My last post on the delights and despairs of my graded work had an assortment of first and early second term examples. Halfway into third term, I bring you the latest installment.
Second term, I took Chem 3a, an introductory chemistry lab class that is one of the core requirements. I was concurrently taking Chem 1b, an intro to Orgo/PChem, and the two classes meshed together really well. We would do a Grignard reaction to synthesize benzoic acid one day in Chem 3a, then learn about Grignard reagent reactions the next day in Chem 1b lecture. We would take an IR spectrum of our benzoic acid, and soon after learn about the meaning of IR spectra in Ch1b. One of my friends cited Ch1b lectures from Thursday for a Ch3a lab report due Friday — that’s how closely the topics were aligned. Ch3a is offered all three terms, so obviously it doesn’t match up with Ch1b every term, but I was extremely satisfied with how things worked out — the two classes enhanced my conceptual and practical understanding of important topics, and subsequently my enjoyment of both!
One of the main things people think of when they think of Ch3a is the lab reports. There are four labs total, and for each one, a lab report. One of the goals of the class is to teach you how to write a lab report, and I think it’s safe to say that most people have no idea how to write one coming in. But over the course of the term, you learn to use time and words more efficiently, becoming a lab report machine extraordinaire (hopefully possibly maybe).
And now to the grading woes. I improved greatly from my first lab report to my second one, but I still wasn’t up to par for this grader. I didn’t quantify how much dichloromethane I added, so I didn’t want to attach a number to it…
And then I was talking about why my yield was less than 100% (far, far less…), but apparently human error should not be included in the lab report:
This grader made me laugh a lot. They wrote “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? HOW COULD YOU MISS THIS?” on my friend’s IR spectra, which had a mislabeled peak, and other amusing capslock-on-cruise-control comments.
This term, I’m taking Math 1c, which so far has been lots of partial derivatives. A couple of weeks ago, I went to pick up my homework, only to be greeted by ALL CAPS GRADING:
My last name might be Ha. Two homework later, it seems I disappointed the same grader:
I should probably be more careful about my double-checking my work in the future. For the sake of grades, let’s hope my grading woes in the future are of the 20/20 variety!
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to do a 10-week internship at Gilead Sciences in Foster City, CA. For those unfamiliar, Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative medicines.
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.