I remember the day I took my first astronomy class in college at the age of thirteen. As I walked into class, I was scared and felt like I was too young to be in college. But it was my interest in astronomy that brought me to college, as there weren’t any astronomy classes offered elsewhere. Little did I know that my first class in college would impact my whole life from that point on. Ever since taking the class with Professor Fouts, I have decided to become an astrophysicist.
But I had been in love with astronomy even before going to college. When I was young, our family traveled to the NASA center in Texas. I remember seeing the large rockets and exploring them. That night I had a dream that I was flying through space in the rocket. After I woke up, I remembered the feeling I had in the dream, and from then on, I wanted to be an astronaut. But since then, I have been to many other astronomy or physics related events, and gradually my interest shifted towards astrophysics. I have been going to the UCLA planetarium for public lectures, which they offer once a week. I was captivated by their lectures, and one of the most interesting ones was about whether there was once life on Mars and how we are looking for it. And after learning about exoplanets, I wanted to look for other Earth-like planets around other stars and possibly discover intelligent life. I have also gone to the annual open house at JPL. They have many interesting exhibitions, such as a machine shop, which interested me so much that I could see myself working at JPL on designing a mission to a distant planet. Since visiting JPL and Caltech I have decided that it was the place for me; Caltech offers many interesting classes on a high level, and gives me the opportunity to work at JPL.
Before going to college, I was interested mostly in astronomy and robotics, and my interest in physics developed later, when I took a class on electromagnetism with Professor Afrasiabi. He was very enthusiastic about the subject and never brought notes to class, showing how much he knew his field. He was very passionate about his subject, and he managed to get all of his students interested, and gave out extra credit for making electrical circuits, such as a motor. It was exhilarating to watch experiments that I built myself that support the theory we learned in class. It further interested me in physics, and influenced me to minor in electrical engineering and building robots. I ended up in the top rank for the class.
Apart from being focused on just astronomy and physics, I developed other interests at CTY (Center for Talented Youth). I have been going there for eight years, and every year I learn something new which I didn’t know before. When I was in elementary school I was in the top 1 percent and I was invited by the Johns Hopkins University to take their test, the SCAT to participate in the Center for Talented Youth (CTY). I took the test and got into their program... Later, when I retook the test for 5th and 6th graders, I got a certificate of proficiency. Most programs involve things that normally aren’t taught in schools, or are interesting applications of things we learn. In 2010, I took a Cryptology class, and became interested in using different approaches for cracking ciphers. Later, I won a scholarship for my powerpoint presentation on Math in Cryptology, in which I explained how a few ciphers work and how to crack them, using mathematical approaches. CTY didn’t just teach me academically; it helped me develop social skills and meet like-minded people who I still contact, even after two years. When I first went to the LMU campus I was scared that I wouldn't be able to interact with other students, but I later realized that they have similar experiences to mine, and I got over my shyness. Also at CTY I learned to use a staff, a type of martial arts weapon. To this day I practice along with my friend and teacher.
In the CAMPARE program, I want to do research on things that interest me, such as looking for exoplanets, building robots, finding out about black holes, and looking for leftover cosmic background radiation from the big bang. I want to be able to apply my previous knowledge and learn new things about our solar system and the universe, and even make a discovery.