Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
My friends and family were all very proud and happy to hear about my accomplishment. In fact, my aunt wanted to repost my story to show off my achievement to her friends. Then, a few days later, I wake up (at a reasonable time for a Caltech student in the summer), with my messy, curly hair to my mom on the phone telling me that the news station would like to do a story on me; like now, about my JPL internship. Obviously, I didn’t want to be interviewed in my pajamas and didn’t believe her at first; I thought that it was just a joke. However, after further investigation, it turned out that one of my aunt’s followers is a reporter at a Telemundo news station and saw my aunt’s story about me. (Telemundo is one of the two national Spanish stations.) Fast forward two months and many obstacles due to COVID, I finally conducted my interview.
I was really excited to share my interview with my friends, family, and peers. More importantly, I knew the interview was in Spanish and would be viewed by many Hispanic families. My goal was to inspire and encourage other Latino girls to dream big and work hard towards their goals. Being the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, and the first female in my family to pursue a career in STEM, I know how hard it can be to have big dreams when everyone around you is expecting you to fail. I have encountered many people who think that Latinas aren’t destined for success, especially in a male dominated fields. I was happy to be an example proving that Latinas can also thrive in STEM. I hope that other girls who want to pursue STEM and/or higher education watch my interview and understand that the most important thing is that they believe in themselves because they’re not always going to have the support of their community. It’s not easy but it’s also not impossible. It takes a lot of focus, determination, sacrifice and persistence. Overall, I hope to be an example of the fact that students, scientists, and engineers come in many forms and from different backgrounds. In addition to that, it’s not necessary to be a genius to succeed in STEM; what matters the most is that you are passionate. Latinas have the ability to realize all of their dreams and goals if they are willing to put in the work required.
I was excited to conduct this interview and would be happy if it could potentially inspire even one Latina to get involved in STEM. Surprisingly, I actually quite enjoy public speaking. This wasn’t always the case. I was very shy as a child and would rarely speak in larger crowds. However, once I started high school, and was involved in my high school’s Engineering and Design Academy, my teacher taught me the importance of communicating one’s ideas. She would always remind me that it didn’t matter if I had a brilliant innovation or concept if I was unable to properly communicate it. Since my engineering classes were all project based, we had to give a presentation at the end of each project. We learned the key pointers on how to effectively present our ideas. From there on out, I took every opportunity I got to practice my public speaking skills from signing up for summer programs to participating in design showcases and competitions to even giving workshops at my high school on 3D printing. I would practice how to cultivate a strong relationship with an audience and persuasively present my ideas. Over time, I learned to turn my nerves into excitement and actually grew to enjoy the captive audience.
Even now, I take every chance I get to present my Caltech, SURF, or research experience. I enjoy connecting with prefrosh and prospective students and have spoken at SURF, UpClose, and Prefrosh Experience (PFE) events (you can see me in 2021’s PFE below!). I also appreciate being there to clarify any of the uncertainties students may have. In general, the college application process is difficult, and even more so when you’re the first in your family to go through the process. From my experience, I understand the importance of seeing someone from a similar background doing something you aspire to do. In fact, it was when I participated in UpClose that I realized the diverse and family-like community at Caltech. I hope to also help in making someone’s decision to come to Caltech a little bit easier <3
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.
Have you ever gotten lost trying to find an address? Have you ever been annoyed by the voice on your phone telling you to “Turn left in 100 ft.” when in reality there is no street to turn into? When you find an address using your phone, have you ever wondered where that information comes from? I think we all have. GPS (Global Positioning System) is a system composed of a fleet of about 24 satellites put into orbit and maintained by the U.S. Department of defense. This technology is used to find a position on Earth by using a mathematical technique, called trilateration. Trilateration uses about 3 satellites, at any given time, to determine an object’s speed, elevation, and position. Most electronic devices come with a built-in GPS chip and use Wi-Fi networks and cellphone towers to enhance location accuracy and calculate its position. Even though GPS is a highly sophisticated system, it is far from perfect! It is not uncommon for it to malfunction when a navigator cannot receive sufficient satellite data or when signals move too slowly due to atmospheric irregularities in the troposphere and ionosphere. This, in turn, can output inaccuracies in location calculations which can cause serious problems in navigation and aviation in addition to unnecessary stress and frustration.