A belated Happy Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day) to everyone! Forgive me if I have a lot of bad puns throughout this blog, but Caltech can be quite the “romantic” place because of all the types of bonding that occur between different subsets of the population.
On Tuesday morning I woke up to find a really sweet gift near my door (and there was one for my roommate, too). The Avery guys made cards and cookies for all the girls and delivered them in the morning.
The card and the cookie. I am happy they spelled my name correctly. *
At Caltech we uphold the concept of an “n+1” table. This idea comes from proof by induction (every Ma1a student knows this technique on the back of their hand), where you prove the base case, then assume the statement is true for a generic “n” case, then prove the assumption is sound and true for the “n+1” case, therefore proving the statement true for all integers. At Chandler, based on the n+1 concept, we managed to fit 12 people on a round table for 5.
Later (at around 11:30 PM) that night, I was working in the SAC on my Ph8 lab. I was working on my circuit earlier in the week, but I needed clarifications that I couldn’t clear up until 10:40 that night (I had returned from symphony practice at Occidental, and office hours for Ph8 sadly are from 8 to 11 PM). I had to also finish a couple questions on my physics problem set (Tuesday nights are notoriously known as late nights at Caltech). I even managed to burn myself with the soldering iron.
Every other Thursday, the Center of Diversity holds lunches for freshmen females to bond and talk with special guests. Two lunches ago we met with an administrative official about declaring our options (majors) and seeking advisors. They also hold fun events. We were supposed to have a girls’ slumber party, but that got canceled because of other campus events. This last lunch (on 2/16) we had a special chocolate-tasting lunch. It was great to taste chocolate from different parts of the world (I loved that Caribbean chocolate).
My schedule this quarter was extremely forgiving to me. I have free Friday afternoons, so I decided to relish the warm California sun (after a few anomalous days of rain) and work outside!
Friday afternoons are also the beginning of seeing random people wearing tuxedoes and prom-like dresses. The Athenaeum, Caltech’s fancy club where professors dine (the food is really good, by the way) and celebrities host posh events (like NBC Universal had a night a few weeks ago, where celebrities like Maya Rudolph came, the press was flashing their cameras, security and colored lights were abundant, and Blacker students—called Moles—left with an NBC ice sculpture), also hosts weddings because of Caltech’s picturesque campus.
**Quote of the day: **This was quite popular on Facebook. Several kids were asked about topics of love. The purest ounce of wisdom I got was for the question “What do most people do on a date?” The answer came from eight year-old Lynnette, who said “Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen to them long enough.”
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.