research

Yes, Please.

I’ve been feeling pretty stressed about all of the work I have during finals week. A couple of final projects, two exams in hard classes, and two problem sets. Last week I realized that I’ve been spending a lot of time worrying about my stressors (which are coming in two weeks, and which I can’t do anything about now) and not enough time practicing what I preach on this blog. It was time for some serious self care. So I picked up a book, because reading helps relax me, and I completely devoured it.

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culture

Manners and Multicourse Meals

This past Friday, I was planning to attend Avery formal dinner. It turned out that the infamous Manners 101 dinner was scheduled for the same night, and since the chances of being randomly selected for such a popular event were slim, I entered the lottery. Unlike my course lotteries (sob), I was actually selected for this one. During cooking class on Thursday night, many of us were recruited to help out with the dinner. There was prep, cooking, plating, and waiting to be done in this large operation. Since I was going to participate in the dinner, I went and helped out from 5:30-6:30. I picked thyme (with three of us, it took a good half an hour to get a cup’s worth) and cut butter pats. As I went to get changed into business attire, I saw the impressive plating endeavor begin with the tomato tartare:

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clubs

Everyone say cheese!

So I’ve already discussed once about Faculty in Residence hosting a meal, but the regular MVP of student activities is Tom Mannion, whose official title is “Senior Director, Student Activities and Programs” but is more colloquially recognized as the “chair of student happiness.” Why he is so called comes as no surprise to any Techer, who has almost certainly regularly attended Mannion events. This particular instance was a cheese tasting hosted by the great man, and I’m here to tell you exactly how it started and how it went down.

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research

Formally Stuffed

It’s been a very busy couple of weekends. I talked about Manners 101 dinner last weekend, but that was just brushing the surface! Manners dinner was Friday evening, followed by several hours of nighttime a cappella practice, trailed by another four hours of a cappella practice on Saturday and Ruddock Interhouse Saturday night, Bollywood dance practice Sunday morning, a cappella mic check in the afternoon, and capped off with the a cappella concert Sunday evening. I thought this weekend would be a little more relaxing, but things popped up…

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research

End of Term Update

The last two weeks of term are a whirlwind. So many assignments, finals stress looming, and to top it off, I once again need to get rid of all of my extra DBal. What a life.

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research

Stargazing in the Physics Lab

I promised that I would post again if I got a cool physics lab, and it turns out I really liked this most recent one, and not only because it wasn’t much work (in case I haven’t mentioned it before, this class lets you choose the labs you do, so it is important to choose wisely, and this is one wise choice!) but also because it showcased some spectacular effects. Below is my poor phone’s attempt at taking a picture in a dark room of the observation

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research

Science Olympiad

I spent seven years of my life competing in Science Olympiad. And by competing in, I mean studying 500 hours a year for (ok, less in middle school). The organization hosts regional, state, and national competitions that involve students competing in pairs in 23 events, each spanning completely different fields of science or engineering. Being a part of this organization taught me so many things about myself, not to mention years and years of extracurricular science. I can truly say that Science Olympiad was the reason I came to Caltech, but I’ll get into that later.I learned leadership skills, organizational skills, study habits, how to read academic journals, how to read an anatomy textbook in French class but look like you’re doing busywork, etc. I got the chance to study anatomy, protein biochemistry, epidemiology, organic chemistry, forensic science, and genetics between the ages of 14 and 17. Biology classes in freshman year of college are so easy to follow when you’ve already read about all of the topics! My interest in proteins through Science Olympiad led me to the two research labs I have worked in, as well as to my SURF grant last summer. I made lifelong friends (guaranteed for anyone who participates in an activity that takes up a lot of your time and all of your love) and I am still dating my senior-year co-captain (romantic relationships not guaranteed).

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culture

A Celebration of Tortillas

For those who live in the houses (which includes all of the frosh), waited house dinners are provided on weekdays. Once a term, every house has formal dinner, where we eat and dress fancy. And every so often, we receive an email heralding the approach of a board dinner, planned by Caltech Dining Services, and open to all students on board. Our first board dinner was last term, baseball themed, where we ate traditional baseball stadium cuisine and lounged on picnic blankets with inflatable baseball bats. Early this term, there was “Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions” board dinner, filled with decadent foods left and right. This past week, we had a board dinner in honor of National Tortilla Chip Day. As usual, I entered Chandler a couple of minutes before the starting time (5 p.m.). I was glad I did, because I got to see this beast pristine and untouched:

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research

Hot(pot) Traditions

Back at home, my friend and I organize hotpots about four times a year, and we’ve optimized our shopping strategy. The local Chinese market opens at 10 a.m., cash only (two facts we learned the hard way, multiple times), so we go at 10 and whip through our shopping list: fish balls, shrimp balls, beef balls, beef, vermicelli noodles, fish tofu, tofu, straw mushrooms, napa cabbage, soup base, and, most importantly, lychee jellies. We’ve modified the list over the years based on consumption observations – spinach and regular mushrooms were rejected, as were fish balls with meat inside, while fish tofu and kamaboko became staples. We spend about $40 every time, and can feed up to 8 people, with minimal leftovers. We even sold one of our hotpots for over $100 at the senior auction. Here’s the fish product spread from the last hotpot we organized:

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research

Stay in my room? Neigh.

Before coming to Caltech, I was trying to find out what kind of athletic facilities they had, so I followed some links and ended up at the Caltech Y. I was a bit confused when I couldn’t find anything about Les Mills workouts on the Y website – just service projects and outings. As it turns out, the Caltech Y isn’t quite the same as my local YMCA. The Y’s goal is to “enrich student lives” and worldviews through community engagement, activism, teamwork, and leadership.

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culture

Lurvely Surprises

Lurve is in the air! It’s Valentine’s Day, just in time for the three-day weekend. Throughout the week, the girls and guys of the houses have been plotting Valentine’s Day surprises. The Ruddock girls took over the house library and kitchens last night, with signs like these gracing the doors to discourage potential intruders:

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global

Kip Thorne on Interstellar

Kip Thorne, the scientific advisor for blockbuster hitInterstellar, gave a talk at Caltech a week and a half ago (sorry, I got really under water with work) about the process of making the movie. It was actually a super cool talk that showed us how a physicist can come up with a movie concept and bring it to life, and it also showed how from a physicist’s dream a movie takes on a life.

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research

Winter Career Fair!

Half of Caltech dressed up all fancy this morning. It was a sight to see. Besides one friend of mine, who threw on a blazer over a t-shirt and jeans to go pick up some free t-shirts, most people I saw out and about this morning were dressed in business professional clothing to attend the Winter Career Fair. The Winter version of the career fair is aimed more towards companies hiring full time employees than summer interns, and it is smaller than the Fall fair. I visited mainly to take pictures to show you guys, and to talk to a few companies I may be interested in working for in the future. Specifically, I talked to Palantir and Goldman Sachs, two companies hiring CS majors to work on projects that I’m not likely to get experience in at any other company. Broadening the types of projects I can apply my CS skills to is definitely a good goal of internships, especially when you’re not sure in what field you’d like to work eventually.

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research

Huntington Gardens

My to do list on Sunday**:

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research

Bread and Bean Bags

One of the things I look forward to most these days is Amazon shipments. Is that sad? Amazon has brought so much joy to my college life. I’ve bought everything from water bottles to puzzles to my beloved lamp from Amazon. Each student here has a different mail stop code, which we can enter as part of our address for online deliveries. After our packages go through various magical stations, we get an email that it has arrived, and we go to the Tech Express, located near the North Houses, or occasionally the Keith Spalding building, near the gym, and pick up our shipments. I know people who have ordered office chairs, mini drones, Campbell’s soup, and other life essentials from Amazon. Isn’t modern living great? My most recent deliveries were not from Amazon, but they still brought me immense joy. My mom baked Castella (a Japanese bread, recipe here) for the first time, and wanted to send me some, so she sent it through overnight priority mail. My roommate and I have been enjoying it (with milk from open kitchen) ever since:

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academics

Grading Woes

Midterms are over! For me, at least. I just turned in my math midterm, which brought back memories of Math 1a and that midterm. Math 1b was a lot more chewable than Math 1a, as evidenced by this comment on my midterm last term, from the professor himself:

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research

Art/Tech Panel

I’m currently enrolled in E/H/Art 89, New Media Arts. The class is a mix of an art history, art discussion, and project-based class, where each week we discuss a new topic from the history of Dadaism and Marcel DuChamp’s “Ready Made” art, to cybernetics and glitch art, to Survival Research Laboratories’ destructive robots. The class’ lecturer, Hilary Mushkin, organized a panel last week for two artists and a Caltech professor to discuss their work in the creation of automata and the blend between art and technology in this space.

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research

The Other Half of Campus

I was talking to a prefrosh on the phone the other day as part of our phone calling campaign for admitted students, and she asked if there was a lot of interaction between undergrads and grad students. I remember last year, when I was a prefrosh, someone asked the same question in a Techerchat. Answers from upperclassmen varied from “No, you're kept in separate cages on opposite ends of campus,” to “What is a grad student?”

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academics

Puzzled Out

In the middle of last term, we bought a puzzle. Well, I tried to buy a puzzle, but couldn’t figure out how to ship it to myself, so my mom bought the puzzle, but accidentally had it delivered to our house, then my mom bought the puzzle again, and it finally came to Caltech. Good work, puzzle. It’s a rather beautiful puzzle, based on a painting by Rosina Wachtmeister. If you’ve been to Germany, you may have seen her work. She makes these beautiful porcelain cats that sell for big bucks. Here are some that we got from Germany/Czech Republic:

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research

On Sleep (or lack thereof)

It’s been a pretty crazy week. I haven’t gone to sleep earlier than 3:30 a.m. since Monday night (today is Sunday). My latest was 5:30 on Wednesday night. Through this terribly unhealthy experience, I’ve realized several things.

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culture

Little Things I Love About My House

I would love to share with you everything I love about my house. The friends I’ve made, the parties we’ve thrown, the shenanigans that occur at 1AM when CS21 sets are due at 2AM…but there isn’t enough space in any blog post to do that. So I’ll share a few little things that make my life in a Caltech house really amazing.

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research

India Trip!

Hi everyone!I went to India this winter break, and I’d like to talk a bit about it, because a) there are some pretty pictures that go along with it and b) it was honestly one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.I usually visit India every other summer break for family reasons: this time, however, I went to work for a nonprofit called Ekal Vidyalaya (usually called Ekal for short). Essentially what Ekal’s been doing for the past twenty years is establishing one-teacher primary schools in isolated, rural villages all across India; in addition to lowering India’s rampant illiteracy, the hope was that education would slowly work its magic and enable the village to develop infrastructure, a self-reliant economy, and a strong community in a way that donations and outside help never could. So far, some 56,000 schools have been built.Recently, Ekal has branched out its aims and focused on something called “Gramotthan” (literally meaning “village upliftment”). This includes things like setting up resources for farmers to learn about how to get more income and nourishment from their fields; teaching skills like sewing and repair work to give people (especially women) secondary sources of income; and setting up a village council to identify and address ongoing issues in the village.

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academics

Page House Ski Trip!

This is a late post, because Page’s ski trip was the first weekend of this term. Whoops. I can tell what you’re thinking…

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research

First Bite

Greetings! I’m Gloria, and I’m a second term frosh at Caltech. First term was a whirlwind of food, fun, and pass/fail. I wrote my blog description last term, when I was on 51 units, 9 of which were made up of Cooking, Aerobic Dance, and the Chem pizza class, in which we eat pizza and listen to Chemistry/Chemical Engineering faculty members talk about their research. This term I’m still on pass/fail, but with 48 units, and a pretty basic frosh schedule: Math, Physics, Chem, Chem lab, CS C track, Philosophy, and Ceramics. I’m halfway through the first week of classes, slowly extracting myself from my winter break dormancy and returning to a productive mindset.

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research

30/36 (bowls of rice)

While shopping for my dorm room, my parents bought me three boxes of Haetban instant microwaveable rice, which has the tagline “Rice that tastes better than rice!” They also bought me a box of instant ramen, three packs of rice vermicelli noodles, soy sauce, and fish sauce. The only problem was that the rice (and the rice alone) had an expiration date of January 10, 2015. At the time, we believed that Caltech didn’t provide any food over the weekend, so my parents estimated that in ten weeks, I could have rice for two meals a day every Saturday and Sunday, with some breaks, and thus easily get through 36 bowls of rice in a term. However, once I got on campus, I learned that Caltech was trying a new thing this year in response to popular demand: holding open kitchen in Chandler on weekends from 10 am to 2 pm. This meant that there were fresh fruits and sandwich fixings available for lunch on weekends. Additionally, I often ate out or had dinner provided by different clubs and events, so my rice consumption was even lower.

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research

The ARC on Retreat

I am a member of the Academics and Research Committee at Caltech. The ARC is an undergraduate committee that serves as a liason between students and faculty, advising the Faculty Board and other committees on academic policy pertaining to UGrads, and promoting improved teaching practices. We are currently on a retreat to discuss all we have done so far, and what we are planning to do for the rest of the year.

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research

I walked on Mars.

The Student-Faculty Programs Office organized a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) tour for us a few days ago, and it was one of the most exciting places in which I have ever stepped foot. Immediately upon arrival, we were greeted by friendly faces who commenced our tour with a brief history of JPL and its goal of propelling rockets into space.

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academics

Campus exploration and a mini discovery!

Millikan Library is no longer a library.

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academics

Guster concert ft. Kishi Bashi and all of my happiness

I turned in my Math3 set at 2pm, my CS21 set at 4pm, my CS2 set at 4:58pm, and then I headed to Anaheim for a concert at the House of Blues in Disneyland!

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academics

We're All Mad Here

Hey guys!

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global

Second Term = Ski Trip

Hey guys! Every year a lot of houses go on ski trips. This year, Avery went to Mammoth Mountain, which is a comfy six hour drive from school. Here are some shots from ski trip.

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culture

Time Travel and Sheldon Cooper

Welcome back! This is the second part in a two-part installment of my fall term adventures, so if you’d like to read it from the beginning, you can start here. Continuing on… 6. Interstellar and Formal Dinner with Professor Kip Thorne Every house has a formal dinner once per term when we dress up all fancy-like, invite professors and other guests, and are served really delicious food.I don’t remember what exactly was in the dish, but this is what it looked like:

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culture

Ski Trip!

Last Thursday, January 8, was the beginning of Ruddock House’s annual ski trip to Mammoth, CA. Our car arrived late Thursday night after about a 6-hour drive, around 11:30 pm, though the rental cars had issues and ended up getting there past 2 am…

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research

Caltech == Hogwarts (it's magical)

System.out.println (“Hello world!”)

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local

Important Life Achievements, Just in Time for the End of the Year

Here are some very important life goals I managed to achieve as winter break drew to a close this year:

  1. Got my permit so I can finally start driving. I’d forgotten that lines at government offices could grow so long… I also learned that a permit was a flimsy piece of paper and not a solid ID card like I’d thought (guess I’ll have to apply for the ID separately…)
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research

End of the 2014 Fall Term! At Last!

It feels incomplete to jump to winter break without explaining what happened for the rest of fall term, so I shall give a quick, picturesque summary.

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culture

Musings from a Single

As a sophomore, I now live in a single slightly “off campus” in Braun House (ie. literally across the street, rotated perhaps 30 degrees east from Ruddock). Single life is…not as bad as I thought. My room is amply spaced and contains the usual wonders–a sink, an AC; my only complaint is that the shelves are rather high, so I have to stand on my chair to reach. That being said, I do miss having a roommate. I bought a carpet because she bought a carpet and it filled up the emptiness in the room slightly.

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global

Hawai'i or the biggest New Years fireworks ever

This winter break I went on a family outing, just my parents and me, to Hawai’i (pronounced Hah-vye-YEE). This wasn’t initially my idea; I’d have prefered to stay home and help out my parents around the house, doing the chores with which their aging bodies now struggle. But nope, the day after my finals in France I was informed that in a spontaneous decision my parents had decided to send us to Hawai’i between Christmas and New Years, a serendipitous turn of events by all means. We were unable to find accomodations at our island of choice, the ever-gorgeous Maui, so we in yet another fortunate stroke of luck booked for the Island of Hawai’i instead, or colloquially known as the Big Island.

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culture

Girls' Night and Formal Dinner

The lovely ladies of Ruddock House decided to compile together a Girls’ Night on 11/14, which would entail watching rom coms, decorating each other, and eating cupcakes. (This prompted the men of Ruddock House to hastily throw together a Guys’ Night of beverages, action films, and card games.)

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research

Bright eyed, bushy tailed

At the end of my 2014 SURF, my mentor told me that she had submitted our project abstract to the American Geophysics Union (AGU) 2014 Fall Meeting and that should I find funding I should feel welcome to go. I ended up applying for Caltech’s Hausner for what turned out to be a three night funded trip to San Francisco! I just finished up the trip, my first conference, and while it was admittedly a geophysics conference for someone certainly more interested in the harder fields of physics, it gave me a terrific understanding of what academic life could possibly look like.

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culture

La Salle Pleyel, Paris's crib of legends

After going to Vienna, the world’s heart of classical music, I suddenly realised that music is a bigger part of me than I’d ever realized. Immediately upon returning I scanned through the great Parisian concert halls for performances I could attend before leaving, and though I found no more operas, which were my original target, I did find two concerts at the Salle Pleyel.The Salle Pleyel is a slightly smaller concert hall than the great opera houses, and is much more intended as a recital hall, almost built for piano performances. Not surprising given the homage of the name to a composer and the founder of a great piano company of the 19th century, the height of Romantic pianicism.The first concert I found was a concert with Emanuel Ax playing the Brahms second Piano Concerto with Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in the first half and with the latter two performing the Fourth Brahms Symphony in the second half. I couldn’t find any cheaper tickets, and dropped 65 euros on this ticket, which also landed me in quite a nice seat

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Spotlight


culture

Caltech Food Tour

Caltech may be a small campus, but it has a large variety of food options. There are three main dining locations on campus — The Lee F. Browne Dining Hall, the Hameetman Center (which houses our beloved Red Door Cafe), and the Broad Café.

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academics

Some Late-Night Stress-Saving Food Runs

Midterms kept up its unrelenting attack on my sanity this week – at least a little bit. And how did I solve this? Two words.

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culture

Caltech Art Gala

Every year, Caltech’s literary and arts magazine Totem hosts the Art of Science competition.

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global local culture

Quick Trip to the Beach

Although there are a lot of smaller things, such as midterm smoothies and milkshakes (Blacker does something similar to this) and some larger things like Faculty Dessert Night, the soc team usually agrees that beach trip is the most work.

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