Sol ’21, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, really wants to know what dark matter is. (She recently spent a week at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics exploring our universe.) Physics, one of her passions, is just one of the many classes she has loved at Commonwealth, and she’s grateful that all, in some way, have taught her to question the world around her.
Read on to learn more about Sol’s senior project, the surprisingly delightful argument she had on her revisit day, and her big plans for a gap year after graduating this spring.
Getting to Know You
What is bringing you joy right now?
I had a lot of time to read on spring break. I'm also playing cello (as my senior project). It's been really nice to just focus on music for a few weeks.
And since the weather has been so nice, I've started going biking with my family a lot more. Something that's really excited me these past weeks is planning my gap year, which will be a long trip with my family. (More on that later... )
What are you doing to recharge?
I’ve just been kicking back. I’m reading, playing music, and hanging with my family and eating good food.
What is your favorite book (or a book you’ve re-read)?
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I have also always liked The Hobbit, which I read when I was young. Oh, and I recently read One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish, and I absolutely loved that one.
What do you think is the most intriguing paradox?
I don't know that many paradoxes but I was thinking earlier today about dark matter and the different theories that have been proposed to explain what it is actually made of. There's a particle called the WIMP [weakly interacting massive particle], which seemed like a strong candidate for dark matter. There was this whole theory that backed it up called supersymmetry, which would explain a lot of other things in particle physics, too. But a few recent experiments have practically disproved it, so we're back to square one. Sad, since it seems that dark matter doesn’t interact with the electromagnetic force or the weak force. It might only interact with gravity, which could mean that we never find out what it actually is… I really want to know what dark matter is.
What are your favorite comfort foods?
The mole that my mother makes—it’s hands-down the best I've ever tasted. My favorite fruit is an apricot. And I love coconuts. Also, cannolis.
What was/is your favorite class (at Commonwealth or elsewhere)?
Not a fair question! I like all my classes. Freshman year my favorite was Geometry with Mr. Letarte. I really loved U.S. History with Ms. Haber and Physics 1 Advanced with Mr. Barsi. This year I’m really loving Reasons for Writing with Ms. Brewster and Reading and Ethics with Mr. Wharton. I've been really liking Mandarin with Ms. Shu as well.
Pen or pencil?
Pencil for homework and pen for notes. I can't have notes that I flip through rub off on me, but for assignments I need to erase and scratch things out.
Life as a Commonwealth Student (and Beyond)
What was your first impression of Commonwealth and how has it mapped to your experience?
My first impression of Commonwealth was that it was very cozy and homey. I remember on my revisit day I got into a brief argument with someone about whether or not 0.333 (repeating) was equal to one-third. The fact that someone was actually having that argument with me, as trivial as it may seem, was exciting, almost liberating.
What has the hybrid experience been like this year?
It’s actually gone really smoothly, all things considered. I’ve been really impressed with the way the school has handled it. I'm really grateful that I get to go in once every other week and see my friends, and I feel like I’ve gotten to know my classmates better.
What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
I play the cello, and am part of an orchestra at NEC Prep. I’m also part of Evil Genius Club and, more recently, We Discuss. And I bike when I can.
How has your Commonwealth experience colored the way you look at the world?
Commonwealth has taught me to question everything. It’s not quite “skepticism,” but just always questioning where things come from, what they mean, what assumptions a particular argument might ask you to make, and where your own opinions or leanings come from.
There’s also the importance of really listening to people. That's something that I think the Commonwealth community does really well.
You mentioned taking a gap year. What do you have planned?
My family and I are going bikepacking in different parts of Europe and Asia. We've always dreamt of traveling around the world for a year. What better time to do it than between high school and college?
I love bikepacking, specifically, because it's less about destinations and more about the road in between. I’m moving a lot slower than in a car, and I have the freedom to improvise and explore, and it gives me the chance to really get to know the places I ride through, and feel more like I’m part of them rather than just observing them. There's no barrier between you and the outside world, so it’s much easier to really soak in your surroundings and live in the moment.
There’s always a degree of uncertainty, and of risk, which is part of the adventure. It’s also a great way to get to meet and talk to people–I think people tend to be very curious when they see our caravan of four loaded with all this gear slowly trekking up hills.
What countries are at the top of your list to see?
Japan, Portugal, France, Norway. And I really hope we can go to Turkey. We’re really interested in Taiwan, Thailand, and Laos as well. There's a possible route between Turkey up to the Czech Republic, going through Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria, and another one from Copenhagen in Denmark down to Barcelona in Spain.
What would be your advice for prospective students considering Commonwealth?
Never hesitate to ask a question, be confident in your own thoughts and opinions, trust your feelings, and if people didn’t hear you the first time, speak up.