The normal schedule SURF program ended a week ago, so now I’m back at home for a month before fall terms starts. There’s still plenty of people at Caltech though; preseason sports just started and there’s a few people that started SURF late or took a vacation in the middle that are finishing up their SURF projects.
The few days before SURF ended, most people started packing and moving all their belongings into temporary summer storage or their rooms for next year. Some of my friends let me store my stuff in their apartment for the month I’m gone though, and it’s around halfway to my off campus housing for next year. Each house also has a summer storage PODS, but I had some fragile items that I didn’t want to put there.
After pushing all my boxes on dollies/carts around half a mile north to my friends’ apartment, I finished packing the stuff I was taking home. Besides packing necessary items like clothes, I also packed my Nerf gun, which is only marginally necessary! The only slight problem I had was that it didn’t fit in my check-in luggage, which is actually carry-on size.
The stock of my Nerf blaster made it too bulky to fit in the suitcase.
So I decided to diassemble it enough so that it would fit. It turned out that taking out all the screws and then removing the stock was enough to make it fit. While I had the Nerf gun opened, I took some pictures of the electronics inside (it's a fully automatic flywheel Nerf blaster).
Also, here's the battery compartment - instead of 4 C batteries, I got 4 AA batteries and wrapped them in cardboard until they were around the same size as C batteries. (This is really all that the plastic AA->C battery adapters that you can buy actually do; AA, C, and D batters are all 1.5V.)
While at home, I also have to finish writing up a final paper for my SURF project and prepare for SURF Seminar Day in October, where I'll give a presentation about my SURF project!
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.