The weekend is now winding its way down in France. The weather has been pretty interesting here. By interesting I mean that it has been raining which is quite an experience for someone like myself who grew up in Arizona and San Diego. Saturday I woke up at 8 am to rain and it didn’t really stop until around 6 pm. It’s quite peaceful and gave me an excuse to just sit inside and work on looking at graduate programs and fellowships. Yes, I’ve reached that point during my college experience where I have to fill out applications again to continue my education. This weekend I made the progress of creating a list of graduate schools and fellowships to apply to. Since the programs depend on the field that one is interested in there is no great and easy way of determining which schools to apply to so I’ve basically been asking a bunch of the professors and graduate students at Caltech about their opinions. I effectively just took a list of thirty universities and spent all of Saturday reading through their Physics programs and going through the professional biographies of every professor in their High Energy Physics department. I kind of made it more difficult on myself by deciding to not restrict myself to the US and look in Europe and Asia as well. However, after 10 hours of websearching I now have my list of eight to which I will be applying! One piece of advice that I just found out for myself: it can definitely be beneficial to go outside your normal area of expectations. The three universities that I found with the most interesting research were all schools that I hadn’t even considered before this weekend. I’m sure this applies to many things other than looking at graduate programs, but it worked out for me this weekend.
That was basically my Saturday, rain and grad applications. The rain stopped for about twenty minutes so I decided to go for a walk in the fields near our apartment. Of course a torrential downpour began again once I made it to the furthest point of my walk by the forest. Twas an experience though, especially witnessing the death of my umbrella as the wind ripped the fabric off.
Sunday cleared up quite a bit and we actually had sunlight! My roommates and I decided to go for a hike today in the Jura mountains which are pretty close to our apartment. Today we climbed to the peak of Le Reculet which is the second highest peak in the Juras at 1718 meters, only 3 meters shorter than the tallest peak. It was a pretty fun way of getting outside and exploring our area, plus we got a really nice view of the valley.
The trail was much steeper than we imagined. We began at the bottom with at least a 30 degree incline thinking that it would only be for a short distance, but it was actually like that the entire way up.The view was amazing though and the weather was really interesting since we went from passing through misty forests, through sunny fields and then up through the clouds. We finally made it to the top after about 3-4 hours and it was totally worth it.
We were high enough up that we could see the entire valley, even the other side of Lake Geneva. As a Southern Californian I must also make the obligatory, “there was snow!” statement. It was also pretty interesting to watch the clouds/fog roll into the mountains. On our way back down we became completely encompassed in mist.
On our way up we had passed this heard of grazing cows which was off in the distance. When I had reached the peak I actually saw them stampeding across the field. Unfortunately they also happened to stampede right into the path that we needed to take to get down, and they weren’t that happy to see us.
They were pretty adorable though, they even had the huge bells that are stereotypical of cows in the Alps. I named this cow Ingrid which is not really fitting since we are in France but whatever.
We made it down the mountain, each of us in one piece. The worst part was actually the descent since the path was primarily made of stone and small pebbles. The mist also made it a bit difficult since all of the smooth rock was wet and pretty slippery. But the point is we made it down, though I will probably never get my roommates to go out hiking with me again.
Now that we are finally off the mountain it is time to relax, get some sleep and prepare for our second week at CERN!
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to do a 10-week internship at Gilead Sciences in Foster City, CA. For those unfamiliar, Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative medicines.
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.