Septinus George Saa is one of the young Indonesian physicists with global recognition in his name. The world first learned of his name in 2004, when he won the First Step to Nobel Prize in Physics competition. George finished his master’s degree at the University of Birmingham. However, the young Papuan leader has always called West Papua—and Papua as a whole—his home.
Septinus George Saa or Oge was born in Manokwari, Papua, on September 22, 1986, as the youngest of five siblings. He didn’t come from a wealthy family and must maintain their frugality. When his father, Silas Saa, became the head of Forestry Service in Sorong Selatan Regency, West Papua, his family’s economy improved.
Education and Achievements
Born in a family without many privileges, Oge often had to skip school because he couldn’t afford to pay for transportation for a 10km commute to school. However, it’s just a trivial matter for him. It did not stop him from learning and studying. In a QnA session with BBC Indonesia on Facebook, George responded to one of the questions asking him about his learning method in elementary and middle school.
“I seldom studied at home, although I always became the first rank student in my elementary school,” he said. “From what I saw in my parents, they always gave me freedom [to study at home or not], but they still gave guidance when I did study.”
When he was studying at SMUN 3 Buper Jayapura, he found his appetite to learn everything piqued his interest, particularly science. While his friends used the school’s computer and internet to follow the trend, Oge utilized them to learn new things.
His journey toward world recognition started with local competitions. He won the regional Chemistry Olympics and was awarded a scholarship to study in Jakarta by the Provincial Government of Papua. There, he was mentored by Yohanes Suraya, one of Indonesia’s most well-known physicists, to enter international competitions.
It was in 2003 when Oge entered the international stage by participating in Quantum Mathematics Competition in India, in which he got 8th place. However, his international recognition would come in the following year.
He wrote an article titled “Infinite Triangle and Hexagonal Lattice Networks of Identical Resistor”. This article was the result of his one-year research on simplifying the development of the Kirchoff Law. According to his research, Oge has successfully formulated a simpler way to count two resistors within a single network.
His discovery landed him first place in the First Step to Nobel Prize in Physics competition, eliminating over 70 other participants. Oge’s research, and the fact that he did it while still in high school, have turned the eyes of the physic community towards the young genius from Papua. He has been offered countless scholarships from many institutions, both domestic and foreign.
After graduating high school, Oge chose to study Aerospace Engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology. After graduating, he worked in an oil and gas company for quite some time before relocating to the United Kingdom for his graduate study. There, he entered the University of Birmingham to get a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Outside the Research
As a young Papuan figure, Oge is not only active in the physics community or science in general. According to an article from AntaraNews.com, Oge is currently focusing on running an Engineering Research and Development Center as well as Vocational Training Center in Timika, Papua.
His current focus comes from his concerns about the unemployment rate in the region. “I want to provide them an opportunity to be trained in certain skills so that they can earn their own living,” said Oge. “This is the reality in Papua, I see many children were sent to school by the Government and earning achievements of their own, yet there are still parts of Papua that are untouchable by the government.”
Oge also stated that he wants to be the inspiration for so many younger generations. “I’m not really reaching a lot of people, only those around me. However, we can effectively drive [the inspiration] of so many other people,” he added.
In Popular Media
Oge’s genius and international achievements became the basis of George Saa, a character in the Indonesian superhero comic book Nusa V (Nusa Five), written by Sweta Kartika and published by Padma Pusaka Nusantara in association with Shogakukan Asia. In the comic, George is a member of the Power Ranger-inspired superhero team consisting of five young people representing five major islands of Indonesia. Together, they defend the world from an evil force known as Sandekala.
Oge has proven that privilege is only one part of the equation for achieving your dreams. What matters most is that we keep learning as best as we can without the resources we have at hand. We have to keep pushing forward and not let circumstances hinder our journey.