MAD Day is the annual day where Caltech students get together and get mad.
Just kidding. It’s actually quite the opposite in some senses. MAD stands for Make-A-Difference, and it’s something that the Caltech Ydoes to promote campus-wide community service. To read more about the Caltech Y, check out Laura and Wen Min’s blog (What? The Y? Why?).
My friend, Nelson, and I lead a trip out to Trash for Teaching(T4T), an organization that collects junk from large corporations and anyone else and keeps it for teachers who want to use the materials for classroom projects to teach science. We were fortunate enough to be there as the T4T folk were training a group of enthusiastic and dedicated local physics teachers. (My heart cries out of gratefulness for them–they were there for most of that Saturday!)
Look! Isn’t this just beautiful? It’s the DIY-soul’s treasure island. (:
The project of the day was headphones. That’s right. We made actual headphones out of these reused materials and learned some physics while we were at it! (I’m terrible at physics, but this made it so applicable andreal! Thanks, T4T!)
One of Aaron’s headphones.
The physics was actually pretty simple. Here’s How to Make Headphones 101 if you’re ever bored:
Glue a magnet to the bottom of a bottle cap. It’ll provide a magnetic field.
Coil a naked wire 50 times around a small roll of cloth so that it fits on your pinky.
Place the coil on the magnet. Make sure the coil is taller than the edges of the bottle cap.
Cover the bottle cap with a piece of membranous material that’s a little stretchy. Let the ends of the wires peek out. Make sure the membrane is stretched kind of tight like the top of a djembe.
Attach each wire to an alligator clip from this kind of adapter with an audio jack on the end(actually I’m not sure if this is exactly it, but it looks close heh). The idea is that the music from the audio jack will be split into the two wires, which, when connected to your two wires, will generate the current that produces the sounds. That current going through the wire will generate its own magnetic field because physics.
The coil of wire will move in reaction to the force from the two magnetic fields fighting, which will cause the tight membrane to vibrate, giving you the sounds that reach your ear! (:
There are more pictures hereas well as the ones from previous years of MAD Day, but in short, it was a great and refreshing experience for us all and none of us came out of it mad, I promise!
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.