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Jakarta student shares stories from Summer Science Program in US

  • Wening Gitomartoyo
    Wening Gitomartoyo

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sun, September 16, 2018 | 10:07 am
Jakarta student shares stories from Summer Science Program in US Della Nathania participated in the Summer Science Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder starting in June. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)

Della Nathania, a student at Singapore Intercultural School in South Jakarta, participated in the Summer Science Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, United States, starting in late June.

For over 39 days and with 35 fellow high school students from countries around the world that include Pakistan, Uruguay and the United Kingdom, Della conducted research in astrophysics and had the chance to operate a research-grade telescope to take images of a near-earth asteroid. With her team, consisting of three students, they then calculated its orbital path and chance of impacting Earth in the future.

The program's project requires participants to take images of a near-earth asteroid and calculate its orbital path.The program's project requires participants to take images of a near-earth asteroid and calculate its orbital path. (JP/Della Nathania)

The program, founded in 1959, is an independent non-profit and operates in cooperation with host campuses at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Purdue University, as well as affiliates at the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvey Mudd College. It offers experimental science research in astrophysics and biochemistry; and topics in astrophysics typically include astronomy, physics, mathematics and scientific programming.

Having received a full scholarship for the program, Della said what prompted her to enroll was her curiosity of working in science. “I have always been fond of science and math, but I didn’t know what it was like to actually work in the field. I was also interested in science research,” she said.

The program was filled with daily activities. Lectures went from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., while homework was done between 4 p.m. and 12 p.m., excluding dinner time. There was also the opportunity to learn from guest lecturers who came from various backgrounds and are respected in their fields, such as Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the US National Space Council. 

Della said she found the first week to be rather tough, as lessons were highly difficult and feelings of being homesick often came up. By the second week, she started to feel adjusted and bonded with a close-knit group of eight like-minded individuals in the program.

2018 Summer Science Program participants2018 Summer Science Program participants (JP/Della Nathania)

Aside from studying, the students had the chance to go hiking and on field trips to places like the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver. 

After 39 days, Della said the program made her feel certain about pursuing a degree in science. “Learning and applying science in real life is very different from studying in class. It convinced me of which path I want to take and what I want to be in life,” she said. 

The program also opened her eyes to the reality that women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). “I wish women could be more active in the science world. In elementary school, I remember how a lot of my female friends were interested in science. But in movies and television shows, we saw that most scientists were male, and it made them think that perhaps women didn’t belong in science,” said Della.

“I never felt that way and I continued to like science. But I still think there should be more representation of women in science, both in movies and in the media,” she said, adding that a guest lecturer in one of the program's panel discussions stated that women were underestimated in the world of science.

Della also discussed the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). “Most students find their interest for science during school, and a program like the one I recently participated in helped immensely. I hope LIPI would be interested in starting an internship or summer program for high school students, as this is a critical moment for us to find out what we want to aspire toward in life,” she said. 

The Summer Science Program boasts the tagline “The Educational Experience of a Lifetime”, and Della said that, at first, it didn’t really speak to her. But nearing the end of the program, she realized that she would never find a greater opportunity and she found the tagline to be very true. 

“I said to my friend, ‘This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done’,” she said, strongly recommending the program to fellow high students. “This was a lifetime opportunity and it was so special, what with the program and how I met like-minded people that I would have never had the chance to meet without [the program]. I still miss my friends I met there.”

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