I’ve been back at school for almost 2 weeks now. I’ll just give a snapshot of what I’ve been up to:
Frosh Camp: 3 days, 2 nights at the Marriot at Ventura Beach. We got lucky and it was nice and sunny. Meeting pre-frosh, s’mores, surrey bike rides, beach runs, ultimate football in the sand, dips in the cold ocean, relaxing in the hot hot-tub, and ballroom dance lessons were all included in the package.
This is what Marlyn and I rode along the beach on. So. Much. Fun.
Rotation: 240 prefrosh get to know 8 houses and the people in those houses in 8 days. Rotation is not unlike speed dating in that there are loads of people to meet and very little time to do so.
Paint Party: Fleming’s social team worked hard to make this happen. Challenges included making a dance party with pre-frosh not awkward and most importantly not leaving a massive paint and mud mess in the courtyard and hallways. Basically, the party was two hours of dancing to music while splattering everyone around you with paint and getting showered with water. You can imagine what messy repercussions could ensue, but I am ecstatic to say that we escaped with no charges from housing! Awesome fun + No trouble = Great success.
Bi/Ch 110: Introduction to Biochemistry - what it sounds like.
Bi 202: Neurobiology of Disease - learning the biology behind Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALA, schizophrenia, etc.
E/ME 105: Project Design for the Developing World - working with Indian students on a project that will hopefully help people in rural Kerala.
BEM/Ec 118: Environmental Economics - learning how economics can affect environmental factors and vice versa.
I’m actually super excited about a bunch of my classes this term. ACM 95a and Bi/Ch 110 are requirements for my major (bioengineering), but the rest are courses I really wanted to take. This whole first week has been pretty casual because we haven’t had any sets and are still finishing rotation. Next week will be the real test!
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.
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.