The time to return to California and start my SURF project has finally come. With mixed feelings of sadness and anticipation, I prepared to leave Japan. But first,
Some food shopping is necessary before making the long journey back. As I described before, in most Japanese department stores, there is a story dedicated to food that is sold in vendor booths, as depicted above. Right now we’re in the sweets section if you couldn’t tell from the cakes and pastries.
Here are some booths that sell other types of food.
Not only are there booths for prepared food, there is an actual section that sells groceries. In these grocery places there are always boxes of fruits. But not just any kind of fruit. These are super special, specially picked fruit that are guaranteed to be super sweet and top notch. And so are their prices. If you think five fruit for about $35 is expensive…
How about three mangoes for nearly $190? To be honest, pretty much nobody buys these fruits regularly. Instead, many companies will buy them for presents or gifts to employees, etc. Or many times, in the case of the perfectly round watermelons or cubic watermelons, the department store will cut them in fourths and some wealthier people usually will buy them then.
After shopping for some food to take back with me to Caltech, I decided to buy my last dessert before I left Japan. These cakes and cream puffs were also bought at the department store. The two cakes in the middle are a pudding cake and a lemon cake. The pudding cake consisted of a normal cake that had actual pudding on top of it and the lemon cake had a kind of lemon tart-like layer on the bottom. Both were very unique and very delicious!!
The next day, my final day, when I arrived at the Airport in Osaka, I was told that I had been upgraded to business class!! My mom and I still speculate why but I’m not complaining. It was a very nice way to wrap up my vacation.
The seats were so wide and had so much leg room!! In fact, there was so much room I could…
Stretch my legs all the way without touching the seat in front of me!
After the 10 hour flight, I was definitely feeling less weary and tired than I had when I arrived at Japan and was prepared to start researching. Wish me luck!! Till next time.
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.
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.