Last Friday, all the seniors across campus ran around the alleys of the Houses banging pots and pans yelling “WAKE UP! IT’S DITCH DAY!”
Ok. Usually, we wake up 10 minutes before class, so for freshmen like us, it’s around 9:50 and then we rush off to class. What time did the seniors wake us up Friday? 7:30. In the morning.
But being freshmen and hearing all the great things about Ditch Day (if you don’t know what it is, it’s one of the best days of the year at Tech), we all wake up excitedly, rush off to the lounges and search for stacks to sign up for.
Except it was fake.
But don’t get me wrong. Even if it WAS fake, and we lost so much sleep, it was still pretty amazing. I signed up for the “Doraemon Stack” (OK maybe the name doesn’t sound too exciting, but hang in there!) and we had to do the following:
We first started off with breakfast. It seemed innocent enough, eating red bean pancakes with whip cream (apparently Doraemon’s favorite food). Except there were clues hidden in the pancakes. And we couldn’t use our hands to eat. Some nice friends of mine thought it’d be nice to pie people with these whip bowls. Let me tell you, whip cream up your nose hurts.
DK pied poor Jackie :(
Next, they decided that we should have Doraemon equipment. In other words wear the little caps with the fan on top.
Yea. Imagine running around all morning with these. (Say hi to Luke if you ever see him).
Next we ran around looking for Doraemon figurines all over campus, collecting the little guys to form a secret message:
There’s a tiny doreamon action figure on the statue in front. Millikan pond is also freezing in the morning…
The secret message said we should go to Watson lab, and arriving there, we found a homemade flamethrower (lighter with dust-cleaner aerosol can) and a large bag in the tree. We were supposed to burn down the string holding the bag with our flamethrower, but we accidentally pulled the whole thing down…
In any case, they led us through a few more sidequests and then finally we got a message written in invisible ink. We were supposed to use heat to reveal the hidden message, but the candles didn’t produce a large enough flame to let us read it…so we used our flamethrower.
And set the whole thing on fire.
Yup. That’s it. Apparently the message was “Go to sleep frosh! Ditch Day is Tomorrow!”
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.