For Memorial Day Weekend, my house went on our annual camping and beach trip. I was super excited to camp out in the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest because that night was the predicted meteor shower from Comet 209P/LINEAR brushing the Earth’s atmosphere as seen near the Camelopardis constellation in the Northern hemisphere.
Sadly, a cold cloud rolled in as we pitched our tents and hid all the stars. We spent the night playing Never Have I Ever in one of our larger tents instead and just chilling, away from school and work and life for just a moment.
Group photo from the morning after. We survived!
In the morning, we packed up and headed out to Laguna Beach:
Oh yes. California. (8
Where, of course, selfies were a necessity.
We also played frisbee…
And may or may not have napped a little.
I couldn’t get pictures because I was too busy falling, but I also learned (in its loosest definition) to paddleboard! Paddleboarding is basically standing on a surf board (but sturdier) and paddling (through the seaweed). It takes a lot of balance, which apparently I lack. (: It was a great experience, though, and we got to see some sea lions camped out on a rock. A little sea lion swam out and stuck a flipper out of the water as if it were waving at us. Apparently, that’s how it’s taught to sleep so Mama Sea Lion can find it again, and it was just showing off its new skills. You go, Glen Coco.
It was a great afternoon and all in all, a much-needed break. I love being so close to the beaches out here, and I’ll defintely try to come back more during the summer!
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.