Of course, we didn’t get the good night’s sleep we wanted,
because we had to be up bright and early for a full day in Jerusalem! We started the day with a tour of Hadassah, a
major hospital in Jerusalem. The foundation has hospitals, medical schools, and research facilities all around Israel. And it all began as a women’s Zionist movement in America! As tired as we were, it was pretty cool to see.
Next, we went to Mt. Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery. We first saw the graves of some of Israel’s most important national leaders, like Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, Yitzchak Rabin, and Golda Meir. Afterwards, we went to the military cemetery where IDF soldiers who fall in the line of duty are buried. The soldiers with us told us the stories of some of the soldiers buried there, and we had time to walk around the cemetery and look at the pictures and stories that loved ones had left on the graves of the soldiers.
At the end of the day, we went to the Kotel, or the Wailing Wall. The Wall is one of the holiest sites in Judaism, as it is the Western wall of the courtyard built to hold the now-destroyed Second Temple. It is a tradition to write a note, usually some sort of prayer or request, and place it inside the cracks of the wall. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though, as the Wall is almost always crowded. If you wait, though, you can get up to the front, place your note in the Wall, and stay there and pray for a short time if you want to. When you leave, you generally walk backwards away from the Wall until you reach the entrance.
At the Temple Mount, right before the entrance to the Kotel
After our trip to the Wall, we had some time to explore the Jewish Quarter. It has a different feel from the rest of the places in Israel we’ve visited, sort of a historic meets modern. You walk down narrow cobblestone alleys and see everything from old-fashioned bakeries (marzipan, yummmm) to gift shops to Apple stores. We went all the way from the Jewish Quarter to the front gate, where all four Quarters (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian) meet.
Then it was back to the hotel so we could try and get some sleep before our last day in Israel!
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.