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!
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.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.
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.