(Sorry for the delay in posts. The website was dealing with some issues, but we’re back now!)
As an apology, please accept a picture of our cacti, the fuzzy minions:
And another from Lloyd Intarrrrrhouse that was difficult to take during the evening of:
April 11. The day we had to declare our options.
Right now, I’m hoping to double-major in Chemistry and Geochemistry, but as a frosh, I can only declare one so far. I suppose it helps people become acclimated before taking on too much. After talking to Paul Asimow, one of the many amazing professors in Caltech’s top-notch Geology and Planetary Science (GPS) department, I decided to declare as a Chemistry major first. The Geochemistry option is meant to complement the Chemistry option, so it should work out pretty well.
To celebrate my decision for these next four years, I decided to tackle my own chemistry experiment in the kitchen by baking macarons!
I’d always been told that they were difficult, but despite my years of worrying about setting the house on fire, nothing too terrible ever happened. Following the recipes usually got me where I wanted to go. With that mindset, I tackled the infamous macaron.
2/3 cup almond meal or ground almonds (Yay, Trader Joe’s!)1 1/2 cups powdered sugar3 large egg whites, room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days (I only aged them overnight, and that worked out, anyway.)5 tablespoons granulated sugar1 teaspoon vanilla extract3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (Honestly, I just eyeballed it.)
Mix the almond meal with the powdered sugar.
Beat the egg whites on medium-high.
When the eggs are frothy, gradually add granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until fully and incorporated. Continue to beat the egg white mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters.
Gently stir in the vanilla extract. Don’t overbeat!
Add half of the sifted almond mixture and gently fold it into the meringue using a flexible silicone spatula. Lift from the bottom, up around the sides, and toward the middle, being careful to not overagitate the meringue and lose too much air. Once the almond mixture is predominantly incorporated, add the second half and repeat the folding motion.
When the almond mixture is just incorporated, you will need to transform the batter into the appropriate texture. Using the flat of the spatula, “punch” down into the center of the batter, then scrape more batter from the sides to the center, and punch again. You will need to repeat this 10-15 times until the batter slowly and continuously drips back into the bowl when you scoop it up with the spatula. Do not make the batter too runny or the macarons won’t rise as they should, and you could end up with oil stains on the surface.
Pour batter into a Ziploc bag: just snip a teeny bit from one of the bottom corners. Twist and clip the top of the bag to avoid overflow.
Pipe out 1-inch circles, 1/2 inches apart, on baking sheets.
Holding the baking sheet in both hands, rap each baking sheet firmly on the counter two or three times. This smooths out the tops and helps form the “pied” or frilly foot on the bottoms of the macarons.
Preheat the oven to 280ºF, and position 2 racks in the lower section of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. If you have time, draw 1-inch circles on the back of each sheet, spacing the circles at least 1/2-inch apart.
Allow the piped macarons to dry, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes. The macarons should form a very thin, smooth crust where, if you tap it lightly with your finger, the batter will not stick to your finger. If after 15 minutes, the batter is still sticky, let it dry longer while you work on sets.
Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes. After the first 2 minutes, open the oven to allow any excess humidity to escape. Don’t overbake or underbake!
WHAT I COULD’VE DONE BETTER
Step 6: I didn’t have the patience to look for a proper spatula in all four of our kitchens. It’s probably pretty necessary to beat it just so it’s runny.
Step 12: I was working on a set while it baked, and I just let it sit in there after it was done. Probably not a good idea, heh.
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.