A Mind Now Open, Looking on New Possibilities

By Jeremy Vinluan on September 18, 2013
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My senior research project is one thing from my high school experience that I wish I could do all over again. It was one of a few optional ways to complete a required senior project in my school’s gifted program, the Mathematics & Science Academy, and, looking back on it, I know it should’ve turned out differently.

I was given my whole senior year to work on my senior research project, from Spring 2007 to early Spring 2008. I felt that this given time was not enough time to do my senior research project, which focused on using gaseous carbon dioxide as a potential energy on Mars. Not the same carbon dioxide we breathe out on Earth, which has a very low-density carbon dioxide, but more like the Martian atmosphere, which is heavily filled with high-density carbon dioxide.

(Yep, I was into science back then. Right now, I am majoring in journalism. I am still interested in science, especially in Mars. More on that in a moment.)

I realize now, of course, that I should have asked for more time to complete my senior research project. I also know now that I could have started the project when I was a sophomore or a junior in high school. As much as I enjoyed working on it (something the people I worked with helped greatly, from the college students and professor from Old Dominion University to my physics teacher/lab mentor), I wouldn’t have minded spending more than a year on it. My research project made my high school experience really fun. It made me cherish my time in high school. I cherished my time learning about Mars. I cherished my time working with others and seeking help from teachers. I cherished my time learning in classrooms.

As much time as I spent on all of this, though, I might have let some other things slide while I was doing it. I didn’t know back then that my ambitions would change when I got older. When I was a senior in high school, I planned to be a medical doctor. Then I entered my first year of college and I realized that being a medical doctor is not for everyone. Likewise, I should have known, or at least done more to find out, that there are many things I can do to contribute to our knowledge about Mars.

My high school physics teacher predicted that I would be a journalist, then a medical doctor. I did not listen to his prediction until my second year in college, where I found out that organic chemistry is harder than you’d think, certainly not for everyone.

If you’re reading this you are likely in high school, which means it’s likely that you spend at least some time thinking about what to do after graduation. You may be thinking about working. You may be thinking about serving for the military, performing long-term community service, or going to college or university. My advice, no matter where you are, is to do what I didn’t, really, when I was in high school: Always keep an open mind. You will never know what kinds of opportunities will be there for you, and if you have a closed mind, you might miss them.

Again, I have two more years to go. I am still keeping an open mind, however much I might not have back in high school. Being open-minded got me a four-year job with my university as a student blogger. Being open-minded gave me a chance to change my major from pre-med to journalism after I learned I did not need to be a medical doctor to work for NASA! Who knows, maybe someday I’ll get to work studying Mars, my dream subject, for an independent space agency.

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Jeremy Vinluan

Jeremy Vinluan

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