****Hello!So I’m back from break, and now in addition to my light courseload (see below), I am faced with a very important choice - where do I go for my MD/PhD training this upcoming year? I’ll be straight with you guys, it’s a three-way decision between University of Michigan, University of Washington, and Tufts University. Currently, that’s my approximate preference order, but it ALL could change upon revisiting the schools (my revisit to Caltech’s Prefrosh Weekend was actually what made me want to come here over other schools, such as MIT and Princeton).
My first visit is actually this week, to UW. Flying up on Thursday morning, having a packed couple of days, and then flying back on Sunday morning. After that it’s off to Michigan - flying out there next Wednesday, flying home Friday night, then back to Tech on Sunday afternoon. It was actually cheaper to fly that way - strange, huh? In talking to my support network here, I’ve come up with some criteria to look at. Talking to Professor Rothenberg (my bio major advisor, also doing research in her lab) helped me figure out the differences between the research opportunities at both schools, and then talking to Aadel (the Fleming House RA, currently a PhD student on a break from med school at Stanford) put some perspective on this decision (since he made one a few years ago). I’m really glad I got a lot of people here at Caltech that I can turn to when I have these burning questions to ask.
As you’ll see in the pictures, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, and this indecision is permeating my life (especially since for my whopping 2 classes all I have to do is read)! More on my visits soon!
Like I said, I am very lucky to have this choice - all of them are great programs and it will be a tough decision. But I think I’m going to have a gut feeling one way or the other - we’ll see!
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.