The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Humans of Harker: No door left unopened

Kaitlyn Wang explores the world with intentional counterintuition
Ella Yee
“I’m the type of person who’s drawn to excitement, can’t sit still or always has the next crazy idea. It’s not in my nature, but I learned to sit down and enjoy the process of what I’m doing, the process of tackling issues or looking at unexpected results in a positive way,” Kaitlyn Wang (12) said.

Ever wondered about how we got to planet Earth? Curious about exoplanets that endure extreme conditions to orbit their host stars? Kaitlyn Wang (12) is the person to talk to. But she’s also someone who’s tried every combination of toppings at Poke Paradise, and better yet, bought a watermelon to open on campus just for fun. Researcher, food connoisseur, friend and so much more, Kaitlyn is, in her own words, “down for anything.”

Watching a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center in middle school sparked Kaitlyn’s interest in astronomy. Since then, Kaitlyn has explored various topics from theories of formation to signs of life on other planets, excited by the prospect of bringing intangible phenomena into her realm of understanding. As she began to conduct in-depth research projects, Kaitlyn recognized the process of gradual improvement involved in uncovering new knowledge.

“[Research] taught me that discovery doesn’t happen by accident,” Kaitlyn said. “It happens by working steadily everyday, trying to figure out the next issue, fix this problem or get an interesting result. I used to have a mindset that making discoveries [was] a sudden thing or a lucky thing, but it’s really a steady process.”

Kaitlyn’s recent research centers around exoplanets, planets that orbit stars beyond the solar system. As the field of exoplanet science is new and constantly evolving, she has learned to balance creativity and patience along the research process.

“I’m the type of person who’s drawn to excitement, can’t sit still or always has the next crazy idea,” Kaitlyn said. “It’s not in my nature, but I learned to sit down and enjoy the process of what I’m doing, the process of tackling issues or looking at unexpected results in a positive way.”

Upper school science teacher Chris Spenner, who taught Kaitlyn in AP Physics C and Advanced Research, sees her ability to combine careful observation with innovative thinking as one of her greatest strengths. As she delves deeper into topics, Kaitlyn actively works towards new knowledge and skills to answer the questions that intrigue her. 

“Kaitlyn [has] the capacity to look at things that have already been examined and have faith that with effort and doing things the right way, she might see something new,” Spenner said. “She’s willing to develop a whole new skillset as determined by the direction the project is going.”

Kaitlyn has brought this tenacity and resourcefulness to other learning pursuits, including her exploration of different cultures. Combining her love for food and her desire to learn about new perspectives, she collaborated with a group of friends to write a cookbook featuring recipes from around the world, printing it just in time for Christmas last year. 

“I wanted to dig deeper and try to understand the philosophies that drive people,” Kaitlyn said. “It’s very easy to dismiss [other cultures] as different or weird, but the purpose of the book is to highlight how we all have common values in some places.”

As the main editor of the cookbook, Kaitlyn gained insights into various customs and traditions while reading each recipe. This experience encouraged her to think about daily situations from multiple angles and intentionally consider counterintuitive perspectives. Upper school history teacher James Tate, who taught Kaitlyn in her junior year, noted how she approached common U.S. History topics through a unique lens.

“She’s very insightful,” Tate said. “She thinks about things in unique ways that are very refreshing because they’re kind of off the wall. Not many other people think like her, so it’s interesting to talk to her about anything.” 

Kaitlyn also believes in the importance of multiple perspectives when supporting the people around her. Whether she’s giving or receiving advice, Kaitlyn finds that looking at issues from different viewpoints often helps someone resolve their worries.   

“If it’s your own life, it’s very hard to recognize when you might be going in the wrong direction,” Kaitlyn said. “I find that it always helps to have a friend or other people to give an outside perspective.”

Close friend Chloe Lee (12) describes Kaitlyn as the first person she would turn to for advice. While most of her favorite memories with Kaitlyn involve spontaneous adventures, she values Kaitlyn’s sense of humor and sincere concern for her friends when they need support.

“Whenever I was facing a dilemma, I could always go to Kaitlyn, and she would give me the best advice,” Chloe said. “When she helps me with something, [I can tell] she genuinely helps me for my sake … She always brightens up people’s moods because she provides so much laughter.”

As a researcher, cultural explorer, friend and beyond, Kaitlyn strikes a balance between diligence and delight. Close friend Cynthia Wang (12) admires Kaitlyn’s “work hard, play hard” mindset as one of her outstanding qualities. 

“I’m impressed by Kaitlyn’s willingness to give 100% in anything her mind is set to,” Cynthia said. “She doesn’t do things halfway if she really likes the topic. I really admire how she can be so fun-loving while also being super studious and dedicated to her craft.”

Kaitlyn lives life to the fullest, whether she’s asking question after question about a scientific topic, venturing out on a project with no guarantee of success, considering all possible perspectives on an issue or simply being there for other people. To Kaitlyn, opening closed doors is irresistible. 

“There’s a constant feedback loop of trying things and failing, but I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll try again the next day,’” Kaitlyn said. “The last thing I would do is take the safe path because of the regret of not doing something. I have to try it out in case it leads to something good.”

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About the Contributor
Ella Yee
Ella Yee, Aquila Co-Editor-in-Chief
Ella Yee (12) is the co-editor-in-chief of Harker Aquila, and this is her fourth year on staff. This year, Ella hopes to continue bonding with the journalism staff and highlighting diverse perspectives within the local community. In her free time, she loves to dance, drink matcha lattes and watch Kdramas.

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