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SSP Connect

Dear xxx and family,

My name is Michelle Dong (she/her), and I attended SSP for Astrophysics in 2020 at the virtual (sadly) campus of Colorado Boulder. Currently, I am a sophomore studying Physics and Math at UC Berkeley. I am looking forward to working with you as a mentor through SSP Connect!


A bit about me:

I am currently doing research on High Energy Physics Theory (HEPT or HEP-TH), specifically String Theory, or, even specifically, non-equilibrium String Theory. I also did several different research programs in the first semester in college on Astrophysics before I decided to switch to High Energy Physics Theory. To me what I am doing right now kind of looks like that:

Finite Temperature String Theory ⊆ Non-equilibrium String Theory ⊆ String Theory ⊆ High Energy Physics Theory ⊆ Theoretical Physics ⊆ Physics





Since in High Energy Theory a lot of math is used, I am double majoring in math and I am currently taking courses in Differential Topology, Algebraic Topology, and Differential Geometry this semester. The math I am studying and using is kind of like that:

(Using) Topology & Geometry ≥ ... ≥ Analysis ≥ ... ≥

(Not really using) Number Theory ≥ ... ≥ Numerical Analysis ≥ ...


Algebra that has to do with Topology & Geometry

>> Algebra that does not have to do with Topology & Geometry



I don't know where exactly the original graph is coming from but I found it on this page. I circled out the topics of math which I feel are often applied in research on string theory. But unlike mathematicians or mathematical physicists probably, theoretical physicists usually do not have to write math proofs but focus on applying those math theories. Theoretical physics has more calculations than many math topics.


I am from Suzhou, Jiangsu, China. At Berkeley, the clubs I am mostly involved in are just the Society of Physics Students (SPS) (which specifically I am the seminar chair which I am responsible for organizing Faculty-Student Lunch (FSL) and Undergraduate Seminar (UG Seminar) and Mathematics Undergraduate Student Association (MUSA), which I guess might just sound repetitive and boring after the information I wrote above. I am considering joining Ballroom Dance this semester also, and I hope I can have chances to try different activities for fun. Beyond that, I have participated in different research projects and directed reading programs.


I was not a person who was very certain about doing what major before the end of my first semester in college, and there might still be chances that I am still going to change in the future. I like math and physics a lot, but I also like literature, history, and theater a lot. When I am not studying I could be found watching musicals or listening to songs from musicals, going to the gym or dancing, playing piano or electric organ, etc. I do not have super focused one hobby but I guess my hobby is probably just trying different things.


I’d love to schedule an initial Zoom meeting to go over any suggestions and expectations. This meeting would give us the opportunity to get to know each other, and it would be very helpful for me to know what you are looking for in terms of specific content (college applications (which include a lot of things), school selections, research and finding research, majors, college life, distressing, academic-related books/materials/websites, etc.), frequency, and duration of mentoring sessions. If it’s easier for you, we can continue this discussion over video or phone calls. You can also read SSP Connect’s Mentee Guidelines for more information about the program here.

Here is my availability for the upcoming week (in pacific daylight time):

  • Monday 5 pm - 6 pm PDT (or probably just most of the time Monday since this week it is labor day)

  • Tuesday 7 pm - 8 pm PDT

  • Tuesday 8 pm - 9 pm PDT

  • Thursday 9 pm - 10 pm PDT

  • Friday 10 pm - 11 pm PDT

  • Other Times if none of the above work (I am also in general free at 10 pm - 12 midnight PDT, and weekends and holidays)


Feel free to text me with any questions at any time. I'll try to reply to it as soon as I can! And if you are uncertain about the schedule next week, it is also fine, we can set a time and then change it whenever you have new events coming up that have conflicts with it or just feel too busy to meet!


I hope your family is staying safe and healthy - look forward to meeting you all soon!


Best Regards,

Michelle Dong


P.S. There is something about the college application-related stuff shortlist/note from last year, which I believe might be quite different this year since this semester is more post-covid than ever before. And it was written for an international student from Canada so it can also be quite different.


-Slideroom (Research, Art, Creative Writing, Music, Theater, Photography, Maker's Portfolio for MIT, etc.) (Pay attention to details of content to be prepared (might be time-consuming), DDLs, early DDL for application essays if needed to submit a portfolio to Stanford, etc.) -Resume, LinkedIn profile, etc. -Personal Website -Alumni or AO Interview (Priority DDL for submitting the application to get the interview? Need to appoint them earlier?) -InitialView -Video Portfolio about yourself (Brown: 2 minutes, UChicago: probably no limit? (I might forget about the details), you might also make one as the additional info for the other colleges) -Graded Assignments/Essays (I think some Ivy requires that since I have submitted them for some school(s)) -Peer Recommendation (mostly for Dartmouth and some LACs only) & Peer Evaluation ... (There could also be the Youtube platforms, published articles, websites of clubs or events that you play a key role in and really stand out, etc.) (A sad fact is that nothing might be really essential except Essays, Activity and Award Lists, Transcripts, and other scores, etc., but anything or all together has a chance to play a role and we most likely could not have nothing even if they might not be important.) Other really essential, or the most essential, things to prepare: -Essays -Activity Lists -Award Lists -Transcripts (and/or AP/IB/etc. scores, SAT2 scores, transcripts at concurrent enrollment at CCs, transcripts at summer school, etc.) -SAT/ACT scores (still not mandatory this year for most colleges I think; sending scores would also be a quite tedious thing to do sometimes) -Recommendation Letters ... Most school websites are really accessible and clear, so it is mostly easy to get the details by just searching for what you want. But it could get really confusing with all the different details and DDLs in the RD round. There are also virtual tours, AO panels, student panels, etc. to learn more about the school and ask questions in the application process.

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