One neat thing about Caltech is that it’s part of a big Caltech-JPL community. A fair number of clubs are open to undergrads, grad students, and staff from Caltech and JPL. This means that even though we have a relatively small student body, there are often enough people that we can share resources to build up some nice infrastructure.
The Caltech Bike Lab is open to any member of the Caltech/JPL community. For $10, you can get a key that gives to 24 hour shop access so you can do maintenance whenever the whim wacks you. For free, you can go to the office hours, which are held 8 times a week (on week days). Community members volunteer in the lab and help people out with bike problems, or direct them to resources that can help with trickier issues.
I’ve been saved by the Bike Lab many times. The volunteers there taught me how to fix a flat and adjust brakes, which can both be tricky the first few times you try them. Now, I’m learning more about bike maintenance on my own, which is pretty great. It’s wonderful to be able to work in the Bike Lab where they have almost all the tools I could need and bike stands that make working more comfortable.
I'm working with a friend on fixing up a sleek silver single speed. (Pictures later!) The two bike maintenance books I'm working from now are
The Park Tool website is also fabulous. I like some hands-on learning where I get to really make mistakes, and it's not a big deal.
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.