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Hiking Trip, Isaiah Colobong

How I Chose Aero/Astro

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Hiking Trip, Isaiah Colobong


In the past three years, I’ve explored the applications of mathematics in a number of different fields through ongoing independent research projects. Initially, it was challenging to find the right major that fully encompassed my diverse interests in mathematical topics. At the beginning of my freshman undergraduate year at Stanford, I considered a number of applied math majors: Computer Science, Mathematical and Computational Science, Architecture, Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Environmental Engineering. As the year progressed, my academic interests narrowed, as I reflected on my course performance and advisor recommendations.

Autumn quarter, I worked on campus as a lab assistant for an institute that specializes in plant-based climate change research. The influx of knowledge that revolved around data science, sustainable infrastructure, and cellular biology provided snapshots of some of the majors I was considering. To a reasonable extent, these snapshots foreshadowed what I could potentially do with these majors in the future. This experience was extremely valuable in building my awareness of how certain mathematical topics were used differently in practice than in theory.

Concurrently, I took a heavy course load in an attempt to further explore my diverse range of interests and to stand competitive among peers. While working towards fulfilling the language, WAYS, and Thinking Matters requirements, I enrolled in math and computer science courses because they seemed very rewarding and academically flexible, putting me on track for several majors instead of only a few. Similar to my work in the lab, these courses provided many snapshots of majors I was considering. Moreover, my challenges with the coursework inspired and further redirected my major interests. Near the end of Autumn quarter, I’d narrowed my major interests down to Computer Science, Architecture, and Aeronautics and Astronautics.

By week eight of Winter quarter, I realized that I didn’t have as much of an affinity for computer science as I did for other subjects. During this time, my performance in math was comparatively better and my confidence towards pursuing future coursework in math was higher. As a result, I made it a priority to take more math classes in the future that overlapped between the remaining majors I was deciding from: Architecture and Aeronautics and Astronautics. By Spring quarter, I enrolled in multiple math courses and was accepted into the ACE math program, which further allowed me to explore the applications of mathematics in engineering fields. The math curriculum’s heavy emphasis on the modern applications of multivariable calculus, linear algebra, proofs, and differential equations made me feel more engaged with the material because it effectively bridged the gap between concepts in theory and practice, which inspired me to further explore these concepts with faculty and on my own. By the end of the quarter, I was still debating between Architecture and Aeronautics and Astronautics because the idea of double majoring was theoretically unfeasible.

I arrived at my final decision of pursuing a major in Aeronautics and Astronautics with a minor in Mathematics after weeks of additional research and reflection that focused more on the “why” behind the “what.” More specifically, I did extensive reading on the types of research conducted by faculty members on Stanford’s Aeronautics and Astronautics website. Additionally, my academic advisor, math professors, co-workers, and friends were extremely helpful in referring me to the right people and sources of information. By having conversations, throughout the year, with several faculty and students whose fields of study I shared common interests in, my understanding of what certain major programs had to offer and the workload that came with it improved. Without the support and advice from friends and mentors, it would have been significantly more difficult to form a clear academic vision. To this day, I’m still fascinated by the applications of mathematics in a number of disciplines, but my intellectual curiosity lies most in space exploration. In the future, I hope to play a role in developing technological breakthroughs pursuing the colonization of foreign planets and the discovery of new galaxies.

Isaiah Colobong

Aeronautics & Astronautics
Class of 2023

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