It’s been a while since my last post so I’ll fill you in on what happened before giving you a preview of what is yet to come!
We’re all on edge, waiting for a win to break that tremendous losing streak!
As for dance, just like last year I’m participating in the Dance Show which will take place in the beginning of Third Term. However, even though I’m back in my more natural state of dancing, I’ve still found a way to get out of my comfort zone - very far out of my comfort zone. I’m doing a hip-hop and a contemporary dance, neither of which are dance styles that I’ve ever performed in. I’m having a blast, though! I’ll try to get a video or photos of the hip-hop rehearsal if I can, but no guarantees. I’m still doing ballet too, but off campus at a very good local studio called Pasadena Dance Theater.
So, what happened recently besides the start of rehearsals and basketball almost winning several times? Midterms week is wrapping up. Some say that Midterms week is the worst week of Term - worse than Finals Week. This could be true becasue classes and most Sets continue during Midterms while for Finals we have a full week of no classes or assignments.
Caltech is on the Honor Code. This is something that I believe makes Caltech so special and it exists partially due to the tightness of our community. As a direct consequence of the Honor Code, most of our Exams are take-home with time and resource instructions printed on the front of the Exam. However, just because one gets a five-hour open-book take-home exam, this doesn’t mean that the exam is easy. On the contrary, it may mean that the Exam is harder and more open-ended, so you end up using several blue vooks to explain and justify your work. On a lighter note, these types of Exams take off the unneccesary stress of walking into a classroom at a specified time and having an hour to do a test where you know right away if your answer looks right or wrong. I find that while taking Caltech Exams, I’m still learning more and I think some Professors design their Exams on purpose to teach us more. On the other hand, take-home Exams can become extreme when they are unlimited-time. This usually ends up being more of a project that sucks up all of your energy because you think that you can always do it better, since it is unlimited-time.
Attendance, I thought, was not bad given that many Midterms had already been released and quite a few people have already dived into them.
This weekend is our first Interhouse party of the Term - Avery Interhouse. Every year, each House (eight total) hosts a party in their courtyard for all other Houses. The parties are themed and usually involve organized construction (which must pass a safety inspection). Starting with this week, there will be an Interhouse Party every Saturday until the end of Term. I promise to write about the parties as they happen!
What else am I anticipating for this month? My main focus is school work which I know will not disappear so to balance myself, I hope to channel some of my energy into complementing activities. Dance rehearsals should get more and more serious as the Term wraps up. I will also try to stick to my resolution of exploring the area more, although I’ve had this resolution for a while and I must admit that I’m not satisfied with my progress. I also hope to solidify my plans for the summer this month (more about that later too). Finally, I plan to keep enjoying the sunshine here. It is 68F at 4:30 pm and this is not the hottest day.
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.