culture academics

Impostor Syndrome at Caltech

Studying at Caltech is a lot like crewing a spaceship. You get to work alongside some of the most talented people on Earth, you’re constantly doing science in order to survive, and the environment tends to keep you under a lot of pressure. It’s an incredible experience, and also a very challenging one, to be sure. Sometimes you’re left feeling like an impostor among your crewmates, having failed to complete every task you think is expected of you. But fear not! These feelings are not based in reality; they are merely symptoms of a benign condition known as impostor syndrome. Think you might be affected? This post is for you.

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academics

Switching Majors

Did you know that you don’t have to declare a major at Caltech until about halfway through the third quarter of your freshman year? That gives you an entire two-and-a-half quarters to decide what you really want to major in. That’s quite a bit of time if I do say so myself. In fact, enough time that somewhere between coming to Caltech and declaring my major, everything changed for me - I didn’t just change my major and my projected course selections, but what I wanted to do in my future. This is my story of going from an intended bioengineering major on the pre-med track to a Computer Science/Business, Economics, and Management double major looking to go to grad school.

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academics

What does Lifting look like at Caltech?

What does Lifting look like at Caltech?

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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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academics

My Experience with Caltech Humanities

I can still recall the day college admissions results were released in the spring. In my own hubris, I was expecting a plethora of options from top schools around the country. I actually ended up with only two schools to choose from, Caltech and Columbia University, before Decision Day. “This is gonna be easy” I thought to myself. I was not thinking correctly. I was being a fool.

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research academics

Double Majoring at Caltech

Like many students, I came into Caltech with a vision in mind. I had planned to major in bioengineering, do research in a bioengineering lab, and then eventually apply for medical school during my senior year. While some people manage to follow their four-year plans, I definitely did not. Within three weeks of my first term, I had decided to completely change my initial plans, from bioengineering to chemistry. The chemistry research interested me more, but a not-so-insignificant part of this decision was a desire to do less math. Ma1a was intimidating, what can I say?

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academics

Reflections: My Favorite Classes

Four weeks before graduation! While I’m looking forward to the summer and all the fun it promises, I’m also reflecting on my undergraduate experience over the past few years. This is a blog about my favorite classes during my time here, some expected and others less so. As a Computer Science major, no CS classes actually make my final cut, but my top three favorite classes all fall into the realm of Neuroscience, my other primary academic interest.

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academics

Humanities at Caltech

I remember being a junior in HS and my APCS partner, Brooke, had just gotten accepted into Caltech. She was looking at the course catalog for humanities courses during class (instead of working on our project) and shaking her head at the offerings. When May rolled around, she told me part of the reason she didn’t choose to go to Caltech was how the humanities courses seemed to be “too scientific,” with classes that integrated history with quantum physics, etc. A year later, when I was in the same situation, I decided to matriculate to Caltech for its strong STEM offerings, but felt some anxiety about how my love of the humanities would be fed during my four years of undergraduate education.

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academics

Interactions with Professors

One of the most well-known benefits of being a Caltech student is the infamous 3:1 student to faculty ratio, which implies a personalized, interactive undergraduate experience with world-class research scientists. It was a primary reason why I chose Caltech above other schools as a high school senior. Now as my time at Caltech comes to a close, I can reflect back on my interactions with different professors and consider if this 3:1 ratio really “lives up to the hype.” I believe the answer is yes.

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academics

Ranking Courses at Caltech

Below I have ranked all of the classes I took over 8 terms at Caltech. I ranked based on my overall enjoyment of the course, which depended on my interest in the subject, the quality of course, and the various topics/projects covered. The courses in the middle I did not have strong feelings for and had a hard time justifying their position besides gut feeling, so I did not provide reasoning for those.

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academics

Pre-med at Caltech

Despite being a school known for its scholarship and prowess in research, Caltech is not the most popular destination for pre-med students, largely due to its reputation of rigor. For many, Caltech’s degree of rigor is synonymous with grade deflation, one of the scariest English phrases to any pre-med student. As someone who started off on a completely different track, I matriculated to Caltech as a Computer Science major, and fully expected myself to be working in the tech industry when I graduated. However, as I went through a few different internships and also got exposed to different areas of science, I rediscovered my passion for biology, specifically neuroscience, and decided at the end of my sophomore year to embark on the pre-med track. In this blog, I’ll talk a bit first about the requirements for pre-meds, then he different opportunities available here for clinical work/volunteering, and finally some of the fears prospective pre-meds may have about attending Caltech.

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academics

Grad School Visits

While the majority of readers of these blogs are likely prospective undergraduates, I’m writing this in hopes of helping out any students who are curious about what the process of applying to graduate school from Caltech looks like. I hope the blog can lend some insight to the process.

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clubs academics

Tutoring at Caltech

One of Caltech’s many clubs is the RISE tutoring program, where undergraduate students connect with local high schoolers and provide tutoring in various STEM subjects. I only became a tutor this academic year, but the experience has been so rewarding for me and, hopefully, also for the students I tutor.

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academics

Sending a High Altitude Balloon to Space

This past term, I took EE154a: Practical Electronics for Space Applications, which was one of my favorite classes I’ve taken at Caltech so far! In the class, we learned about electronics and systems in the space environment through hands-on labs, and then we used that knowledge to create payloads for a high altitude balloon (HAB) launch into space! To start off the class, in the lab, we characterized various systems like an RC (resistor-capacitor) filter, an Arduino oscillator, different sensors, etc. at various temperatures and pressures in a thermal vacuum chamber, shown here:

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academics

How I Study

A while back, I wrote a blog post on the best study spots on campus. Now that you’ve settled in and found a place with a good ambiance for work, the questions evolves into: how do I get started? What’s the most effective way to study at Caltech? The answer, as always, is not clear-cut, since we each learn and process information in an individual way. However, in this blog post, I’ll provide some insight on the strategies I’ve used to study at Caltech and what tools I’ve found work for me.

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academics

Admissions Decision Retrovision

As I sit down to write this blog, I can’t help but reflect on how fast the years go by. It has been over three years already since I received my Caltech admissions decision. That was a very special day in my life, and I remember it like it was yesterday. As soon as I submitted my application to Caltech, my dad and I made it our job to read endless articles about Caltech. I wanted to learn everything about my dream school. The more I read, the more excited I became. It was also nerve-wracking, and I was anxious to learn when decisions were going to be announced.

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academics

Admissions Reflections

The email app has always been one of my most used apps on my phone, and this was especially true my senior year of high school. One Saturday, I was checking my email for maybe the 7th or 8th time that day, which was normal for me. What wasn’t normal that day though, was the surprise email I received from the Caltech admissions office. When I saw the message sitting in my inbox, my heart immediately began racing. I quickly opened it, and my heart rate doubled; I had been accepted. In total shock, I ran into the living room of my boyfriend’s apartment (who I was staying with at the time), and told him the good news. After celebrating, he told me to call my parents. I called my dad first, and his reaction was “Really?! I was not expecting that”… (thanks, Dad). I then called my mom, who was very excited and happy for me. Needless to say, that was one of the best emails I ever received.

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academics

Admissions Reflections

I was sitting at the kitchen table, having just finished a meal, when I decided to check my admissions decision for Caltech. While I was nervous for what might happen, I’ve always had a “rip the band-aid off” attitude. The decision had been made and it was just up to me now to observe what it was. I remember the moment very vividly – I clicked on the link in my application portal and a stream of virtual orange confetti rained down my computer screen. The first line of the letter said “Congratulations!”

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academics

Admissions Reflections

I remember huddling around my laptop with my mom and dad at the dining room table. While counting down from three, I took a few quick breaths and finally clicked on my application decision—the confetti on the screen was all we needed to jump up and scream! I remember hugging my parents as they happily shouted, “I knew it! I knew it!” It was an extremely exciting moment, and the rest of the day was really just a blur of my friends and family congratulating me on the acceptance.

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academics

How I Chose My Major

Coming into Caltech, I was not like some of my peers who, from the first day of entering campus, knew exactly which field they wanted to pursue. I arrived at Caltech finding everything around me intriguing. From mathematics to mechanical engineering, from biology to computer science, all of the above! As (somewhat of) a joke, I would claim I wanted to do 18 majors at once! Once I reached campus, there came my challenge of trying to definitively determine what major fits best for me.

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academics

Moving Back: FCC at Caltech

You’re squished with all your dorm essentials in the back of the car and your parents in the front trying to find parking. Emotions are high: Will you make friends? Will classes be too hard? What’s your roommate going to be like?

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academics

How to take care of yourself at Caltech

So you’ve done it! You’re going to attend Caltech, one of your dream schools, and you can officially call yourself a Techer. Maybe you grew up in sunny Southern California or, like me, moved thousands of miles from the East Coast (where they actually have seasons.) Regardless of how familiar you are with Pasadena or the Caltech campus before attending, becoming a student is a unique and new experience. Life at Caltech can be fun, but it is also one of the most rigorous schools in the world. It is important that your own health and wellbeing is always a top priority, regardless of whatever commitments you have on your plate.

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academics

T minus X days to Grad School (and some unsolicited life lessons)

Senior year tends to differ widely between different folks. Some have finished nearly all their major requirements, while others will be working through their classes all the way until graduation. My friends and I all fall on different points along this spectrum, but we all have something in common: we’re ready for second and third term.

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academics

Senior Send-Off

The seniors have less days than the frosh have term left.

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academics

Reflecting on College Admissions

What do you remember feeling when you found out you had been accepted to Caltech?

In short: I was completely shocked. Caltech had been my first-choice school for years (warm weather, great science, what’s not to love?). However, I didn’t ever think I’d get in: nobody had gotten in from my high school in the living memory of any teacher and my guidance counselor had told me point blank that it was a longshot.

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academics culture

My Best Advice for the Class of 2025

It’s crazy to think that it has been four years now since I was applying to college. I remember it vividly. This week we’re spending some time reflecting on our personal admissions processes, and how we ended up at Caltech. There’s one question though that I wanted to spin out into a separate post: “what advice would you give to the admitted class of 2025?” And I think the best way to do this is to tell a more detailed story than I did in my other post.

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academics

Admissions Reflections

What do you remember feeling when you found out you had been accepted to Caltech?

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global academics

Online School.. on Mars

When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!

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academics culture

Zooming Through the Year

These past six months have been a whirlwind- from having to move out of Caltech housing in March within a week’s notice due to COVID-19, to starting the first term of my junior year, I’ve definitely experienced a lot of change. When I went home in March, it was to a completely new state-my family moved from Chino, CA to New Jersey in January (great timing, huh?). While I missed seeing my friends from home, it was fun to have the chance to explore a completely new place. The pandemic obviously limited what I could see and do, but I got to experience walks through nature and along rivers normally foreign to a SoCal native and had some time to focus on bioinformatics research for the lab I work with on campus.

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academics

It’s Studying Time

Well, the week before finals week is finally here. And I spent that studying, but also, doing the ever-important finishing of reports, and honestly, taking a couple of much-needed naps to catch up on everything else.

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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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