SoCal is pretty dry. Frankly, it rains somewhere around 4 times a year, and the nearest body of water is the ocean, which takes a bit of time to get to with a car. Cambridge, on the other hand, is one of those universities that happen to be right next to a body of water, a river actually, being the River Cam. Really, the river itself is more a tributary, maybe a little over 7 feet deep in the areas around Cambridge. It’s a beautiful thing, great to sit by, cross over with bridges, relax, around, etc. One of the nicest things about it, though, has been one of the popular traditions of Cambridge: punting. And for this one, I’m going to eschew the random picture at the end for some quite relevant pictures now.
Punting is basically the art of navigating the river in a flat bottomed boat using a long pole that you push against the riverbed with. The end result is a gondola-like experience of traversing serenely through Cambridge, either sitting in the boat or punting yourself. In the warmer months, punting is a diversion often taken by quite a few many people, and it’s not uncommon to be crossing a bridge and see a great many boats crossing underneath you.
So I came into Cambridge earlier than a lot of other students, with the international. Bit confused, bit new to all of this, sort of had no idea what to do, I was just generally not in an amazing place. My college, however, had a decent idea how to introduce new people to university and did its best to occupy our time while we were here, not the least of which was taking us punting. Frankly, once I got into a boat with two other pretty cool guys, being punted about by a very cool third year, most of my worries just faded way. It’s just really difficult to be bothered when you’re lazily making your way through the river, watching the landscape slowly pass you by.
I even got a chance to try to punt. The keyword here, naturally, is “try”, because the end result was that as soon as I had to turn with a decent level of control, we started spinning around in a circle while I desperately tried to get us going in one direction again. I like to consider it a mild success, we eventually got where we were going, but you know, a bit less twirling madly would have been nice. Still, in between trying to wrest control of a boat using nothing but a giant stick, you do get some fantastic views. The Cam happens to run by some very nice bridges and colleges in Cambridge, including a good back view of King’s Chapel, the Bridge of Sighs in St. Johns, the new and old parts of Queens College, and so on. The whole time too you’ll have a fair number of other people punting along with you, so you generally have company. It’s heartening to see other people also try punting for their first time and do about as well as you’re doing.
End of the day, punting wasn’t part of some huge club, it wasn’t some massively awe inspiring experience, it wasn’t a mind blowing new activity, but frankly, it was one of the prettiest, nicest things I’ve done. This post wasn’t as excited as some of my other posts, but that’s alright; like punting, it’s content, relaxed, and just genuinely enjoyable I like to think.
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.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.