For Drawing and Painting class, the instructor Jim Barry took the class to Art Center College of Design for a field trip. Part of the gallery involves an area reserved for a professional artist. It was closed when we arrived at around 7:30 pm, but we had a security guard open it for us. The artiston exhibition right now is Yoshio Ikezaki, a professor at Art Center. His works with different kinds of inks and papers are put on show, including folded paper sculptures.
The student gallery took up most of the space. It was impressive to see how polished all the projects were.
The amount of detail in the work was also amazing. There were lots of architectural mock ups with teeny tiny details. This is an artist’s rendering of a laboratory set up, complete with miniatureErlenmeyer flasks.
Even the posters explaining the works are very professional looking, with 3D renders complete with lighting and textures.
There was a monitor showing movie trailers and music videos that Art Center alumni have directed or taken part in, including Superman.
There were rooms full of wood working machines, tools, and car design drawings.
As we walked out of the gallery, we saw a class in session at 9 pm! It was probably an Art Center at Night course. People in the community can just pay the tuition for the courses, but Caltech students get to take them for free and have the units count towards our degree. However, note that the Art Center is on a semester system while Caltech is on quarters, so the start and end dates don’t line up. Another caveat is that the Art Center is intense. Jim Barry described it as the Caltech equivalent for design majors. It really is. I tried taking an introduction to graphic design course at Art Center at Night once, and by around week 4, we were asked to produce about 100 thumbnail sketches of posters for a non-profit of our choice. That was around when I dropped the class. Even the money I had already sunk into the class - giant portfolio folder, X-acto blades, foam core - wasn’t enough to convince me otherwise. That said, it really is a unique opportunity to take classes at the Art Center as a Caltech student, and I think I would have had a better experience had I done it while I was on an easier term or during my senior year.
Guided by cell phone flashlights, we finished off the tour of the Art Center with a mini trail to the edge of the hill on which the campus is perched. We were treated to a spectacular view of the city lights.
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.