For those who don’t know, Ditch Day is an annual campus-wide tradition. The seniors plan it for all of the underclassmen (juniors included), and nobody except for the seniors knows when it is until the day of. On Ditch Day, the seniors will run around the houses waking everybody up at 8 am. All classes are cancelled and no homework is due! Underclassmen sign up for “stacks” which are collections of fun puzzles and activities centered around a theme. Houses generally have at least two stacks, so underclassmen can choose their stack. The stack lasts for the whole day.
Since I’m a senior, I planned a stack with several of my senior friends. Our stack’s theme was The Fast and The Furious. Our activities included surfboard relay racing in the Gene Pool, life sized Rush Hour (a puzzle game), and a remote controlled car relay race in one of the parking lot basements. We also took everyone to Speedzone for four hours of unlimited go karting, arcade games, and a round of mini golf. Afterwards, we went out to dinner together. Some cars went to In-N-Out and others went to Curry House.
After participating in stacks since my freshman year, it was definitely cool being on the other side of things and seeing our hard work pay off when the underclassmen were having fun.
Page has a tradition of painting doors for each stack for Ditch Day!
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.