Since I left Paris I have been visiting Cambridge, sort of as a college visit and somewhat as just a chance to see the UK. It has been pretty fun getting to walk through all of the historic colleges and see the difference between the American and British systems. Since I went to Ecole Polytechnique last week I am now comparing all three of the American, British and French systems for possible graduate schools, very tough decisions. It is sad that I find it easier to overhear conversations in French than in British English. I guess I’m not very good with English accents.
So far I have realized that this weekend in Cambridge has been colder than any winter I experienced in San Diego and I’ve seen more rain than before. Despite this, there have been a few rays of sunshine and the town is beautiful. I am staying in St. Catherine’s college and have this awesome view out over the courtyard.
The university atmosphere is completely different from Caltech as it is much more Old World-like and formal. The general mannerisms here are far more proper. It’s also amazing how grandiose the architecture is. After seeing the undergraduate dorms here I have become quite jealous and have a few questions for housing, namely, “why don’t I get to live in a castle?”
I know we get to see him every year at Caltech but it was also pretty cool to see the office of Professor Hawkings in the college of Gonville and Caius. He comes every year to Caltech usually for a month or two but it was nice to see where he works.
Then finally today I went out for a drive to see the coast. Not quite the same type of beach as I’m used to in San Diego but hey, there was water. I have now seen the traditional Pacific waters that I’m used to in San Diego, the crystal clear glacial waters of the Alpine lakes, the glowing Mediterranean and now the murky Manche (Or British Channel for English speakers).
It has been fun getting to tromp around England and spend this weekend in the Cambridge area. I got to stop by the Cavendish lab to see where the physics labs are here explored the old colleges. It’s definitely a cute little area. Now I just have one last day with my parents until they return to the States and I head off to the European Nuclear Physics Conference in Bucharest!
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to do a 10-week internship at Gilead Sciences in Foster City, CA. For those unfamiliar, Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative medicines.
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.