A cappella funtimes, you ask? Isn’t a cappella always a fun time? Well yes, we have our rehearsals twice a week, occasionally hang out at Teaspots or Chouse afterwards, and have a lot of fun singing and chatting as a group. Recently, however, we’ve had some inter a cappella events thrown into the mix.
Every year, Avery holds Faculty Dessert Night, or FDN, for which Averites invite profs and TAs to have CDS dinner at Avery, then enjoy desserts and a talent show. As an Avery member, I joined a group of seven other Avery members who are part of a cappella groups to prepare a song for FDN. We had members from all four a cappella groups (four from the Pipettes, heh), and somehow ended up with two on each part.
Since I’m in an all-girls a cappella group, and most of the guys were part of the all-guys group, co-ed a cappella rehearsals were a new experience for most of us. We learned new warmups (and tried to compromise on what notes to start/end on). We worked on Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,” arranged by the King’s Singers, which I was really excited about. The song itself is quite simple, slow, and quiet, so we worked a lot on getting the irregular rhythms and dynamics down. We rehearsed for one hour a week starting about a month before FDN, and due to the difficult rhythms, stayed on book for the performance.
Before enjoying a hearty CDS dinner, there were classy refreshments laid out for the reception:
Averite hosts waiting for their profs:
I realized that out of around nine undergrads working in the Shapiro lab this summer, five of us were Avery members, so we jointly invited Professor Shapiro to FDN. We all had dinner together while talking about all of our college experiences (prof included). It was pretty fun. Afterwards, we headed over to listen to the performances. I had to head out early to make it to Dhamaka rehearsal, but I heard raving reviews of the performances I missed — a lip sync medley, one arm pull-ups, and a cajon Disney medley everyone sang along to. I also missed the cakes from Porto’s. This was a really cool event that allowed people to present their hidden talents to the Avery and faculty community.
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.
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.