research

Latrines and edema

Half of Project Peanut Butter spent Wednesday night at Namandaje village, north of Blantyre.We go their once a fortnight (yes, people say fortnight in Malawi) as a home away from home when we go to very distant villages. It allows us to treat three health centers in two days that are much too far from Blantyre to otherwise serve. We stay with a Catholic priest who has done amazing work in his village! I was so impressed by the medical and educational facilities he was able to support and expand on. Here is Ben (pictured right), a Peace Corp volunteer posted in Namandaje, explaining the latrine project he worked on to me and Ricky (pictured left), a medical student working for Project Peanut Butter.

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global

Nerves of Steel

Making the connecting flight to Edinburgh was actually a lot easier than I thought (well then again, I kept thinking of the worst possible scenarios since I never flew internationally by myself before, and it was freaking me out). In fact, I ended up meeting a girl while we waited for our flight who was also studying at Edinburgh for the fall from UCSB! :D I felt a lot better after that, and a little less alone. Apparently both of us already started thinking in a British accent since I’ve only seen her once since then, but just being able to meet someone going through the same thing as me was a huge relief that day. The rest of my day, after setting foot in Edinburgh, Scotland, was tiring, very sore, and incredibly overwhelming. I got lost trying to get back to my flat from Princes Street, one of the main roads with lots of popular clothing stores etc, with my flatmate because both of us forgot to bring a map. Despite it taking us over an hour to get somewhere only 10 minutes away though, getting lost was a great way to explore everything around us. There’s so much more I could say, but it’d probably be a bore for you to read through all of it if I haven’t lost your attention already. Classes don’t start for another week, since it’s Freshers Week right now (kind of the equivalent of frosh camp). I’m sure by the end of the week I’ll have tons of more interesting things to tell you guys about, so until next time! (:

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research

The Little Flies That Could...

Hey,First of all, guess what? I hate the little flies that could! I’ll get back to that in a while. Now for the rest of the post.So, I find it funny how I hardly have that much to do now that I’m home, yet I still haven’t caught you guys up with my summer! I just feel super lazy all the time and have been devoting my time to catch up with the TV shows that I wasn’t able to watch during the school year. Fringe, House, Bones, Lie to Me, Big Bang Theory, Eureka, Warehouse 13, OCD Project (haha), and Jersey Shore (hah again). Umph. Anyways, here’s what happened during the week of8/9- 8/13. Ahh, so long ago! But yeah, this week was a pretty chill one. Some of the kids finished up their homework a bit early and needed someone to help them get into the tunnels. Okay, underneath Caltech, there are tons of tunnels. Techers have been navigating the tunnels for decades and along the walls and stuff, there a murals and bits of wisdom. I know a few people who are pros in the tunnels. I, on the other hand, know nothing. I went on a tour when I was a prefrosh and that’s basically it. But, since the kids wanted to go and they needed a counselor, I was down. First, we tried getting into the tunnels one way, but failed. And then, we entered a different way and were successful. Woo. Hah. Here’s a pic of us walking down one of the them.

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culture

Mulanje District, Malawi

I spent my weekend in the staggeringly beautiful Mulanje District of Malawi. The district saddles up right next to Mozambique, grows oodles of tea, and generally busies itself being gorgeous. The area is famous for its mountains and tea. I went there to spend time with Bri, a Peace Corps volunteer, and new friend. She lives about a 10 minute walk from one of the Chiponde Clinic sites, Muloza. Her house is in the traditional village style, being made of brick, with a cement floor and tin roof. It has three small rooms that serve as kitchen, bedroom, and storage. There is also an outhouse, a hut, and a room for bathing. After the grand tour of the premises, she has a beautiful garden, and chatting with the friendly neighbors that came to investigate about a person driving a car all the way to Bri’s house we were off to hike on Mt. Mulanje. Bri, Amy -Bri’s good friend and fellow volunteer- and I hiked to this waterfall:

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culture

Concerts and Tropical Storms

Before I left California for home I had one last thing left to do: attend SMTown ‘10. SM Entertainment is one of Korea’s largest entertainment company and every year they put on a concert of their most popular artists, called SMTown. But this year wasn’t just any other ordinary year. This year was the first year that they had a concert overseas in LA (as well as Tokyo and Shanghai) and I most definitely wasn’t going to let this chance slip away!!

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research

Last days of SURF(ing)

The last week of my whirlwind SURF experience found me learning many new things and doing many new things in a short period of time. From the packing to the mastering new protocols, I was swamped! I remember feeling rather sheepish when my mentor’s listing of all the things he wished to do in one week prompted me to gently remind him that it was my last week, only for him to reply that he knew. I guess I’m glad he had the confidence that I could do so much in such a short amount of time? The first of many new protocols to learn? The M9 media shift protocol. Though I had been using the fermentor for most of my SURF project to grow cells and express protein, we decided to use a different kind of method that allowed us to incorporate non-natural amino acids into our protein sequence – something that the professor I did my SURF under is famous for. Thankfully instead of working with 10L of culture, I only had to work with 1L, although the in between steps are much more tedious. After working with the fermentor which is specially built to grow cells super fast, using the conventional method seemed like it took forever for the cells to grow… Let’s just say I didn’t enjoy the 6 hour waiting period filled with constant checking and adjusting followed by another 4 hour waiting period.

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research

On safari!

I spent my Sunday at Liwonde National Park on safari!

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research

Environmental concerns

Bricks, they are quite controversial.

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research

An abundance of sugar!

This past weekend I saw another year come and go as I turned another year older. Though most of my friends had already finished SURF and had left, I still had plenty of fun spending it with those still around and pigging out. And also because…

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culture

It's Coming!

Since the next big thing after the start of preseason is the start of classes, I shall fulfill my promise now and talk about a few things that Prefrosh should expect when they get here. First and foremost, Prefrosh, don’t bring a lot of things with you on your first trip here! You will go through Orientation and Rotation and you’ll be living in random temporary rooms until Rotation ends. Then, if you’re lucky you’ll move right into your permanent room in your House but some Houses put their Prefrosh into yet another temporary room until permanent room assignments are figured out. I brought just enough to get me through two weeks and then my parents came down with the rest of my boxes that I had before leaving. I’m lucky that my parents can drive to campus but other friends who live on the other coast have had their things shipped to them after their final move. I’d say shipping costs are worth it. Some parents have been asking about how to equip rooms. Once again, I’d say to wait on any big things until you move into your permanent room. Also, it’s probably a good idea to have parents visit a few weeks into your time here not only to stabilize you but they will most likely have good ideas about setting your room up and whether you realize it or not, you’ll miss each other a lot, especially as time goes on.

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research

Mannion Food, Bumming at the Beach and Karaoke!

Hey,Okay, I have a reason for being so behind with stuff. The last two weeks of SURF were pretty hard. I was in lab until 8- 10 pm each night and I had to go in on the weekends in the morning and in the night. So yeah. I have a reason for being so fail. Anyways, I still want to catch you guys up with some of the fun stuff I was able to do before my summer at Tech ended. The weekend of the 6th-8th was really fun! It was nice taking another break from lab and getting to do some fun stuff. On Friday I hung out with friends, on Saturday I went to the beach, and on Sunday I went to Little Tokyo. Fun stuff. On Friday night, I took some FSRI kids to Lloyd and I ended up talking with some friends. Some of them were baking! Here’s Sabrina (left) and Melissa (right) with their banana bread. Okay, it looks kind of burnt on the edges, but it smelled amazing. Throughout the summer, they have been perfecting their baking skills. A few days later I came back to Lloyd to see that Melissa had like 5 breads in her room. She was on a baking spree!

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research

Moving In and Farewells

Last week was the official end of the SURF program and so many of my friends started packing and saying their goodbyes. Meanwhile, my roommate and I moved into our new fall assignment. Since I left for Japan right after finals week, we decided not to move in the beginning of summer, as most people did, but instead decided to move at the end of SURF. However, I nearly wished we had done so at the beginning of SURF because after waking up super early to go to lab to start a gel, running back and forth to the housing office to check into our new room and get the new combination and then checking out of our old room, and having to wake up my groggy roommate who had spent the night doing who knows what instead of packing, I was exhausted! But, many of my friends, already moved in and packed up, offered us a helping hand and it went much faster than expected! So here’s a shot of our newly moved into room…. Trust me, this is nothing compared to how bad it looked when we first moved in. What with the housekeeper trying to clean and vacuum our room and my thousands of boxes piled everywhere and my roommate’s thousands of books stacked everywhere and all the random items the previous owner decided to leave behind (namely one dirty sock, a bottle of aloe, and many many coat hangers as well as two pillows and a rather dingy looking towel), there was hardly any space to walk around at first. That and my roommate and I were too exhausted at first from moving everything downstairs to unpack anything. We joked that we should have just kept our room in that state for the whole year. But, of course, after lunch and some resting, we set off on the even more tedious task of unpacking. I took this shot only after I could find my camera, which was after unpacking and organizing at least half of our stuff.

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clubs

Measles?!

This week in Malawi the health centers are overflowing with children getting their measles vaccine. The Malawian government is trying to get every child without a vaccine to get one by tomorrow! Here is a quote from a Google News article: “Measles has claimed 195 lives since January [2010] in the impoverished southern African country, prompting authorities to launch a USD 4.2 million (Euro 3.3 million) campaign to vaccinate 6 million children. Kabuluzi said Malawi is facing “the worst outbreak in a decade”, with nearly 77 000 measles cases reported, mainly in cities and towns.” I’ve definitely seen children at Chiponde Clinic with measles. One of the problems with the measles vaccine is that children in Malawi are supposed to get their vaccine at 9 months and a booster at 4 years, but few seem to get the vaccines at the correct ages, leaving the children susceptible. Here are some photos from the measles campaign at Makwira Health Center:

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culture

Saving People's Lives and Eating Like a Fatty

Hola,So yeah, basically the title says it all. My normal week. Saving people and then after doing so, eating a bunch. Hah. Well, at least the latter is true! Last week the Red Cross came and I decided to give blood. This was my second time giving blood. The first time was also at Caltech, earlier in the school year. I really don’t mind giving blood and it feels good knowing I’m helping someone, but the people at the Red Cross are always calling me telling me to donate. And I always tell them the same thing…that it’s too hard to donate unless the bus comes to Tech. But I stay true to my word and if I have room in my day, I make an appointment.

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research

Déjà vu?

As the seventh busy week of my SURF project came and went, I found myself experiencing a serious case of déjà vu. How so you might ask? By taking a visit to Tokyo! Well, to be precise, Little Tokyo. This past weekend was the 70th annual Nisei Week (“nisei” meaning second-generation in Japanese). So, my friends and I decided to head down to Little Tokyo to check out the festivities and eat some delicious food.

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culture

Chitenje How-to

A chitenje is the multipurpose, can’t-do-without, colorful piece of cloth every Malawian woman has got! It’s a rectangular piece of fabric used as a wrap over a skirt, to carry children, as a shawl in the cold or rain, and as a head wrapping. All the village women wear them, they are far less common in the city as professional women wear uniforms or current western fashions.

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research

Time to do some reporting.....

These past couple of weeks have been filled with all sorts of reporting from writing an abstract to publish in the CURJ – the Caltech Undergraduate Research Journal – to giving a presentation at group meeting as well as writing another progress report.

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research

Summer Snow

There’s a ton of venues for hiking in the San Bernardino mountain range just north of Pasadena. Some trails start just 20 minutes from campus, up by JPL. However, if you’re looking for an adventurous all-day hike, with snow to trek through in the summer, the remains of a 1950s plane wreck along the trail, and a higher summit than any other place in Southern California, the place to go is San Gorgonio Mountain in the San Bernardinos, about a two-hour drive from Pasadena. I went there a few weeks ago with a group of friends, some of whom you can see in the picture above. We were surprised at how much snow was still on the mountain! We left Pasadena at around 9 am and started on the Fish Creek Trail, which has about 3,400 feet of elevation gain, at 11. Every so often we would run into other hikers on the trail, but there weren’t as many as I would have expected for a weekend.

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global

Last last week :)

There was a lot of crossing ofmosquitoes. Okay, here’s a little recap. We screen for transformants on the fluorescent microscope and out of the few hundred larvae per container, we obtain anywhere from 0-20 transformants. We then let these larvae grow into adults and then cross them with wild type ones. Here’s a box full of crosses that I had just set.

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research

Hitting the Waves!!

Figuratively of course. Well for me at least. This past weekend, the SURF program sponsored a trip to Santa Monica beach, so of course my friends and I, being the car-less and poor students that we are (or believe we are), decided to take full advantage of this opportunity. The morning before I went however, I checked the forecast which reported a rather gloomy high of 65 degrees. Seeing this, I decided not to wear my swim suit (I mean, if the weather was 65 degrees think about how cold the water would be!!) And at first, was I glad to have brought my jacket! When we first arrived at the beach around 11am, it was still very chilly and very gloomy looking. Some of my friends decided to brave the waters, only to come shivering back just a couple of minutes later. Well, all except for the one from Alaska, who marveled that the water was the “perfect temperature for swimming”.

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culture

Out and About.

Some of you may be wondering what it’s like to be in Pasadena while being a Techer. It’s true that during the year we are quite busy with work and don’t go off campus much during the week. Actually, this depends on each individual person as some people manage to go all over the place and keep on top of work. I can say that I barely went off campus on weekdays but managed to walk somewhere on the weekend, mainly for food. However, the summer is a different story. It was when summer started that I really started feeling that I’m in Southern California. First, it’s pretty hot although this year has been an unusually “cold” for the area. Second, I’ve seen much more of the surroundings in the couple weeks of summer than during the past school year so I’ll describe some of these places for you.

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research

Under the Sun!

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer! Incoming Prefrosh, I remember that my Prefrosh summer was amazing! However, I’m not at all implying that my Techer summer is any less amazing.

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research

Lift off

Welcome to my new travel blog! After a day of snafus at the airport, it seems like I’m on track to leave the US for Malawi in just a few hours! I am bouncing-off-the-walls excited for my journey to Blantyre, Malawi.

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global

Lazy Summer Days

At the end of last week I was exhausted from ten hour work days, working on weekends, and standing outside all day at amusement parks! So, I decided to take it easy this past weekend, opting out of going to yet another amusement park with my roommate (this time, she and some friends from Lloyd house went to Disneyland). After sleeping in on Saturday, I instead went with some friends to dim sum. What is dim sum you might ask? To put it loosely, it’s like Chinese-styled brunch. Most Chinese restaurants start serving dim sum in the late morning (around 10 to 11 am) until the early afternoon (around 2 to 3 pm), although some restaurants will serve dim sum for the whole day.

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local

Weekend Explorations

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research

And... Success!!

After a fun weekend, it was back to work. Finally it was time to see whether my purification process worked.. fingers crossed! After two weeks of alternating hot and cold centrifuge cycles, a three day process of dialyzing the liquid to rid it of any unnecessary salts, I finished off my purification with a process called “diapolizing” (not sure if that’s how it’s spelled but it’s something along those lines).

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research

Up, up, and awaaayyy!!

After another long week of waiting on centrifuges, broken scales, and smelly bacteria, my friends and I ambitiously decided to visit another amusement park. The park in question this time? Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, CA. Though a little farther than Raging Waters was (Santa Clarita is about 45 minutes from campus) we were lucky that there was hardly any traffic. I guess everyone likes sleeping in on Sunday mornings.. Including my friends:

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research

Mosquitoes are EVIL.

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research

Introduction to Microfluidics

Current Music: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Verdi Requiem

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research

Fun in the Sun!!

Though California is known for it’s mild temperatures, things started heating up last weekend! With the temperatures soaring to the high 90’s, my friends and I decided to beat the heat by going to a water park. The water park in question? Raging Waters in San Dimas, a convenient twenty minute drive from campus.

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research

Can I Make Yogurt In That?

Over the past few weeks of SURF, I have been working to purify a protein. Sounds dull? It may be pretty repetitive and tedious but it’s certainly far from boring.

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research

Boba, Barbeques, and International Frisbee

At Caltech, both the house dining rooms and Chandler, the lunchtime cafeteria, are closed on weekends during the school year. We’re left to fend for ourselves—which is actually awesome, because it encourages us cook our own food in the house kitchens or gives us an excuse to go out to restaurants. During the school year people eat out a lot on weekends or cook simple food; during the summer there are more structured cooking groups (which I’ll talk about in a later post!) and more time to visit restaurants outside of Pasadena.

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research

Pool Parties, Ice Cream, and Justin Bieber?

Hey,So last weekend was really fun! Well, I mean, there were definitely some boring parts, but for the most part I enjoyed myself.During some of the boring times, I just hung out with friends. And sure, just hanging out can be pretty boring, but it’s way better than just bumming on the computer by yourself. :) Oh! and something we did was watch Youtube videos and I was actually enlightened by a few of them…. Basically, we had a Justin Bieber section of our boredom when we were looking at funny stuff involving him. One of them was this video:

After watching this I was like "Wow. What's our world coming to when our pop stars don't even know what German means!" Umph. Oh wells. I guess we can just file him with the tons of other famous people who don't know basic things. (: Also, if you're super bored you should also check out:3 Year old crying over Justin Bieber. This made me laugh soo much. It's crazy how crazy some people are. Ha!Anyways, onto some events that happened over the weekend. This summer, there's a group of students who are on the SURF SAC committee. These people help put on events that are open to summer students and are free! The event on Saturday was a Luau pool party! However, I was being a bum in my room so I didn't go out the pool part of the party. But, knowing me, I made sure I was in time for the food! :D At first I felt a little bad that I was only going there for the food, but since I also had to take pictures and there were other people just coming for the food, I no longer felt bad. :)

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research

Summer so Far.

So, summer has officially kicked in! I haven’t written a post in a while but I was settling in, taking a break, and, well, there are fantastic new bloggers who are writing about their exciting summers too! Anyways, although I haven’t written anything about summer yet, it doesn’t mean that nothing interesting has happened (as you can reassure yourselves from the other great blogs). My summer started off on June 11 which was the last day of Finals Week. It was also Graduation for the Seniors and for me it was my Birthday. I must say that this was quite a wonderful end to a year at Caltech and quite a beginning for summer. It was bittersweet: sweet because Finals were over (and it was my Birthday) and sour because the Seniors were leaving. Since Caltech is so small, people here can get very close and even though I only knew the Seniors for a year, I was still very sad to see them leave. Fortunately, a couple of the Seniors got jobs nearby so they’ve been showing up on campus occasionally! The next big thing was moving. Almost everyone who was staying on campus for the summer had to move to their summer rooms. Luckily, during Summer and Fall room picks, I got the same room so I’m definitely staying in my current room until next summer.

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research

Birthdays, festivals, food, oh my!

I must say, the first couple of days I came back to Caltech felt odd. I remember sitting at my desk after coming back from the lab thinking, ‘Why am I not doing any work!?’ It’s definitely nice being here at Caltech with all my friends but actually having enough time to actually spend some quality time with them (not that we don’t during the school year… it’s just usually a different kind of quality time like late night boba runs to keep us going another hour or two to finish math problem sets :P)

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research

The halfway point is almost here!

Hello peoples,SURF is almost at it’s halfway point. It’s crazy that I’ve already been working for this long. Wooo. Okay, now to the stuff that happened.Something really sad happened last week. I’m not sure if you all remember, but a little while ago, I told you about a construct that I was making that had a Deformed promoter. Basically, I have been trying to clone in this promoter, but have been having a lot of trouble. Earlier this week I found out that the reason why it wasn’t working was because I was messing up on a crucial step. -__- . Oh well. Basically, in my notebook I read that we had to incubate the ligation, so the first thought that came into my head was in the 37 degree water bath. Well, it turns out that I was supposed to incubate at room temperature and that the ligase is inactivated in the water bath. So yeah, this is why my promoter wasn’t being ligated! I mean, it’s a pretty fail thing on my part, but at least I found this out now. I would hate losing more time.

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research

Don't worry, it's only antibiotic resistant E.Coli

So says the safety officer as I receive safety training the first day. This seems like it will be a fun and interesting summer for certain….

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research

Friends and Food (what more could I ask for?!)

Hey,Ahhh, I’m behind on these things! (Also, I know I have a cheesy blog title. Woot woot!) :D Anyways,this last weekend was definitely a fun one!Here at Tech, we had a 4-day weekend because of the holiday. But, all the grad students(my co-mentor included) were still going into lab. I wanted to be helpful and not seem like a slacker, so I also decided to come in as well…at least on Friday. I went in at my usual time, but there wasn’t that much stuff to do. It was pretty sweet because I was able to leave lab by 12:30. :) It actually worked out really well because I had just found out that a few friends were going to head out to a mall in Arcadia.Summer’s a great time because during the school year, we didn’t really have that much time to just hang out in malls and mess around. During the summer, there’s tons of time! And basically, we milk it for all it’s worth! (Well..sometimes, at least.)In the mall, we went to stores, put on ridiculous stuff and took pictures! (It had to be documented, of course!) Here’s my friend Vivian. We’re crazy and decided to put tons of stuff on her. She’s was glad to put them on, and this is the fantastic result. (:

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global

Working on Supercomputers

Begin my blog by welcoming you to Tokyo, and I’ll begin mine by welcoming you to Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles! My friends Kenzie, Elisa, Ben and I celebrated the end of our sophomore year (and my 20th birthday!) by exploring Little Tokyo and singing karaoke. Little Tokyo is surprisingly close to Pasadena—only about 11 stops on the Metro Gold Line. The nearest Gold Line stop to campus is about a 20-minute walk, so it’s very accessible. Here we are with our super cool Japanese snacks before heading to the karaoke studio. All four of us started our SURFs a few days after this. Kenzie and Elisa are doing off-campus research at the University of Washington and MIT, conducting geology and biomedical research, respectively.

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research

Leaving Japan

The time to return to California and start my SURF project has finally come. With mixed feelings of sadness and anticipation, I prepared to leave Japan. But first, Some food shopping is necessary before making the long journey back. As I described before, in most Japanese department stores, there is a story dedicated to food that is sold in vendor booths, as depicted above. Right now we’re in the sweets section if you couldn’t tell from the cakes and pastries.

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research

I'm making progress!!!!!

Hello,First off, I’m really really really happy. My construct has been built!!! We screened it and everything turned out how it was supposed to! This was a great way to end my week! I’m really excited, but will hold off about this until a little bit later.(And..I told you I wasn’t going to write more “essays”…but I’m sorry! I couldn’t really include that many pictures in the first half of the post.) So, if you remember from my last blog I was telling you guys about a progress report that had yet to be finished. Well, good news is that I finished it! Sucky part is that I’m a bit sleep deprived. :)

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global

Next stop, Kansai!!

After a busy week, I moved on to the Kansai region, which includes the cities Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, and more. After resting on Monday, it was off to tour the historic city of Kyoto! Though the city’s famous for being super hot in the summer and freezing in the winter, it was surprisingly mild when I went – thank goodness!!

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Spotlight


academics

My Trip to the Galapagos!

It’s been over three months since my trip to the Galapagos, and I am still thinking about it. For seven days, we all woke up at 5:30 am on the boat, ate breakfast together, and went out as the sun was rising on our morning hike to catch frigatebirds mating or iguanas spewing salt from their nostrils. Our days were spent snorkeling with turtles, sea lions, and schools of fish, and our nights were spent sitting on the bow of the ship, talking all together under the stars. It was truly a spring break I will never forget.

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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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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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