Summer in LA is for friends and food and exploring! In addition to taking EMT classes, I went to Universal Studios with my family. Harry Potter world opened up this year, so that was really neat to see. Universal was pretty packed, but we arrived early enough in the morning to catch most of the rides before the lines grew.
I really enjoyed walking through Harry Potter world and chugging butter beer. Diagon Alley itself was so unique and reminded me a wee of Edinburgh, where I studied abroad last autumn. JK Rowling lives in Edinburgh, so maybe that’s why it felt vaguelyfamiliar. That section of the park was certainly very crowded, so if you’re thinking of going anytime soon, I’d seriously recommend getting your tickets online and showing up at 7 in the morning! I didn’t ride the Hogwarts ride, but the looming castle was very impressive even from the outside. It was odd to be melting in the hot SoCal sun while surrounded by stone buildings covered in fake snow…
The Jurassic Park and Despicable Me rides werealso fun. Here are some sights from my day at the park!
I must say my favorite aspect of the park has to be the shows. Here’s the set for one about animal actors. There were so many well-trained animals, and the show was very well-put-together and delightfully funny. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I cannot emphasize it enough–if you ever find yourself at Universal Studios, be sure to see the show about animal actors!
Another great show was the one about special effects in movies. I never realized so much went into making movies. I was most impressed with the sound directors’ ability to produce convincing sounds using all sorts of props. Dramatic special effects is definitely what makes the typical American action-packed blockbuster, so getting to see the process really sparked my curiosity. I can’t say I’ll watch movies in the same way ever again!
The park also offers a tour of filming sites. I could never have imagined how small some of the spaces were. From the tour, it was obvious that these were sets, but the movie scenes were filmed so that a small pond looked like a giant lake and a few wooden facades and cardboard “taxis” looked like New York city. That was absolutely fascinating. That said, there were some elaborately-engineered sets, too.
If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend spending a day at Universal Studios. Even if you don’t have a car, it’s a short Uber ride from Caltech. I’m sure there’s a way to metro there as well. (:
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.
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.