research


research

Paving the Way & Enjoying the Journey on the Road Less Traveled

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.

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Chandrew's Recs #1: Bubble Tea!

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.

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An Interview with a JPL Mentor!

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:

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Forging Ahead with Research while Sheltering in Place

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.

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AnnABEL's Theorem

Have you ever gotten lost trying to find an address? Have you ever been annoyed by the voice on your phone telling you to “Turn left in 100 ft.” when in reality there is no street to turn into? When you find an address using your phone, have you ever wondered where that information comes from? I think we all have. GPS (Global Positioning System) is a system composed of a fleet of about 24 satellites put into orbit and maintained by the U.S. Department of defense. This technology is used to find a position on Earth by using a mathematical technique, called trilateration. Trilateration uses about 3 satellites, at any given time, to determine an object’s speed, elevation, and position. Most electronic devices come with a built-in GPS chip and use Wi-Fi networks and cellphone towers to enhance location accuracy and calculate its position. Even though GPS is a highly sophisticated system, it is far from perfect! It is not uncommon for it to malfunction when a navigator cannot receive sufficient satellite data or when signals move too slowly due to atmospheric irregularities in the troposphere and ionosphere. This, in turn, can output inaccuracies in location calculations which can cause serious problems in navigation and aviation in addition to unnecessary stress and frustration.

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Applying for a Caltech SURF!

The research opportunities, offered to all students at Caltech, are second to none! There are many labs on campus, and I am constantly amazed by the ground-breaking research being conducted by professors, graduates, and undergraduates in each of these labs on a daily basis. The best part is that Caltech undergraduates have the opportunity to apply for and obtain internships in many of these labs. They get to participate and be an integral part of ingenious research. From what I’ve heard, this is not the case in other undergraduate programs. Students elsewhere are usually not given such tremendous opportunities and respect, especially so early in their college career. Instead, they are usually tasked with cleaning beakers or secretarial work; not getting the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in class to study a discipline they’re passionate about, firsthand.

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From Algorithms to Sprung Rhythms

Hello everybody! My name is Annabel Reyna Gomez. I was born and raised in Northern California. I am the oldest child in a family of four and live with my parents and younger brother in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am first-generation Mexican-American and the first female in my family to study STEM. Currently, I am a sophomore at Caltech pursuing a major in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Aerospace Engineering.

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Sparky, Stand Back! It’s SCIENCE Time!

Happy Friday y’all! In all my abundant free time (which obviously exists) I’ve started volunteering with the Pasadena Unified School District. I’ve been working assisting their after-school program LEARNS, specifically helping with the Chemistry Olympiad and also running experiments for the kids to keep them engaged in science.

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CaltechY Winter Quarter Friends Dinner

The CaltechY hosts a Friends Dinner once every quarter to thank its supporters and provide them with an opportunity to network with the Y’s student leaders. Each event features one special speaker. In the past, there have been artists, professors, film makers and more. This time, it was one of Caltech’s chemistry professors, Peter Jonas, who spoke about the vision surrounding the new Resnick gift.

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global research

Change of Scenery

Hello all! My name is Lexy LeMar. I’m a rising junior studying chemical engineering in the environmental track (ChE ESE for short). I am currently writing to you from Boston, Massachusetts where I am doing research this summer through Caltech’s SURF program. For those of you who are unfamiliar with SURF, it is a ten week research program over the summer that allows students to conduct research in a lab on campus, at the Jet Propulsion Lab, or in any other institute research lab in the world! Last summer, I did a SURF in the Seinfeld group on campus, studying volatile organic compounds and characterizing the fluid dynamics of the Caltech photochemical oxidation flow tube reactor. I had a really great experience both in the lab and going on weekend adventures around the Los Angeles area; however, being on campus for such a long period of time made me realize how much I wanted a change of scenery.

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I’ll Be Back

And I’ll be Mozart.

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We’re *Definitely* Not in Pasadena Anymore, Toto

16 hours of airtime, more of just sitting in airports. And well, we’re definitely not in Pasadena. Exactly where am I though?

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Blinterhouse Round 2

Hello, my friends, it has been a long week but it’s the weekend now!

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My First 3D Print!

The Caltech Techlab gives members of the Caltech community free access to 3D printing. It is located in the Sherman Fairchild Library, and any registered user can use it when the library is open. There are currently 4 working printers that can be used for personal projects, and additional printers that can be used for school-related projects.

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Theme Dinner

In Blacker Hovse, we have the tradition of waited dinner - we are one of seven houses who do have this tradition. Each night, we have student waiters who serve food platters (we eat family style) and get drinks, carry messages, and do other miscellaneous errands. Although houses will let any member wait, they must be trained before they are allowed to, and are paid by Caltech Dining Services for their work.

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Crow-bar None (Ge 11a Part 2)

Ok now for the FUN! Geology post. And the post where I talk a bit about the logistics of going on a 3.5-day Caltech GPS trip. The trip started on a Thursday night. I spent most of the 4-ish hour car ride working on my CS midterm. We ate in Barstow. 3/5 for the Barstow burger place, it was kinda funky. My friend Molly and I actually packed most of our food for the trip besides the planned dinners out. Lots of chunky PB&J (blueberry jelly!).

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Journey Around San Francisco

Perhaps others cannot understand, but as a college convert to boba, I absolutely adore the chewy balls of tapioca. I have a very specific consistency that I like: not too soft that there’s no bite to the balls, but not too hard that I get an uncooked tapioca center. However, I would rather get squishy boba than undercooked boba. Getting that perfect goldilocks consistency is typically about cooking time - and depending on the place, it’s really hit or miss. Even my favorite places in the San Gabriel valley - which has the highest frequency of boba places ever - can sometimes disappoint. Although, take this with a grain of salt, because I will sometimes go near closing time - when it’s more likely that boba has been sitting around for longer.

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Twisted

Got my first ever parking ticket this week. And second. Yikes. The first was for parking in an (unmarked) street sweeping zone next to a park. The other was for parking overnight on property that I thought Caltech owned (obviously they did not). Either way that wasn’t exactly a fun start to the week.

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Museum of Pop Culture

Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) features exhibits everything related to pop culture, from rock n’ roll to video games to science fiction, fantasy, horror, and more. It is a bit expensive, with student tickets costing $23. However, if you’re staying in Seattle for the summer like me and have a local mailing address, you can sign up for a Seattle Public Library card. With this card, you have free access to select museums on certain days. Free tickets are released each day, so you need to click fast to get one you want! Tickets for the more popular museums like the MoPOP go quickly, while others like the zoo are pretty open.

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Boeing Museum and Factory

When my parents visited Seattle, we also went to the Future of Flight Aviation Museum and Boeing Tour! Included in the $25 ticket is a 1.5 hr guided tour of the Boeing factory, where all the planes are constructed, and admission to the Future of Flight Museum. When we arrived, there happened to be a free tour of the museum portion just about to start, so we got to listen in on the tour and learn more in depth about all the planes and exhibits there.

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A Boba Reunion

I made a couple of really good friends last year during FBU, whom I have featured in at least one blog post before. We all decided to take our return offers from FBU for the full internship in MPK (Menlo Park). So we have gathered once again!

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Starting Work at the Allen Institute

This summer, I’m interning at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. They aim to create an open database of information about the brain, one of their most well-known projects is trying to make a map of the brain, or a connectome. The connectome would have all the neurons of the brain and their synapses (connections) mapped out. Currently, the only organism whose connectome is fully reconstructed is the roundworm C. elegans. Parts of the mouse brain have also been mapped out, which is what some people at Allen are working on. We have a long way to go!

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SFP <- outlier(Chandrew)

Time for week two of the SURF updates!

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Finishing Up Intro to Graphic Design

After weeks of hard work, we’ve finally finished up our graphic design projects! Our assignment was to create a specialty store identity system – a store concept, a store name, logo, business card, letterhead, envelope, and additional applications (menu, aprons, tshirts, bags, etc).

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Learning Poster Design

Our first big project in Introduction to Graphic Design at the Art Center was designing a poster for a cause. We were to pick an organization or a cause, such as the WWF or ocean protection, and design a poster tailored to that cause. We were shown an example from a student who made a poster for the Garment Worker Center, which advocates for worker’s rights in the LA garment industry.

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Going to the Galapagos for Class Part 3

After spending 3 days onGalavan, we were sad to leave the boat. We were headed to Santa Cruz island next, one of the few inhabited islands of the Galapagos. There, sea lions come up to people’s boats, jump in, and start sunning themselves!

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Weekend Trip to the Huntington, Part II

Hi again, friends!

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LaBobatory Exploration

Being in Southern California, there is really no shortage of boba or boba places. I personally haven’t explored a ton of them, relying on friends’ favorites as my own go-to places. And at those places, like Factory Tea Bar and Half & Half, I really can’t go wrong. But with another one of my friends, who is only a little more clueless about boba than I am, we decided we wanted something different.

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Pirates

Each of the 8 houses at Caltech hold their own Interhouse: a party that they plan, build, and put on as a house. In third term, there are 3 parties: Lloyd’s, Blacker’s, and Fleming’s. Blacker’s Interhouse was this past weekend, with the theme of pirates. While the structure itself was pretty awesome (project leads decided to build a boat) the party was also really fun. It started off slowly, like all Interhouses do, but by 12 it was a great party, with the boat being crowded with people dancing, talking, and enjoying the music.

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Norton Simon Visit

Although Pasadena is not that large, it does have a nice museum called the Norton Simon Museum, which houses the previously private collection of - and you can probably guess this - Norton Simon. It has a pretty wide range of works from Europe, with selections from before 1700 all the way up to the present.

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​H-Mart in California (and Why Thirsty)

I decided to go out on a Wednesday night, crazy, I know. Anyways the entire point was to try this place that homemakes their boba just as I’m working with CDS to do. This place is called “Why Thirsty”, it’s Taiwanese and off Rosemead. Basically the first good sign is that there were a bunch of Chinese characters I couldn’t recognize on the door; that’s always a great indicator for good boba.

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Spotlight


local culture

Pasadena, City of Roses

Even if you’ve heard of Caltech before, you might never have heard of Pasadena, the quaint Los Angeles suburb it’s tucked into.

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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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culture

Caltech Art Gala

Every year, Caltech’s literary and arts magazine Totem hosts the Art of Science competition.

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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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