Last Friday (August 5th) was a very busy day for me. Let me tell you all about it! :)
For some reason, I was really hungry that morning, so I went to one of the JPL cafeterias to get some breakfast. I had never gone there for breakfast – only lunch – so I scrambled (get it? Haha scrambled eggs!) to figure out what I should get. I decided to get the “1-2-1 Combo,” which was made up of one pancake, two pieces of bacon, and one fried egg. This next factoid is probably going to surprise you: I’ve never eaten a fried egg before! So when then chef asked how I wanted my egg, I was confused, because the only kind of eggs I had eaten were either scrambled or boiled! So the chef explained it to me while I held up the line of hungry JPLers…haha so I ended up getting my egg “over medium” and well, that was one of the new things I learned that day! xD Needless to say, my breakfast was delicious and filling. :) Another interesting thing: JPL’s cafeterias are run by Caltech Dining Services (CDS), so sometimes I’ll see some of Caltech’s chefs at JPL!
Friday was also the day that the JPL missionJunowas supposed to launch. So after my yummy breakfast, I waited anxiously with my group as we all crowded around a computer screen watching NASATV and listening as Kennedy Space Center got the Atlas V rocket ready for launch. They had a few nerve-wracking delays, so Juno still hadn’t launched when I left for my second MERSOWG Meeting (read thisblog postfor background on that).
This MERSOWG Meeting was even more exciting than the last one! Opportunity was getting really close to Endeavour Crater after traveling towards it for three years. This time, according to the Chair of the meeting, around 30 people were attending the teleconference, instead of the usual 6-7! Because the rover was getting so close to this incredibly large crater, there was a lot that the MER team wanted to do, from taking pictures and videos to taking data and navigating towards the rim of the crater. Now keep in mind that after taking these images/videos/data, the rover also has to transmit the data to a Mars orbiter, which then transmits that data to the Earth. It took a lot of discussion and arguing for the team to decide on what tasks the rover would do and in what order it would do them. That was really cool to hear, because each team member seemed to have a valid scientific reason for wanting to one thing instead of another! And today, Opportunity actually reached the rim of the crater. Isn’t that exciting?! :)
Guess what! During this meeting, the team even named a crater! Well, they joked about it being more of a “dimple” than a crater, but still! The theme they used was “Ships of Exploration.” Some of the famous ones they’ve used so far:EnduranceCrater andEagleCrater.To learn more about the naming conventions, readthis article.
So on Friday, they named the dimple “Jolbe” …at least that’s what I heard over the not-so-clear telecon speaker. I tried searching for it on google, but couldn’t find anything. So if you’ve heard of a famous ship of exploration that sounds like “Jolbe,” comment on this post! :) Afterwards, we actually got to see the operations center, from where commands are sent to the rover.
Oh! Remember Juno? Well, the MER team was just as anxious as the rest of JPL to know whether it launched or not. So before the meeting, they turned on NASATV on one of the screens and muted it. When it launched not only were there cheers in our room, but also on the speakers! Apparently everyone tuning in to the meeting was watching the launch. It was awesome. Everyone sort of watched the screen in awe until the Chair of the meeting reluctantly broke the wonder-filled silence by getting the group back on task.
After the MERSOWG Meeting, I went back to my office only to find out that a lab tour I had signed up for was canceled. :( But I had signed up for another lab tour, that didn’t get canceled: the Atmospheric Kinetics Lab. I’m not a huge fan of chemistry, but this was cool! This post is getting a little long, so I’ll tell you about that in my next post. I’ll also tell you how my final presentation goes (it’s tomorrow!). fingers crossed that it goes well
In the meantime, here’s a funny sign I found at JPL:
Like many students at Caltech, I suffer from a slight boba addiction, where side effects may include over caffeination, minor sugar highs, and of course, a large toll on one’s wallet. This addiction is not helped by the fact that there are at least three boba shops within walking distance of campus. So, after an entire term’s worth of boba runs, I came back from winter break with a new year’s epiphany: it was time to get a job. Rather than try to curb my addiction, I decided to find a way to subsidize it.
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.