At the end of my last post, I was riding the bus towards camp and dinner. That night, after a hearty pasta dinner, we explored the camp. Behind our cabin was a hill, which looked like it’dhavea really nice view of the mountains behind, so after eating, we set out for the top. It was nearing dark, but the distance looked mild. I had no doubt we’d make it up in fifteen minutes.
Cabin on the left, hill on the right.
Shortly after leaving the cabin, however, we realized that there was a stream between us and the hill, so we had to take a detour to cross on a bridge. We hadn’t even seen the stream from the cabin—what else had we missed? We crossed the stream, and for the first few minutes up the hill, we ran. Then the slope and shrubs slowed us down. Forty minutes and many breaks later, we wearily finished the climb, our hamstrings burning. Distances can be deceiving. We piled onto a boulder and took some pictures before returning to camp.
The next day, we woke up early and headed out in the bus for a long day of geology. We visited several sites, so I’ll just tell you about my favorites. First, there was Hot Creek, where steaming, acidic, electric-blue water bubbled out of the ground and fed into a stream. The water is heated and acidified underground by magma, and rises to the surface in channels created by faults.
Oooh, lovely blue swimming pools!But the water’s 175°F. And pH 1.
Back on the bus, we stuffed down our sack lunches so we could have more time to explore at the lunch stop, Convict Lake. As soon as we arrived, we ran for the snow. White fog drifted in over the mountains as we were about to leave, and as the bus pulled away, it began to rain.
This might be my favorite view from the trip.
Another great stop was Panum Crater, the remains of an erupted volcano. At the center of the crater, tall obsidian and pumice structures formed from thick, slow-moving lava. Our professor spent ten minutes explaining the origin and mineralogy of the crater, and then gave us twenty minutes to explore.
My friend Mary is a mountain goat.
The next and final day of the trip, we visited two more sites with huge boulders to climb, Movie Flat and Fossil Falls. Unfortunately, I overwrote those photos when transferring them to my computer, so I’ll leave you instead with the sunrise we caught that morning.
5:45 AM is too early.
So, future Techers,for when you’re deliberating over menu classes, here’s someadvice I’m glad I followed: “Ge 1! Ge 1! Don’t take anything but Ge 1!”
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.