“Pioneer showed me how to use the tools that I have and apply them to topics that I’m interested in.”
Pioneer Scholar Ezgi, from Istanbul, Turkey, reached for the stars when she applied for her Pioneer Research Program. What she found was new interests, a new direction, and a new appreciation for her own capabilities.
Ezgi already had a long-term interest in astronomy when she heard about Pioneer from fellow students. She says that Pioneer Academics is well-known at her high school, Robert College in Istanbul, and several of her friends had participated and found the program to be excellent. She hoped that Pioneer would give her an opportunity to do independent research of a kind that was not possible in her high school.
Ezgi’s Pioneer Research Program in the research area of Physics began with an introduction to mathematical computing. It is a field that was new to her, and that proved to be a life-changing discovery. Equipped with her new expertise, she was able to combine her life-long interest in astronomy with her new mathematical skills, particularly using MATLAB, to do original research in improving astronomical images through the use of computer technology.
In the process of doing her research, Ezgi made several important discoveries that helped her to grow in self-confidence. She had been dubious about the potential for doing online research in her field, but found that with just a computer and the internet, from her home in Istanbul she could “produce something that is tangible.”
She discovered that she was part of an international community. At first she was hesitant to ask established astronomers from around the world to share their images with a high school student. However, once she worked up her courage to ask, she found they were happy to help her to further her research. Her international cohort of peers were also helpful with their thoughtful comments on her paper, and an inspiration as she participated in their progress on their own programs.
Ezgi also learned how to find resources and write codes for her “uncommon” topic. There were limited resources available, but when she hit dead ends, her professor helped show her ways forward.
Organizing her paper was also a challenge. She found that to make an outline, she needed to plan ahead carefully, deciding in advance what she would need to include in the finished paper. And she gained a new appreciation of the reason for academic integrity “After I wrote my paper, I found it was something I valued so much that I would feel very sad if I found it someplace with my name not written under it.”
Perhaps most important, Pioneer helped Ezgi determine an entirely new direction for her life. Although she still loves astronomy, at Tufts University School of Engineering she will focus on mechanical engineering and computer science, and perhaps eventually will again reach for the stars through the study of aerospace engineering.