'll miss my new-found - not really new anymore - friends, and the connections that I've made there. It's all a part of growing up though, eh?

Before all the shenanigans that happened at the front gate, I spent the entire night talking to my friends through Google Chat. I'm unsure of what we talked about - just usual high-school stuff - but as a sacrifice, I only slept for two hours. It hit me hard throughout the day, even on the planes. I made plans with Dyana So; we met up at Starbucks Coffee to get coffee (no way). I originally wanted to consult her about college applications and Penn itself, but the conversation transgressed to an introspective analysis of both college and myself. Just like the Dean mentioned, Dyana told me to write down five things I am looking for in a college. The two biggest factors I consider are community and opportunity. These are very broad, but for me, I am defined by my interactions and opportunities of my community. Also, she suggested that if I'm interested in becoming a researcher, I should look into universities not only as an undergraduate school, but also if the school will provide enough resources to better my chances of getting into graduate school. After conversing about Pinole Valley HS - she graduated from Pinole Valley two years ago - I was struck with nostalgia. She has been such a big influence for me both in high school and outside. She's the one who brought me into debate, interest in East Coast colleges, and extracurricular activities. I wonder how my high-school life would have changed if I didn't meet her. What is a college app? Is it an opportunity for an individual to discuss his or her merits and impress college admissions? Not necessarily, sure it may be an opportunity to show the diversity and impact that he or she can bring, but it definitely should not be about his or her accomplishments. Both Dyana and I agree that a college application is a representation of character and a definition of who an individual is. It digs deep into finding out what kind of person and how he or she has "evolved". Through my coffee conversations with Dyana, I have a clearer image of how to cohesively represent myself in a college application. On other news, I found out that I have a big similarity with her. During her years in high-school, she had doubts of getting involved with art as a career, and I had the same thought for research. There are many opportunities to do research, but the percentages of people who succeed in doing successful and profitable research is very low. I took this into consideration, and I decided to involve myself with engineering since it's much easier to find a job in engineering than research. However, after my experience with the Experimental Physics Research Academy, never has my passion for research been more fiery. I absolutely love exploring the unknown and attempt to make a breakthrough for the scientific community. Looking back, I ignorantly told my friends that I wanted to be a "chemical engineer" because it was an easy career to justify - I was "good" at chemistry and I liked problem solving. But after researching more about chemical engineering and learning of what the career entails, I realized that I don't want to be a chemical engineer. I think I brushed off my own beliefs and feelings for a simpler life, but no more of that. Coffee with Dyana has made me realize that I need to open myself more. I feel as if I hide my true intentions and thoughts - sticking to comments that make me seem idealistic - like I put chains over my head. Lifting the chains one-by-one, my mind has become much clearer and my goals have never been so solidified. 

After coffee, I made my good-byes and went to depart back to California. Truthfully, I was so tired (two hours of sleep) that I slept through most of the trip. Now, I'm back at home feeling grateful for the experience that I received this summer. Can't believe that it's been a month, it felt much longer than that. I've definitely matured. I'm just glad to be at home; it's the start of another journey. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

When the Sun Shines On the Bay

Departure date has finally arrived, and it is time to return home after an amazing experience.  This morning started off with a very unique experience while I was still in bed.  At about seven in the morning a squirrel crawled through my window and into my room where it stayed for about half an hour running around.  I thought that that probably had to be the most bizarre moment of the entire trip due to the complete randomness.  Once I got up I finished packing all of my things and went out into the quad to say our final goodbyes to all of our friends. 

Once at the airport the series of flights began again.  Throughout the flights I took advantage of the time to catch up on some summer reading assignments and managed to finish half the book.  I was surprised at how interesting the book was and plan on finishing it soon.  Once we got back to California we were treated to that cool Bay Area air that we know and love.  I was also treated to my mother and sister who waited at the terminal for me with a welcome home sign.  This made my day even better than going home.  Once in the car we went straight to “In and Out” hamburgers for some quality West Coast food. After that it was straight home for some much needed sleep.  It was tough to leave Penn and all of my friends behind but it is good to be back home.

Saying Goodbye

Today has been bittersweet.

Today was my last official day at UPenn. I woke up at 4 AM in order to say bye to friends. I missed saying bye to some of them, though, because they had flights as early as 2 AM. Our ILC group did not have to leave the dorms until 11 AM, so while we waited for the 11th hour to strike we spent our time outside. Hannah and I sat in the Quad and said goodbye to everyone as they left. Each hour a new group of people left. I did not fully perceived that I might never see some of these people ever again. It is a small world, so I am sure I will be reunited with some, but not all. Once I began to realize that this may be the last time I see some of my new friends, that is when I became really sad.

At 11 AM, I said goodbye to all of my friends who had not left yet, I said goodbye to Haile and the other RC's, and then I was off. Mr. Hillyer, Hannah, Kai, Mike, Jun, and I took the shuttle to the airport and waited until our flight at 3:40 PM. We flew for a few hours and transferred at the Phoenix, Arizona airport. We flew for an hour and a half and finally landed at the San Francisco airport at 9:15 PM. My family was waiting for me at the gate and were very happy to see me. Not seeing me for a month was hard on them. I got my bags from baggage claim, said goodbye to my ILC friends, and drove home.

I cannot believe that I am finally back home. It feels unusual to see my neighborhood streets and not the streets of the UPenn campus. The weather is colder and there is no humidity here. I feel unusual, out of place, and jet lagged; but I am happy to be with my family again.

As I have repeated numerous times this week, I am going to miss everything so much. The people I have met, the class I attended, the campus I lived on, and my experience overall. I miss it all already, but I am so happy that it happened. 

Final Goodbyes

The last day of my experience at UPENN was filled with emotion. I woke up at 4:00 AM to say goodbye to my friends who were leaving at 5:00 AM. We didn't cry because we know we will see each other again. Later on in the day, a lot of tears were shed because some people it will be very hard to see again, especially any time soon. I'm glad a lot of us want to apply to UPENN and I believe everyone that attended Summer Discovery will get in because they were all such amazing and smart people.

I got breakfast at Starbucks and discussed some of our favorite memories with some friends. Around 11:00 AM we left for the airport and said our final goodbyes. It was really sad and I wish I could've stayed in Philadelphia a bit longer. I hope to be back in about a year!

The flight to Phoenix was fine, around five hours. I sat next to Audrey and a man who was also going to San Francisco. I talked to them for the majority of the flight. We ate dinner in the Phoenix airport and then got on the next flight. It was much shorter and we were in SFO before we knew it. It is good to be home, but also sad. I'm looking forward to the rest of my post trip experience with ILC!

Return of the Kai

It is hard to believe that I am home. After spending a month at Penn, home feels different. I certainly missed it. It is wonderful to have a nice bed and a cat. However, I will miss the interesting, intelligent people that I met at Penn. I will miss the wonderful class that has taught me so much. I will not miss the food.

I woke up and relaxed for the morning. I had packed most of my stuff last night, so I had a few hours in the morning to relax. At about 11:00, it was time to leave. I returned my keys. Each step of the way, it struck me that I was leaving. As I packed up, I felt like that was the end. As I walked out the door, I felt like that was the end. I can hardly believe that it has been four weeks. It feels more like one. I loaded up my bags into the shuttle. It was fairly full, but there was enough space. After a long drive, we reached the airport. I bet you can't imagine what happened next: after going through lines and security, we boarded the plane (stunned faces all around. Who would have thought of getting on a plane in the airport?). Between security and the plane, however, was a several hour wait. We were through security by about 12:30, and the plane began boarding around 3:00. 

I felt sad to be leaving. I was looking forward to seeing home, but I already wanted to see the friends I had made. Here at Penn, there is an incredibly high concentration of people that are intelligent and that I would want to be friends with. This really makes me look forward to college. I have no idea how I'll stand to deal with regular school. This has been so amazing.

The flight was long. It was a flight. I sat there. Planes are a remarkable invention, and I am glad that I can sit for hours instead of days. However, I still had to sit for hours. We arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. After a layover of about an hour, we boarded the plane again to California. I saw a bit of lightning from above. I also talked to an electrical engineer about programming. He is also from California. Eventually, I arrived back in the Bay. It was good to see my parents again, but better to see my cat. I am glad that ILC has provided me with this experience.

Spoken Word about Bill Blowing up His Miniature House

After talking about the deep dark chocolate for days, it's time that I actually had a taste. The bitter and resentful taste of getting to the end of the long chocolate road; it's delicious to bite into the chocolate at first, but once it all disappears, you feel like a hole in your heart just opened. I don't want to be cheesy, but this experience really has affected me. I feel "sad" that I won't be able to meet Summer Discovery friends on a regular basis. I feel as if I really fit in here, I was able to bring myself out even more than at home. Bonding with people over the course of four weeks may seem negligible, but after the experiences I've had with my friends, it's difficult to think that we won't be able to see each other for a long time (if at all). However, it has been an enjoyable time and it'll definitely be a memory of a lifetime.

Today, Bill demonstrated physics with his glorious ability as a teacher. Unlike any other regular physics teacher, he goes to the extremes of teaching us the concepts and the implications of it. In class, he did the following experiments: soft drink density, rotational momentum, harmonic motion, resonance, cathode ray, and the explosive lightning rod.

In the soft drink density experiment, he demonstrated the differing densities in Coca Cola, Diet Coca Cola, and Pepsi. When all three are placed in water, the level at which they float differ. Diet floats the most because it has a smaller concentration of "sugar". Pepsi has ~10 Calorie difference than Diet Coke, and so it sinks to the bottom of the container. However, regular Coke is in the middle of these cans because it has just the right amount of sugar. By changing the density of liquid in the container itself, we can change the height of the cans. By adding a galactic amount of salt, the cans floated to the top. This is because of the differences in density that influenced the forces acting on the objects. Because the solution was denser, the cans' relative densities were easier to push up, thus its height raised.

He further expanded on density by showing us a beautiful reaction: acetic acid with calcium carbonate (baking soda and acetic acid). The CO2 gas formed is predicted, but we can't see it. However, we can test to see if it is there. Because the bubbles density is not that much different than a majority of the molecules in air, the CO2 molecules stay relatively in the same area. Bill blew bubbles in the tank and the bubbles stayed in place (wiggled around a bit, representing slow Brownian motion). The best logical reason for this is that the CO2 molecules are pushing the bubbles in all directions, and so it doesn't have a net force acting on it that will make it drop to the bottom of the tank.

 He demonstrated harmonic motion through "miniature bungee-jumping". He sat on a spring and bounced up and down to show us what the motion should look like. It oscillates like a sin wave on a graph. An interesting observation: when a force acts on an object that's moving downward when in harmonic motion, it is pushed up. And vice versa when going upward. Bill's bouncing up and down really demonstrated that concept. Also, he had a accelerometer to show us the changes in force up and down when bouncing. He also broke glass by vibrating waves at the same frequency as the glass itself. It broke and everyone yelled...

After Bill did his final experiment where he showed an invention of Ben Franklin - the lightning rod. It leads the electricity to a ground, thus resulting in no human side-effects to the environment. He later blew up the house by sending a current without the lightning rod. It blew up... Badly. You can find a very good picture in Kai's blog.
Nice picture to a great ending of a wonderful class.

Later that day, I presented my spoken word piece. Apparently, the piece was so fitting for the end of the talent show that they put me at the end - I heard from the coordinator David. I wrote it to be fit for an end to the program, but I didn't expect it to be that good. Although, I was content with it at the end. I was praised a lot more than I expected. The highlight of the day: I entered the room that the talent show was being hosted in, and after fiddling around with my notebook, I heard jazz improvisation on piano by Sam and Dan. After nonchalantly listening, an impulsive thought went over my head: "My spoken word would work well with this improv". Then, being a spontaneous person, I asked Sam and Dan to help me out with my performance by playing jazz piano in the background. I went to the stage - at first feeling anxious - but after hearing the chords flying down, I let the rush hit me and I started my poem. I'm surprised at how cohesive the performance was, since it was the first time we went through it, and we received much applause for it. Wish I wrote more, the experience would have lasted longer. Anyways, thanks a lot Sam and Dan for your generous support. The piece was about not crying over the end of the program but use it as inspiration to leap towards your dreams. I wanted to do a piece much more controversial but after the applause and reaction I received afterwards, I'm glad that I performed that piece. Link here for the piece. Although, reading it decreases its value, I feel as if the piece was meant to be spoken. The manner I did it was very good from what I from Molly. Most high-school poetry revolves around emphasis on rhymes, but the style I did it made it much more whole. I'm trying to find a video of me performing, and when I do, I'll be sure to put it in my reflection. Also, I need to make a smaller video of Bill's house blowing up, it's too big. 

After the talent show, I went karaoking (dear lord) and I had a chat with David about college. He gave me an extraordinary amount of information about college besides the educational aspect. I'll talk more about that later as it's very late right now. I hung out with all my friends until 1:00 AM. Can't wait for the next blog! 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Going Out With A Bang

The final day here at the Penn Summer Physics Academy had arrived and what an adventure it was.  The day started off with our radio telescope group presentation.  The presentation went along fairly well overall, except for some unknown reason two of my slides on the PowerPoint were mysteriously deleted.  This caused me to have little to nothing to say during the presentation, which made me look like I didn't know what I was doing, which I did not appreciate.  Despite this error, the rest of the presentation went along smoothly.

After the presentation, Professor Berner began his demo show.  This was a large variety of different demonstrations loosely based on the material that we covered in the course.   We did lots of things, from shooting childhood favorites in the head with ball bearings, to hanging Mr. Berner on the ceiling, to blowing up a house.  Before you ask, the answer is yes we did do all of these things.  All of them were by far some of the best demonstrations that I have ever seen. 

During the shooting of the childhood favorite Barney, we stuck Barney to the bottom of a piece of metal with a magnet on it.  While this was being set up, a long barrel with a copper wire at the end was being sighted just above Barney’s head.   When the ball left the barrel it hit the copper wire causing the magnets holding Barney to release and during his fall he was shot in the head with the ball.  I thought that this was a clever example of how military snipers perform their work.

After that, we hung Mr. Berner.  Well technically he hanged himself using a giant spring attached to the ceiling.  He was actually sitting on top of a large metallic platform but he did in fact perform this without any safety harness.  The demonstration was to show an example of acceleration of an object moving up and down while on spring.

My personal favorite demo came after the acceleration demonstration.  It was a proof of concept on lighting rods and how they channel electricity through a metal instead of your house.   The demo involved a small wooden house that was held together with magnets with a spark plug inside and a detachable lightning rod on the roof.  To make things interesting Mr. Berner put some chemical into the house that was supposed to produce a very explosive gas.  With the lightning rod in place, the electricity went through the metal and not the house causing no reaction.  However, when the lightning rod was removed and we applied an electrical current, this happened.


Now you can see why this was my favorite demonstration of the day.  So the moral of the story here is to not have explosive gas in your house during a lightning storm of your house isn't grounded.

Start of the Blast
The Fireball

After everything was over, we all got special DVD disks with a photo montage of everything that happened over the summer.  It was a good keepsake which might be helpful to the next group of ILCers who want to know what physics at Penn is all about.  We were also given certificates for the program along with contact information for Professor Berner.  I plan on staying in touch with all of my instructors because they’re too good of teachers to just forget. 

When all of the goodbyes were over and we left the David Rittenhouse Lab we were all sad to leave but happy at the same time that we had been a part of such a special program.  A very special thanks is needed for all of the instructors and volunteers.  Bill Berner, is perhaps the most interesting and humorous physics teacher that I have ever seen, which made the class much more memorable and enjoyable.  I can guarantee that none of the other academies here had as much fun as physics did.  While others were sitting in boring lectures or having serious discussions, we were all having fun even if we were discussing wave particle duality or quantum mechanics.  This was all because we had the best staff that could ever be assembled together under one roof.

Although many people say their goodbyes to one another tonight, I still don’t feel the sadness that goes along with prolonged goodbyes. Tomorrow morning is probably when it will set in the most though. But for tonight, I spent my time with my friends playing wacky games and enjoying our last night together.  Even at the most prestigious universities, I doubt that there could ever be a larger collection of nerdy smart people all together at the same time.  If only every university could have such a large portion of super nerds in it instead of the having people who don’t care about success or their future.   Tomorrow we will depart and it will be off back home.  I want to get back to my city by the bay and remember what  the definition of sleep is again.

Day 19: The End

Today was my last Friday, and my last day, in the Social Justice Research Academy. 

We only had class from 9 AM to 12 PM today. During class we all sat in a group circle and answered questions we had about the class and the subjects that had been brought up throughout all of our class sessions. We talked in the group circle and time flew by. By the time it was 12, everyone was beginning to get emotional. When class was officially over at 12, everyone cried, hugged, and said their goodbyes. I did not actually get out of the classroom until 1:30 PM. 

A lot of us wanted to get lunch together, so we met on a part of campus to eat together. We ran into Julia and Nicole, so they ate with us too. We ate, played Julia's instruments, and reminisced. Slowly everyone began to leave and I did not get back to my dorm room until around 3:30 PM. It was very emotional saying goodbye to everyone, and there were a lot of tears. I am going to miss taking this class so much. I am going to miss my professors and my classmates. This class has changed my life and these people have changed my life. They have become real friends to me, and I hope that we all keep in contact with each other. 

I have packed all of my stuff except for my computer, and leaving is now a reality. When I first came here, I knew that this day would someday come; and I have had the thought in the back of my mind throughout this month. Now that it is here, I am sad. Today is the last full day I will be here with all of my new friends. Even though I am sad and I am going to miss everyone so much, I am so happy that I have had this experience.

We had the Summer Discovery Talent Show at 6 PM, which was very entertaining. Everyone who performed were very talented people. There were a lot of spoken word poets, Jun being one of them, and musicians. After the Talent Show, some people went to Karaoke, but I chose to hang out with friends and new people I had not gotten to know very well. Even though this was a night of goodbyes, it was still fun. I enjoyed everyone I got to know, and I am just glad that I did get to know them at all.  

In class we had to say one word about the class; I said beginnings. We are beginning to become life long learners; beginning to become critical thinkers; beginning to create social change; and beginning to seek out the truth. This experience, in and out of class, has created the beginnings of a new me. 

What an amazing class and what an amazing experience. 

Explosive Ending

The main thing today was Bill's demo show. First however, the radio telescope group presented. It only took about 20 minutes. It was interesting to see their apparatus. After that, the demo show began! It had numerous demonstrations that Bill brought out. He explained how each one worked.

  • Density. Cans of Coke, Diet Coke, and Pepsi were dropped in some water. The diet floated, the regular Coke was in the middle, and the Pepsi sank. Bill told us about the differences in them. He then added salt so that they all floated. He then took out a hot-rodded 4 slot toaster. It was hot-rodded in that the bottom bit was removed. He used this to create a hot air trash bag. After this, he mixed vinegar and baking soda in a large terrarium. He then blew bubbles. The bubbles floated around in the carbon dioxide.
  • Rotational momentum. He showed us about how a loop the loop works with one he made himself. He brought out some gyroscope, then demonstrated with them and told us about how they worked. I never really truly understood them before.
  • Shooting Barney. Barney is hanging from something. When a blowgun is fired at him, he drops. When the gun is pointed at Barney, it hits him successfully. This is because the projectile and Barney fall at the same rate.
  • Spring. A 200 pound garage door spring with a seat was attached to the ceiling. (The rigging was well done in my opinion). Bill then climbed a ladder and sat on the seat, so that he bounced up and down. He held a distance sensor and an accelerometer, so that it made a graph. Remember, the difference between fun and science
  • Resonance. First off, Bill took two 440hz (A) tuning forks. He rang one of them, and then the other would start vibrating as well. He then put a tiny bit of mass on one, via two rubber bands, and it no longer worked. He then showed us the Tacoma Narrows Bridge video (a science class is icomplete if it does not contain this video. This even applies to biology). He then took a wineglass, and put it in a box with a speaker next to it. Inside the wineglass was a pingpong ball. He adjusted the frequency of the speaker until the ball bounced around the most.  He took the ball out. He then turned up the volume until it shattered.
  • Cathode ray. There was a sphere filled with helium, with a beam of electrons in it. Using magnets, Bill showed us how it changed.
  • Lightning rod. As a finale, Bill gave us an example of lightning rods. A chamber was filled with acetylene, which is explosive. If the lightning rod didn't work, a few things would cause the acetylene to ignite and explode. Using what I think was a cattle prod, Bill zapped it. The lightning rod did work. To make sure that the setup worked, Bill did it without the lightning rod. It was exciting. 
After the demo show, we had a quick break. We had to fill out a survey. Then, it was time for closing ceremonies. We each cot Bill's business card, a certificate saying we had completed the class, a medal showing we had found the speed of light, and a cd with various slideshows, pictures, and materials on it. Two students also got No-Bell prizes, or Liberty Bells with the bell taken out, so it was just the frame. Everybody thanked everybody else. Class had ended.

I went to see ENIAC, one of the first computers, before lunch. It was interesting conceptually, though it didn't look that exciting. I then had lunch. I relaxed with my friends for several more hours. I helped one learn a bit more about coding in Unity. It was a nice way to spend my free time. I then went to dinner with a friend. I was back in time to sign in and go to the talent show. I relaxed with friends for the rest of the evening.