Some Like it Hot! -Erika Cote

b2When I first started the Sundial program, I was nervous and felt wildly unprepared for all that college had to offer. My mother had bought me pretty much everything I needed to live on my own, but that still didn’t make me feel ready. When the day came for me to move to the dorms, I was excited, nervous, and terrified all at the same time. For me, it was like the first day of kindergarten and I didn’t want to let go of my parents’ hands. I was afraid that I was going to freeze up once my parents left, but everyone was super friendly and welcoming from the get-go. Now that it is coming to a close, I realize how lucky I was to be able to participate in this program, and meet all of the wonderful people that shared this experience with me. These past two weeks I have learned so much, met so many people, and now I’m ready to start college as a Biophysics major.

The amount of information I was bombarded with these couple of weeks was staggering in itself. It wasn’t hard or frustrating during class, but during lunches and in the afternoons we got the opportunity to talk to professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and see different research labs. I never missed an opportunity to ask the professors a million questions about their research, and due to that I have learned more than I could have ever dreamed about just by having lunch with them. We talked about astrobiology and the origin of life and the real definition of a living thing, particle theory and string theory and how they differ and the missing link that connects them, and what magma is and how it is formed inside the earth. I also had the chance to learn about the conductivity and usefulness of graphene and how it is grown and tested in labs, what scanning electron microscopes do and how we can take pictures of atoms, what rocket scientists ACTUALLY do, and the creation of a non-carcinogenic metal primer. Another professor told us all about the space explorations to Mars like the space mission in the year 2020 that will go to collect rocks on Mars. Followed by the next mission to pick up the rocks and send them into orbit. Which then requires another mission to go get the rocks. Space is crazy, all that work to get some space rocks. I thought it was fascinating, and I’m so lucky to have gotten the chance to speak with these captivating people.

So already in this program I feel like I learned more in a week than in my entire senior year of highschool, but we also got to visit labs of other professors and get a sneak peek on their research. We actually got to see the graphene lab and the 42 ft machine needed to inspect the samples. Along with that, we saw a geology lab that tested different types of materials and inspected their contents. One of the coolest labs we saw was a particle accelerator lab that shot helium ions at other atoms to see what they looked like. Not all the labs were experimental, either. One was a computer programming biophysics lab that studied the transport proteins in the cell membrane. I am not technologically inclined, so seeing them write lines of binary code was mind boggling. We heard about a lot of undergraduate research and how they became involved in these labs. At ASU alone, there are so many labs that accept undergraduate assistants that I’m looking forward to the opportunities in my future four years.

During our classes in the day, I learned a lot of things about optics, lenses, and mirrors that I didn’t ever know before. Every day we had new experiments that taught us something new about how light travels. Both our physics and math facilitators were students, so they had lots of cool information to share with us just about being a student at ASU. And yes, in this program we actually had math that was relevant to the rest of the world. I thought it was cool how the things we learned in both classes related to each other and by understanding one aspect helped you understand its counterpart. For our final project we had to build a microscope, and I can’t even describe how much fun it was to put 7 lenses together to see how much we could magnify our image. We found out why sometimes the images get flipped upside down and why sometimes they don’t. And I thought it was pretty neat to say that I built a microscope (even if it wasn’t quite like the real ones). The classes also taught me a ton of things that highschool (and even life) hadn’t taught me up to now.

Probably one of the best parts was getting to meet a bunch of brand new people. Having lived in Arizona most of my life, getting to befriend people from all different states was such a blast! Every night we had a big social event and I loved every one of them! The first day we went on a scavenger hunt that ended up on the roof to go stargazing. My team came in dead last, but it was a great opportunity to learn about the campus and we had fun playing all of the games. The next night we played an intense game of humans v. zombies (again my team lost miserably but it was a lot of fun to do). Over the next week we saw the coolest video of the universe, learned how to tango, and went bowling under the Memorial Union. We even had a game night with Cards Against Humanity and Super Smash Bros (I’m still waiting for my rematch). One day we went out to the pool at the SDFC and played battle boats. Even with the sunburn it was one of the best times I had. And those were only the ones that Sundial planned for us. We made our own fun times as well. Practically all of us explored Mill Ave, went to the movies, and got a huge group to invade Buffalo Wild Wings. It was a great experience to make all of these friends right at the start.

Our big Saturday trip was to the Challenger Space Center, and we got to fly to the moon. It was such a cool place to be, and we found foam building blocks and had contests to see who could make the tallest tower, or best castle, or most accurate catapult. Our “mission to the moon” was tons of fun and we spent most of it laughing.

There was so many great moments during these few weeks that it’s hard to pick my favorite. I am so glad I got a chance to be in this program, and I would like to thank Dr. Anna Zaniewski and her team for putting it together and doing such a wonderful job with this program. I have learned so much and it has been a blast to be part of it all.