Hello! Today I just made my way back from the NYU Langone School of Medicine, located in theeast side of Manhattan overlooking the East River. My host’s apartment was at 1st and 26th, which basically means there’s plenty to do no matter which direction you turn. Not to mention the medical school and associated hospitals (including the famous Bellevue Hospital) are just a few blocks away: definitely a plus in the midst of an East Coast blizzard!
One thing that really blew me away during the tour was the new simulation center, which cost $20.8 million to build but it definitely worth it. When we entered the center from the elevator, the first thing that we noticed was how newit was: from the spotless walls down to that fresh “new car” smell. There are over a dozen robotic mannequins, each costing between $15k-250k, which allow students to show their stuff in an emergency medicine environment that is as realistic as possible. They can perspire; they have a blood pressure; you can administer CPR. . . the works. One even gives birth! Also, they videotape everything so that students can look over their reactions later and say,
“Ouch. I probably should have done that better. . . I’ll fix it next time!”
Or perhaps. . .
“Wow, I really nailed that! I look like a real doctor!”
That’s all for now! Time to go work on my lab report. . .
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.