Lily: Science Enthusiast, Ballerina, and Conrad Spirit of Innovation Team Leader

Lily is a student from the United States who attended SSI. Lily is interested in various fields of science and research, and she is currently particularly interested in environmental science. Through SSI, Lily learned about the linguistics olympiad and mathematics competitions, and since then, she has been preparing for both. At the end of the summer, Lily formed a team of SSI students to participate in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge, and together, they are designing a desalination system to be implemented for the Dead Sea by using locally mined rocks and minerals to create thermal cells and molten salt batteries. In this interview, you can learn about Lily's experiences over the summer, her changing perspectives on science research, and her desalination project for the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge.

How did you first become interested in science? 

Last summer, I participated in a one-week program called TechTrack. The program is designed to encourage girls to get into STEM, and it introduced me to a lot of really interesting topics. I pretty much took daily classes and workshops on various topics, and we also did really crazy challenges where we had to problem solve and build things. After that, I began to see science as really innovative and exciting, instead of just as solving formulas and taking notes. Currently, I’m really interested in environmental science, but I’m choosing to not set my mind on a specific field yet because I’m interested in so many different fields and want to explore more subjects first before narrowing in on one. 

What extracurricular activities are you involved in, and what do you enjoy doing outside of school? 

Right now, I’m in a program called Honors Mentor Connection. I’ve been having one-on-one calls with a teacher who has been helping me learn more about environmental science, and we’ve been diving deeper into major topics and brainstorm solutions to potential problems. I also tutor students in math, reading, and science. 

Through SSI, I learned about math competitions. I’m actually starting an extra math class meant to prepare for different math competitions soon, and I’m starting to prepare for the linguistics olympiad, which I also learned about through SSI. Besides, I’m taking a mandarin class at a community college. At school, I’m involved with Green Scene (the environmental club), French club, Gardening club, and Science club. I’m also involved with Bring Change to Mind, an organization promoting mental health awareness. 

Outside of school, I really enjoy dancing in my free time, and I specifically enjoy ballet. I take a class every day, and I’m currently getting ready for our virtual nutcracker this year. 

What was your favorite memory from the summer? 

My favorite memory would probably have to be the night after the first day. I was really mind blown. During Opening Convocation, all the instructors and staff kept emphasizing how hard everyone was going to work over the summer. The first day was the hardest I’ve ever had to work, and I really couldn't wait to do it again the next day. Also, the fact that the faculty was extremely excited about science made me really happy. At my old school that I went to last year, nobody really cared about science. SSI was definitely a big change, and I was really excited to learn more about science. 

Also, for the first few weeks of SSI, I was really interested in phytoplankton. I thought I could do a project on their carbon intake and photosynthesis. There was a Masterclass that talked about phytoplankton, and I was really excited for it. I took so many pages of notes on it. 

How did your view on science or research change throughout the summer? 

Before SSI, in my mind, science research looked like a bunch of geniuses mixing liquids in test tubes and making things explode. SSI really opened my eyes to the truth about the science world and showed me that science research is possible for me, even as a high school student. SSI showed me that science research isn’t reserved for prodigies or really old people. I saw a whole other world of young science nerds like me. Also, I learned about olympiads and science fairs and how young people are innovating and creating solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. SSI really made me want this to be my reality. 

What have you been up to after SSI? Are there any projects you’ve been working on recently that you would like to share? 

Recently, I’ve been competing in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge where teams plan and create a solution to a major issue in the world. I actually found my team through the SSI alumni community. My team is designing a desalination system to be implemented for the Dead Sea by using locally mined rocks and minerals to create thermal cells. We would also like to use the salt to power local communities through molten salt batteries, and eventually, the goal is for the system to rely on itself. 

How has SSI influenced your plans for the future? 

SSI made me rethink so many things. For example, SSI taught me that summers can be extremely beneficial and productive if you use them. Before, I wanted to use my summers to take a break from school and just hang out with my friends and relax. Of course, I’ll still find time to relax and take breaks, but now, I want to apply for research programs, volunteering trips, summer college experiences, and things that would help me further my education.

What are your long-term career goals, and where do you see yourself in 15-20 years? 

As of now, I see myself working in a research lab in Europe in 15 to 20 years. I want to go to college and get my Master’s and then continue conducting research. The reason I want to continue research is because I want to experience the exciting part of science. Other careers, like teaching, are exciting to me too, but I just really want to innovate through research.