I am a high schooler from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. This summer, I'm attending the Simons program, and I will be working in the Laser Teaching Center with Dr. Noé.
I think I was in fourth grade when I discovered that science and math were tools, the means to an end rather than the end itself. I had a really great teacher whose first act was to task us with finding the distance light travels in a year. As this was still a pre-calculator grade, we were given simply a pencil, some sheets of looseleaf paper (a material so new and professional to us that when we said "you can borrow a sheet, we really meant it), and the speed of light in meters per second. Go. It took me weeks to figure out, but when I finally turned my paper in, I found I had been the first to complete the problem. I can still remember the pride I felt then, even though the problem itself seems so easy now. That teacher set us many different challenges throughout that year, from creating a tape dispenser out of a paper cup and a pencil, to learning about pasteurization, to doing long division problems that often took entire pages. Chemistry and Calculus were still a long way off, but in fourth grade I discovered that I had the power to create a solution to a problem-- that, with some paper, tape, and scissors, I could pass notes to my friends under the desks using chutes and slides, and the teacher would never find out (or so I thought). The belief that an answer exists, and I will find it if I look hard enough, if I am clever enough, is something I cultivated that year.
In high school, I furthered my interests in science and math. I took two courses in cryptology and one in number theory over three summers at a really great summer camp. This past year, I took two semester-long courses in neurology and Java as part of the Columbia Science Honors Program. I attended an interesting lecture about carbon nanotubes and grapheme as well. At school I found that I really enjoyed taking Calculus-- I especially liked solving integrals. In addition to science and math, I'm also interested in a bunch of other subjects. I like painting, jewelry making, and reading, and I've been playing the piano and the flute for many years. I also enjoy origami, and I am currently at about 2,600 paper cranes. I like studying history and languages as well, and first on my list to learn are Russian and Morse code.
This year, I wanted to do research in some area of science in order to see what such an experience would be like. I enrolled myself in the Science Research class offered in my high school, and spent my time reading various papers that piqued my interest. I soon found myself reading a myriad of papers: adhesion on the feet of geckos, why the Hemisphaerota cyanea beetle (which is, by the way, the most adorable bug I've ever seen in my life) can use its tarsi to stick to whatever surface it is on and thus resist predators trying to carry it away, how to make more accurate computer language translators, chaos theory in traffic, and the list goes on and on. I discovered a field called Computational Linguistics that was really interesting, and I read a lot of papers about how to analyze languages and speech. It was then that I decided to apply for the Simons program, and I was very excited when I was accepted! This summer, I hope to learn a lot about optics and how to conduct research. I'm sure it will be lots of fun!