It has been a while since I put up my last blog, but you will probably understand why after this really long blog. So many things have been going on at Caltech, and in the lull of the reading period before finals, I can come out about everything.
My parents visited the weekend before week 9 of the term, and I spent my weekend with them, having not seen them since the beginning of term. It was pretty refreshing to get off campus and soak in the life of Old Pas and not eating CDS food (which is good but at times repetitive) or my cooking <read: defrosting plastic bags of food from Trader Joe’s or made at home over winter break>. I went shopping (as some of my clothes were hole-y and worn-out) at Target and Macy’s (I really like the selection of clothes in Southern California, as where I am from, it tends to be more winter-y and business-like). I now have a pair of jeans and belt that are not denim-blue (or black…or gray)!
Week 9 was a pretty busy week musically. I was taking viola lessons for my chamber group, and I realize that I have caught on with the viola pretty quickly. That weekend we also had our symphony concerts at Occidental and Caltech. Tuesday’s rehearsal was really intense, and Friday night was extremely busy for me (I had to pick the symphony dress rehearsal over a physics quiz review session, PE, and the “Be a Kid Again” event at Tom Mannion’s house, which had free girl scout cookies, kid movies, macaroni and cheese, and puppies to play with).
On Saturday I woke up late (rehearsal was tiring), ate lunch, did most of my math set, studied some physics, cooked and ate early dinner, and got ready for the concert at Occidental. During the first half of the concert I was feeling extremely miserable. My stomach was aching, and I was sweating on stage (maybe from nervousness or maybe from pulling a muscle). I had no idea, so during the intermission I took fresh air and afterwards played my way through Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (though feeling a little weak). I came back to campus and felt normal, so I thought I would destress by going to Ruddock OPI (Interhouse Party). They did an amazing job with the decorations, as they had a plane, a volcano, and other decorations for the island theme.
Everyone inside the dining hall waiting for milkshakes
**I didn’t get any food at the party, as I started feeling miserable again. I made it back to Avery (amazingly) and, completely uncharacteristic of me, vomited in the bathroom. I felt a little better but still miserable, so I went to sleep but woke up at 1 in the morning to vomit again and realize I was running a fever. Normally if I have a fever it is with a cold (flu-related issues, the ones that involve annoying nasal passages), but I never had vomiting and fever together, and my roommate wasn’t in. I would have gone to the health advocate (students equipped with medical treatment, etc in each house), but I called my mother because I was extremely confused about my situation. Luckily we have a family friend, who is a doctor, living across the street from Caltech, so I stayed the night with her. The vomiting had thankfully ended the next day, but my stomach was still upset, and the fever stayed between 100 and 101. I was in no state to do any work, and I did the one thing I hate doing: I asked for extensions on assignments and skipped the concert at Caltech. Extensions are a boon and a curse. The deadline for the assignment is pushed, allowing some breathing room, but multiple assignments become due on one day, making the night before the deadline a miserable experience. As the next day (Monday) my fever still had not budged, though my stomach was better, and I was too weak to attend classes, my mother flew down to stay with my family friend and me, and we went to the Caltech Health Center.
I had been to the Caltech Health Center before. Last term I caught a cold when flying home for Thanksgiving, and the symptoms were horrible when I arrived on campus, so I visited the health center. They were pretty nice, as I got some free Tylenol and lozenges to help me battle through the week. Anyways, the health center gave me instructions to take some lab tests (there is a place extremely close to campus, on Catalina and Green, where tests are done on all types of samples). I stayed at my family friend’s house the whole week, slowly starting to eat normal food and catching up on my problem sets and quizzes and missed lectures. With eating “easy foods” <read: cooked potato, banana, toast, and yogurt-rice, a common staple in South India and the solution to almost any malady> my fever started to go down and stayed normal, and I was eating bland vegetables and pasta at Avery dinner on Thursday night, which was a bummer because the had some of my favorite foods at dinner (onion rings, vegan chili, and curry). After looking at the state of my digestive tract on Friday (and after negative lab tests on dehydration and bacterial infection, meaning it was a virus) I was back to eating normal food (pasta for dinner, but I was thankful to be eating eggplant and broccoli) and staying in my room at Avery.
Aside from the negatives of the week, I was loving the springtime weather at Caltech. I could smell the flowers around campus (without sneezing), and the warm sun made me feel stronger. On Thursday, as I came out of my physics recitation section, I caught the boat competition in Millikan Pond for a mechanical engineering class.
At Caltech we have cheerleaders, just not for the competitions you expect.
This week has been extremely exciting. We have a special visitor on campus…STEPHEN HAWKING!!!!!!!!!!!! He made his annual trip to Caltech this week, and he is giving a lecture on Monday to Caltech students, so I will be going to listen to this talk. I learned some interesting things about Stephen Hawking. One, his daughter accompanies him wherever he goes. Apparently she co-wrote his books (he suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease and is almost completely paralyzed). Two, he likes Indian food (well, I believe so, as CDS was making naans with a tandoor in Avery at dinner time to accompany the meal Tom Mannion’s cooking class made for Prof. Hawking).
I caught a picture of the cooking class at the dinner reception in Chandler while walking to the SAC from Avery.
Friday became a pretty exciting day. After my classes and the great lab results, I was back to eating normal food (Pasta Fridays at Chandler suddenly became amazing to eat), and I scrambled to turn in three problem sets, clean my room after a week of emptiness, and do my laundry. Sadly, I was too rushed to notice…THE BIG BANG THEORY WAS SHOOTING AT THE ATHENAEUM IN CALTECH!!!!!! I really wanted to meet Jim Parsons (he plays Sheldon Cooper) and Kunal Nayyar (he plays Rajesh Koothrapali) because of their awesome acting skills. I think it partially had to do with Stephen Hawking being on campus that the shooting occurred. My friend Haebin and I decided to sneak into the Athenaeum to try and catch the shooting, but they sadly had left by the time we could comfortably search the Ath. I was also on the south side of campus because I had bought some stuff at the bookstore (a birthday gift for my brother and sweatpants at 40 percent off) and the cannon was going to be fired for the end of second term.
Stephen Hawking and Prof. Kip Thorne (a friend of Prof. Hawking) came to the Olive Walk for the cannon firing. We organized one massive group picture instead of multiple individual pictures, as “an orderly queue was forming with cameras.”
It was a true honor to meet this level of brilliance and perseverance. I was so humbled by his presence that I had no words to begin describing myself, and I was just shaking to introduce myself to Prof. Hawking. I am to his right, the picture’s center left, first row (with the white bag).
However, they left early due to the cannon having technical difficulties and to attend Blacker Hovse’s formal dinner (I am really happy for my friend Malvika, who loves physics and had dinner with both gentlemen). Talk about fist-bumping with leading scientists!
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.