7:30 AM: Take BART to San Francisco International Airport - transit time, 1.5 hours. (for the non-Bay Area natives, BART = Bay Area Rapid Transit. As ridden by Will Smith inThe Pursuit of Happyness, aged forward a few decades, and unlike wine, not improved with time.)
10:50 AM: Embark on United flight to Chicago O’Hare Airport - transit time, 4 hours.
5:00 PM: Disembark, hurriedly race to connection to Munich.
6:05 PM: Embark on United flight to Munich International Airport - transit time, 9 hours.
9:50 AM: Disembark, find taxi to residence.
My day in a nutshell, stripped of weekday commuter-packed public transit, sketchy airport WiFi, stale pressurized airplane cabins, and mediocre airline food for your reading pleasure and convenience. I’m sure that most of you have ridden airplanes before, so I’ll summarize the more salient highlights.
Easily the most exciting part of my trip was getting to use the newfangled TSA Pre boarding program. I only began noticing these a few months ago, but today was my lucky day: the all-powerful random number generator chose me for the TSA Pre line. And what a joy it was! The usual 20-30 minutes in a packed line, in which I would be forced to take off my jacket, shoes, and belt (hoping my pants don’t slip off) and put all my items in bins in a panic, done away with. Instead, a leisurely 5 minute journey, where I felt almost guilty for passing so easily. It makes one feel almost warmly towards the TSA, before one remembers the golden days before modern airport security.
The subsequent 4 hour flight to Chicago was uneventful, punctuated only by a delay in boarding my connecting flight to Munich due to the fact that the “seat covers on the airplane were so soiled that we had to take time to replace them” (as quoted by the United Airlines representative). Not really sure what that implies, so I’ll leave that to your imagination. Then the boarding, and the 9 hour flight. Thank goodness for airplane movies.
Munich airport customs. The line was as long as it looks.
My first impression of Munich interntional airport:*wow, this place is really clean*. The well-run, almost sterile feeling was eliminated as soon as I entered customs, naturally. Taking my place at the end of the line, I waited some 30 odd minutes as a horde of Americans on vacation/Germans back from vacation slowly passed the border. Following that, the institute sent me a taxi driver to drop me off at my new place, and we exchanged some laboured conversation, with him peppering his heavily accented English with German and me struggling to understand both. It was a 30 minute drive from the airport to Garching, the town where I'm living - a drive tripled in duration due to the sudden failing of the driver's GPS, but at this point I was so tired that it really didn't matter anymore. The route was quite scenic, though.
It was really fun reading signs in kilometers and failing at unit conversions.
I'm a bit too jetlagged right now to really say much more, so I'll conclude this post - next time: where I'm living, where I'm working, and whereabouts I'll be exploring!
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.
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.