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.
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.