Last weekend, roughly 25 friends and I piled into five cars and headed towards the very cold mountains of Mammoth, California for the Avery House ski trip. Did you think that California was nothing but sunshine? Surprise! Pasadena is a balmy 70 degrees Farenheit in the winter, but it will snow in Mammoth on Independence Day.
Just as we were leaving Mammoth, one Averyite tossed a very large rock onto a frozen lake, which created a long, winding crack in the lake’s surface. The water that rose to fill the crack froze almost immediately. This emboldened some people to walk towards the middle of the lake and/or attempt to play hockey. My two-inch heels and I stayed comfortably planted in solid ground.
The lake provided sound effects for the brave souls that ventured towards its center. Every step caused the ice to bounce up and down on the water like a drumhead, creating beautiful bell-like tones. The louder the tone, the closer the ice was to cracking, and the more the peanut gallery gasped and squealed.
I tried not to gasp or squeal too often, but I’m pretty sure I started screaming when one of the would-be hockey players shot the puck perilously close to the large ice crack that we had created earlier. To retrieve it, he needed to slide– not walk– across the ice.
We left long after my toes froze.
On the way back, between fresh beef jerky and a capella sing-along in the car, we stopped at California’s Red Rock Canyon. Geology lovers: California wants you to visit! How can you say no to this canyon, not to mention the San Andreas fault?
Climbing up the “hill” was difficult– if my two-inch heels could have talked, they would have been yelling at me.
And now, it’s time for me to learn some more mind-bending special relativity…. Till next time!
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.