I blog to you today from my desk in lab as I wait for a centrifuge to become available. I, and many of the other bloggers, have been busy for the last several days and are now just settling into our summer jobs. Here’s what you missed: complete chaos. Shortly after commencement, all students leaving campus for the summer had to move out of their rooms and put anything they were not taking with them into storage. All students staying on campus for the summer had to move into their summer room assignment. Of course, if you’re moving into a new room, first someone else has to move out of it, and that person might have to wait for someone to move out of their new room, etc. This results in everyone moving all of their belongings into the hallway, like this:
All of my worldly possessions, minus my keyboard, guitar, and pet snake’s terrarium.Now, I was lucky enough to be the only person piling stuff in this hallway. Some of our hallways were practically floor to ceiling with stuff. It’s kind of frustrating, but there’s just no other way to do it in a college dorm, and it could be a lot worse. Caltech is probably one of the only places where I could leave my keyboard, guitar, macbook,wallet, ipod, phone, etc. chilling in the hallway for hours without worrying about someone walking by and stealing any of it. The honor code: it works, and it is awesome.
In addition to moving into a bigger room this year, I got this as a bonus!
Caltech has a mural policy that allows students to paint murals in the hallways and in their rooms(although for rooms you have to pay a fee to cover the cost of painting over the mural if a future resident does not want it). With my new room I inherited this mural painted in 2006. It’s an album cover for the punk band Operation Ivy, whose music I have yet to listen to, but I think I need to so that I may fully appreciate the art.
Eventually, all of us got settled into our new rooms, and then the invasion began…
To be fair, the Caltech SURF students (barely) outnumber the visiting summer students, and a lot of the summer students are cool people. I even have a friend here this summer who I met when she was SURFing last summer. Now that we’ve all been through check-in and safety training, we’re settling into our labs and getting down to work. Speaking of which,the centrifuge is now available, and I must get back to my experiment. So long for now!
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.