I was so tired last night after landing that I can’t even remember getting to the hotel / falling asleep. I woke up at 7, thinking much more clearly than the evening before, and went to eat breakfast. My first Indian food in India!
It was actually only semi-Indian. They did have didli (like rice cakes), sambar (a veggie “sauce” to dip the didli and vaea in), chutneys, steamed bananas and vaea (donuts with rice and lentils and spices inside), but they also had toast, jam, croissants, muffins, omelets, and other less than Indian dishes.
I also went on my first run in India! Cross country pre-season is starting soon, so I need to keep running… My first run in India was also interesting. The hotel we stayed at was close to the airport, so I guess they were slightly used to weird foreigners, but I definitely got a lot of stares running on the side of the road. The roads were so busy! There are people walking on the side of the road, stands selling fruit or other small items, and houses directly boardering the street. Then, there’s also a ton of cars, buses, and MOTERCYCLES! So many motorcycles! [Actually, over 70 percent of the Keralites over 18 own a motorcycle, they told us].
In the list of firsts is my first trip on an Indian road - which wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone was making it out to be! The three hour drive to our hotel was very-well timed, because at this point the only Techers I really knew on the trip were those I had flown with. We’d had two lectures before the trip, and most of the others (as ME majors) already knew each other, but I was still getting to know them.
After a quick shower and lunch buffet at our hotel (The Windsor Castle) we drove to Saintgits. We got of the bus, and standing in front of us were what seemed like 100 students! We shook all the hands, I didn’t remember any of the names, and were ushered into a smaller room. There, the president, a few other important people at Saintgits, the profs, and the 16 students we were working with joined us. They gave us booklets they had made for the trip, with an itinary and room to take notes ect. It was really sweet!
Next, we had a welcome ceremony. I’ve never heard so many thank you’s at once. Everyone was welcoming us, thanking those who made the class possible, and talking about their experiences so far / their hopes for the class.
We had a reception after, with coffee and snacks. The snacks were cutlet, a spicy round dessert patty, and cake. Time to begin learning names! I talked to two profs and a group of students who are helping the 8 ME students we are working with. One of the professors, Amy, worked with the electricy infrastructure particuarly wiht hydraulic power - I wish I’d spoken to her more about this!
Next, the students threw an Ornam celebration for us – in English! They had celebrated in the morning but stopped when a classmate had a family emergency, but wanted to show us this.
There were a bunch of dances and songs. One girl sung for us in English as well, but the rest were traditional dances.
We had a buffet dinner with everyone. I sat with Robbie, Ken, and the directors of Saintgits. We talked about some politics and language - it was really interesting. After the Saintgits team left, Erik gave us a quick economics lesson. We talked about the first welfare theorem.
The first welfare theorem says that, if three conditions hold, then price is marginal cost and peopel are paid as they contribute. These three conditions are:
Producers act as price-takers.
No transaction costs.
Small-scale agriculture, for instance, often meets these conditions because there are so many farmers who must accept the market price. In this perfect market, there are no profits, just marginal values. Profits are made by removing these conditions. Microsoft, for instance, doesn’t have perfect information. It is a price-setter and rents out information. Branding is essentially becoming a price setter because of info assymetry. Erik gave us a really interesting example - tire manufacteurers faught for 20 years against legislation that tire safety ratings must be on the product, because as soon as this was the case, the prices for all tires dropped!
Erik also led an interesting discussion on losing a job versus trading jobs. People are always really worried about losing their jobs, especially when a machine or some other technology will be replacing them. Usually, he said, this technology also makes room for new jobs - people just have to shift. One thing we’ve been hearing from the students here though, is that people really don’t like changing the way they work or changing jobs. That might be a social constraint we need to look at when designing products!
Tomorrow, we’ll be starting our market research! I’m really excited!
Research at Caltech looks different for every student, and can often vary term by term. As a chemistry major, my course requirements are on the lighter side for a Caltech major, and many chemistry majors take advantage of the lighter course load to join research groups. This can be whenever the student wants, but many people join labs during their freshman or sophomore years. Some may work in one lab only, and some may switch between labs during the course of their undergraduate studies, depending on if their interests change.
SURF, short for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is a quintessential experience for any Caltech student. It is a widely accessible research fellowship for Caltech students that funds your proposed research for one summer term. While many of my classmates did their first SURF the summer after their freshman year, I sent in my first application to the program as a sophomore. As a CS major, I was trying to chase meaningful work that intersected computation with the field of neuroscience. I ended up doing a SURF at the Stanford School of Medicine that first year, studying hand gestures in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then, I’ve been working in the research space of applying computational analyses to ASD.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.
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.