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Rittman Scholarship recipient
Cathie Tsz Yan So ‘11

What years were you at HKIS?

I entered HKIS in August 2008, after the shortest summer holiday in my life, since local schools do not start until September. I left my previous school after Form 3. Form 4 is the critical point in the previous local education system for students to make the decision of going into science or art stream. I was already determined to go into science at that time. And I planned the same when I chose my courses at HKIS.
 

Where did you go to school before you went to HKIS?

I went to Ying Wa Girls’ School at Mid-Levels. I was a member of the basketball and mathematics team there.
 

What were your favorite classes?

I was particularly interested in mathematics and physics. And in fact, those are my two majors in university now. Many Hong Kong people think that sciences and mathematics are not as strong in international schools as in local schools. But actually that is not the case. HKIS prepared me for university education just as local school did, or even better. It is the type of learning that matters, not the syllabus or whatsoever. I learned high-level mathematics interactively at HKIS, which I am sure I could not have gone through the same elsewhere. The physics lab/classroom was my favorite place at school in my senior year. In particular, my favorite “favorite class” would be AP Physics C.

Did you have any favorite teachers?

I would say Ms. Janet Tan and Dr. Patrick Diehl would be on the top of my list. I have had personal conversations with both of them and they know me very well, both inside and outside of classroom.

In the process of going through my college application essays, Ms. Tan often gave me a lot of useful comments, as well as great personal advice for life in general. She read all my essays, and probably knows me just as well as I know myself. Apart from the essays, we also discussed things happening on campus and our personal views on those. I felt relaxed and carefree after every time that I chatted with Ms. Tan.

Dr. Diehl is my idol. He is the best teacher ever. He is caring and funny. I enjoyed his physics classes a lot and his classes were definitely led me to pursue further studies in this subject. In fact, I still keep the copies of Physics Today he gave me every month during senior year.


What activities were you involved in at HKIS?

In my sophomore year, I represented HKIS at the 2009 South East Asian Mathematics Competition in Thailand. It was a great experience.

In my junior year, I was the senate treasurer, which enabled me to experience formal meetings and engage in serving the student body.

In my senior year, I wanted to continue my service with the student government, so I applied for the position of community representative and continued to organize activities for our peers.


How did you find out about the Rittman Scholarship?

I joined the Mathematics Leadership Program organized by HKIS in the summer of 2008. I had no idea about this scholarship in the beginning. Weeks after the program, I was contacted by the office to ask whether I would be interested in interviewing for the scholarship or just visiting the HKIS high school campus. After I attended the interview, I was attracted by the terms of the scholarship and I also fell in love with the campus. I chose to come to HKIS without a second thought after I knew I was accepted.



Do you think the Rittman Scholarship has changed your life?

Definitely. One of the biggest impacts would be the yearly interim experiences. Without the support of the Rittman Scholarship, I would not be able to go on service trips that enriched my life experiences so much. I have built relationships with the service recipients there and they have inspired me to continue my community engagement even in university. The service culture at HKIS gave me the vision that I was capable of helping more people than I ever imagined.

How do you think HKIS has influenced your life?

Before I went to HKIS, I often felt very stressed and sick at times of examinations, etc. I would not say there was totally no stress at HKIS, but there were more things to focus on instead of just academics. The learning styles here fitted me more and have allowed my interests to flourish and grow. HKIS built up my confidence in communicating with people I am not familiar with, as my English has since been well trained and there were a lot of opportunities to meet different groups at school.


Where do you go to school now?

I am now a sophomore at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), majoring in both mathematics and physics. I am actually planning to minor in aeronautical engineering as well. It is a great school to be in, with close relationships with professors and global opportunities available.

In my freshman year, I was involved with a service-learning project in which I organized and led a service trip to Cambodia visiting orphans (some HIV infected). It was a great experience as I had the opportunity to work together with some staff and international students from different backgrounds.

Last summer, I was also responsible for planning and emceeing Women in Science and Engineering Camp held at HKUST for high school girls. It felt great to be able to share my interests and experiences to younger generations that probably possess the same dream as I do.

What are you up to now?

Apart from being busy with studies, I actively participate in research projects with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program at HKUST. In the last week of October, I traveled to Pasadena, California for the 23rd International Symposium on Space Flight Dynamics with my team because our team (the collaborative team between HKUST and European Space Agency) ranked 2nd in the 6th Global Trajectory Optimization Competition organized by Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA.

Also, I will be going on an exchange with Rice University in Texas next semester. I’m hoping to meet up with my HKIS classmates during that time in the States.

Where do you envision yourself ten years from now?

I have made two plans. My top priority would be to do a PhD in Quantum Physics or Astrodynamics and become a professor so that I can nurture and teach the future generations or work in space mission design. I have been working and studying hard to get toward this goal.

If somehow I cannot get qualified to go on pursuing further studies, I definitely want a job that I like. I have two jobs in mind: pilot and NGO. I have always been fascinated with the idea of flying since I was small. It would be nice to be able to fly in the sky from time to time. On the side line, to continue with my community and service engagement, I also see myself with a position at an NGO, especially Medecins Sans Frontieres, to help as many disadvantaged and poor as I can.

Source:  DragonTales Winter 2012 / 2013