So I actually made it back to California last Sunday! After two long weeks of interviewing at various places in the Eastern Time Zone, I flew back into LAX to the RAIN! I will not go on at length about that because you can read about the craziness in the other blogs, but let me say it was not what I was looking for after leaving a chilly, rainy day in NJ. Fortunately, we had off for MLK Day, so I was able to catch up and unpack before going back to class. And my did I go back to class?! OK I only went to one (Polymer Chemistry), but I was totally confused. I guess that’s what happens when you miss two weeks!I then was immersed in my TA’ing job. This term I’m TA’ing Ch 4a (an introductory chemistry lab). It’s fun to see the young chem majors get their first taste of the lab environment. And there are 6 TA’s total in the class of 20 or so. So in any given lab period there are 3 TA’s for about 10 students. What personal attention we give!
Fortunately Wednesday was a much more chill day. No class, so I could prepare for what was to come and then go enjoy Cooking class at night! I’m actually going to be posted to a new blog about Caltech’s Cooking Basics class, so I’ll keep that updated too! It was a fun time and I enjoyed the Mac and Cheese we made. I won’t forget my camera next week so I can show you all the fun that ensues!
But wait? You may be asking why I’m “just kidding” about the being back. Well, because at 4 AM on Thursday I was picked up by the Super Shuttle to go to yet ANOTHER interview! Yup, after two days of school I was in the air again. I’m actually blogging right now from the warmth of my hotel room in COOOOOOLD Minnesota. I’m at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. It’s actually a “warm” winter right now. By warm I mean 30. Crazy, right!? Anyway, the Clinic is beautiful and it’s a lot to take in. And everything’s connected on the inside, so I didn’t have to go outside, but I’ll just say it’s not the prettiest of days out there.
Well, now I’m back at Tech for OVER THREE WEEKS! What am I going to do with myself? Go to school?! Yeah, I guess I will :P.
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.