This past Sunday, the Page house RA’s and UCC’s organized a day trip to Huntington beach. We left Tech around 2pm, spent a few hours in water/on the sand, and ended the day with a bonfire, grilling hotdogs and smores.
The difficulty of organizing group trips from Caltech is a function of how many drivers you can find. If you bring a car to campus, get ready to chauffeur! Caltech also has a Zipcar program, with 4 Zipcars on campus, available to anyone with a membership. Drivers being a limited resource, heading out of Page at 2pm turned into 2:45pm, given the complexity of trying to avoid n+1 Pageboys in a car that can hold n passengers.
We finally got out and headed to the beach, realizing as we were loading the car I was riding in that we had forgotten to buy veggie dogs (to go along with the meat hot dogs) for dinner. So, to Ralph’s we went! We got to the beach at 4pm and carried our buckets of soda, hotdogs, charcoal, and buns to the sand, only to realize that the “grills” described on the city’s website are really fire pits, and we had neither a grilltop nor sticks with which to cook hot dogs. Our house VP went out to shop some more, and we met up with the rest of the group, only to realize that 3 cars of Pageboys had gone to Huntington State Beach instead of Huntington City Beach.
Techers at the beach!Photo credit: Xiaomi Du
The sun set at about 6PM, and our house grill team got a fire started.
Our VP could only find short skewers at the Grocery store in Huntington, so that’s what we cooked dinner with.
Our house president noticed that this method took much too long, as the heat from the coals dissipated quite a bit before it reached the height at which we were holding the hot dogs…without getting burnt ourselves. So he took the drawstring out of his shorts, tied both ends to each end of a skewer, and made himself a hanging hot dog rotisserie.
Turns out desert weather applies in Huntington, too, so once the sun set, it got cold, fast. We hung out around the fire for a bit, then left at around 8pm. Got back to Tech with plenty of time to finish the problem sets we’d been putting off all day by going to the beach!
Even including all of our organization kerfluffles, our house trip was awesome! Our frosh got to spend time together, as well as with the upperclassmen, and everybody got free dinner :P The beginning of term seems to be the best time to take large house trips like this, because no one has had time to let too much work pile up, yet. We’d love to get off campus as a group like this more often. At the beginning of second term, we always go on a Ski trip to Mammoth (wayyy up North!), and during third term we might go to the beach again…or go camping.
With 45 Nobel Laureates on its Faculty Roster, it’s not surprising that research is an integral part of the Caltech undergraduate experience. One of the programs that promotes such research is the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). There is no minimum knowledge or experience required to participate in a Caltech SURF. In fact, students can participate in a SURF as soon as the summer after their freshman year. It is not difficult to get a SURF. All you need to do is find a mentor who is working in an area of research that interests you and willing to mentor you through a research project. The mentor can work in a Caltech lab, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), or at another participating institution. Once you find a mentor, you work together to write a project proposal that you later send to the SURF office for review and approval. About 98% of the SURF proposals get approved. This fellowship is a great way to explore various fields of research and obtain real, hands-on experience where you get to apply the theoretical knowledge you’ve learned in class. Not only do you get to work and learn alongside your mentor, but you also get compensated for your time. The length of the SURF is ten weeks, and it starts at the beginning of the summer. However, it is not uncommon for many students at Caltech to continue their research project throughout the academic school year.
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.