**Hi!I apologize for the massive delay between the last post and this - I’ve been making my final trips to help me make the decision that will define the next 8 years of my life! My first foray was to Seattle to revisit the University of Washington! It was another busy couple days both meeting more professors and students, while also getting some extra time to see the city! Though, again, I didn’t go UP the Space Needle, I got to see it. And then I ate some delicious salmon at Ivar’s (a famous small chain in the city). I also met some AWESOME people from other schools who are deciding where to go, and some others who had already committed! Enjoy the pictures from my time up there!
So then after coming back on Sunday (the 11th), I had two WHOLE days at school to… not have class but take care of things in lab and TA’ing, and then I was off again on Wednesday (the 14th) to Michigan! That was a bit of a longer flight, but then I arrived in Ann Arbor in time for dinner! The revisit group bonded pretty quickly, and there were more AWESOME potential classmates. We got to tour a lot of the facilities and even see the helicopter land! And, of course, I got to see more faculty. As a bonus, I even got to go home and see family for the weekend! Overall, a really nice trip, too! Sorry I don’t have too many pictures, but here’s the helicopter!!
So, the question on everyone’s mind is, I’m sure, where am I going!? The title of this post is “Decided!” so I have officially matriculated. And the final choice? Well, I’m going to…
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
Yup, that’s right, I’ll be in Ann Arbor, MI for the next 8 (or so) years! So how did I make this decision (because I know some of you probably are making one now)? Well, honestly I went with my heart. It sounds kind of corny but where did I get the best feeling from? Where could I see myself living for the next stage of my life? Where did the people match up best with my personality? Those are the questions I asked myself, and those are the ones you should be asking, too! Don’t focus on rankings or names, because if you do and you end up somewhere for the wrong reasons, you may second-guess yourself for the rest of your life. And remember, if you’re so lucky to have a choice, you really can’t make a wrong one. Best of luck to all of you who are deciding, and I hope that all of you come to Caltech if it’s the right place for you (I know it has been for me)!
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.
SURF, short for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, is a quintessential experience for any Caltech student. It is a widely accessible research fellowship for Caltech students that funds your proposed research for one summer term. While many of my classmates did their first SURF the summer after their freshman year, I sent in my first application to the program as a sophomore. As a CS major, I was trying to chase meaningful work that intersected computation with the field of neuroscience. I ended up doing a SURF at the Stanford School of Medicine that first year, studying hand gestures in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Since then, I’ve been working in the research space of applying computational analyses to ASD.