I have managed to get ahead of my work, so that tomorrow I get to go flying.
Flying? Huh? Well, I am working on my private pilot’s license, and flying is part of the process.
I have always had an interest in airplanes, and the few times I had been in a private plane were fantastic. Last spring, I heard about private pilot ground school being offered at Caltech, so I jumped on the opportunity. It was cheap, on campus, and planes are cool, right? I really enjoyed the ground school, so I decided that while I was SURFing at home this past summer, I would begin my training. I learned to fly a Cessna 152, and I flew a TON, sometimes 5 or 6 days a week.
Here’s a picture of me in the airplane:
I even flew so much that I got to solo right before I came back to Tech:
When I got back to Tech in the fall, I flew a couple times at El Monte airport with a new instructor, but when midterms started, I got behind with work and couldn’t fly as much as I wanted to. So tomorrow, I will fly for the first time since October, and I am thrilled.
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.
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.