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Life is full of surprises and Caltech can sure convince you of this fact if you are having any doubts. Ten years ago, I spent the last night of the 20th century on the stage of San Francisco Ballet Opera House participating in the company’s production of the Nutcracker. At that time I would never have thought that I would be celebrating the coming of 2010 in the audience of San Francisco Symphony thinking mostly about my upcoming second term at Caltech.
Last term I took a course called Physics 10. We met once a week to hear a Caltech faculty member speaking about his or her Physics research. The idea of this is to expose us to the work being done in modern Physics, to spark our interest and to give us an idea of what to expect from various Caltech laboratories. I enjoyed this course but one lecture really stood out for me. The research of this Professor seemed especially interesting and I got the idea to try to have a SURF with him next summer.If you haven’t heard of SURF before, it stands for “Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship”, which is a very popular thing for Techers to do over the summer. Undergraduates are highly encouraged to join a lab for ten weeks (on or off campus, or even in another country!) and get involved in research. This program, is one of the things that really makes Caltech so special. SURF allows students to not worry about problem sets and exams but rather apply what they’ve been learning all year to real investigations. Well, over break I started worrying about getting a SURF for the next summer and I remembered this particular Physics 10 lecture, so once second term began, I asked that Professor for a tour around his laboratory. This tour convinced me even more that I’d love to do a SURF there so a few days later I asked if a SURF project would be offered in this lab. The professor discussed a project with me, introduced me to his graduate students and showed me around the lab a little more. Well, pretty soon I became a happy Frosh with a promised SURF project!
The contents of the Lab Kit.
Last week I also had a great night in my Cooking Basics class. I made all the chicken for my team but by the end of the night the table was covered in tons of risotto, club soda shrimp, chicken, corn bread, honey mustard horseradish sauce, and macadamia nut-crusted chicken breasts (now my specialty). Each week at the end of each class we all sit down dinner and we eat what we made (this probably also encourages us to try harder while cooking). However, we make so much food each week that we just have to bring back left-overs to our houses. By this point, I really don’t feel like eating anything anymore so I let my friends have it. I’m afraid that I have trained them to expect good food every Wednesday night from now on. In any case, good food sure makes us happy!
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.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.