Read about our grade 12 student Manolya's experience at Harvard Summer School and her decision to pursue Astrophysics post-graduation.
Manolya Yatman was selected to attend Harvard Summer School among 9,000 applicants when she completed Grade 11, in the summer of 2021.
Harvard Summer School is an academically rigorous, challenging and, rewarding experience for high school students, offering credit towards their college degree.
How was your experience at the Harvard Summer School course?
Our classes were virtual, and we attended them through zoom, much like we have been doing at Keystone during the quarantine. The course was in the form of a lecture just like it would be if you were to attend the class in college, and even though we weren't there in person, we had many chances to interact with the other students and the lecturers and staff through breakout rooms and chats. We were also highly encouraged to ask questions and make educated guesses regardless of what we know, which made me less hesitant to speak up in class and created a comfortable environment where we could all collaborate. We had 3-6 hours of homework every day where we had to work on challenging material. Still, we were repeatedly encouraged to join the office hours offered by the teaching assistant and work together with our classmates to solve problems. For our final project, we worked in groups to write a scientific paper about a topic of our choice concerning the material we covered throughout the Astrophysics course. My group and I decided to work on the formation and properties of PSR J0740+6620: the millisecond pulsar with the most enormous known mass. Not only did we have access to Harvard's library, but we also could obtain resources from other sources. Our final project allowed us to learn from our research, work in teams, and learn from others' projects through the final presentations. My experience at Harvard Summer School was a great privilege, and I'm incredibly grateful to my school for always motivating me to take my education further.
Why did you choose the astrophysics field?
Every year, my family and I would travel to our beach-house at the end of the school semester. One summer, we decided to go earlier when none of the other residents had arrived for vacation yet. That night, I went up to our roof and saw countless stars illuminating the night's sky. Since I live in a very populated city, it's almost impossible to notice the stars, but that night, it felt like I saw stars for the first in my life. I could catch the patterns of the constellations, and it felt magical. After that vacation, I asked my parents for a telescope as my birthday gift, but I couldn't see as much of the sky as I wanted using that. However, my feelings from that night never faltered, and I went to visit planetariums to relive that moment. My trips allowed me to learn more about space than I could have hoped for, even if they were not real. Throughout the years, my interest continued to grow. For an English assignment at school, our teacher had asked us to work on a podcast about any topic we wanted as long as it was educational. Browsing through the podcasts, I came across "Astronomy 161", a podcast of recorded autonomy lectures by a professor at Ohio State University. Listening to the podcast brought me back to that moment on the rooftop and made me wonder about the countless things about space. After my English project was over, I continued listening to the lectures and finally decided to further my knowledge by signing up for an actual course. That was when I applied for Harvard Summer School and registered for "Intro to Astrophysics," which encompassed my love for Astronomy and math and physics.
What important life lessons did you learn from your experience?
One insight I learned that I can say has definitely changed my view on how I see things was learning about impostor syndrome, which refers to the feeling of distrust in your own abilities. After I got accepted to Harvard's summer course, instead of being proud of this achievement, my first instinct was to make excuses for how I was there by mere "coincidence" and that they probably did not have many competitive applicants. Joining my lessons, I saw many students who I felt were more capable than I, making me feel out of place. However, after a seminar/workshop where we learned about class participation and impostor syndrome, one important quote I remember from the lecturer was that several hundred of us were chosen out of thousands of applicants for the Harvard Summer School because we are meant to be there. Nobody here is inferior compared to the others, and that we got here thanks to our hard work, diligence, and achievements.
What was the impact of Keystone on your development?
I've been studying in Keystone for most of my life, which is why my school has had a huge impact on my interest: especially my passion for science. The courses at our school both prepared me for university-level education and culminated my interest in the sciences. The Astrophysics course I attended at Harvard Summer School was university level, which was, of course, difficult for a high school junior. However, the classes would have been much harder to comprehend without the basis of work that I had learned from Keystone. Thanks to my rigorous science courses and the high level of math we learned at school, I barely ever faced difficulties grasping university-level astrophysics. Being able to comprehend scientific articles which are not written in my mother language is all thanks to the level of English education that I got from Keystone throughout the nine years that I've been studying here. I would definitely encourage other high school students to enroll in college classes that interest them during the summer to prepare you for the experience you will have in university and to figure out what really interests you earlier on before you have to make a decision when you get to college
What have you been up to?
Thanks to the diverse environment at my school, I’ve come to love exploring different cultures and traveling to various countries. Lately, I’ve taken an interest in East Asia, trying their foods and consuming their media through books, comics, and movies; I tried Thai food with my family, made sushi with my friends, and discovered Chinese animation throughout my time during the pandemic. Outside of school, some of my favorite interests are art and literature. Despite being mostly immersed in science within my academic life, I enjoy reading, drawing, and visiting museums and galleries in my free time. I love both sciences and humanities, I hope to study at a university where I can pursue both my passion for science and my love for humanities.