As a senior, I’ll try to give you (my readers!) insight into the typical schedule of a Techer and update you on my process of applying to graduate schools/jobs/internships. As the time gets nearer, I’ll also elaborate on what exactly Techers mean by “Ditch Day”.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself! Second term is still weeks away, leaving me with plenty of time to recuperate in Japan…. And so, from Japan, Merry Christmas! Although the majority of the Japanese are Buddhist or Shinto, thanks to the influence of the West, they celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. So, while it isn’t considered a national holiday (meaning everyone still has to go to work and school :( ), there are plenty of Christmas decorations and Christmas parties all around.
In Japan, the “traditional” dinner consists a combination of grilled chicken, steak, and smoked salmon. This year, we did without the steak, but there was still plenty of food to go around.
And what kind of Christmas would it be without cake? Well, maybe not cake, but dessert. In lieu of the usual Christmas cake, we ate a Christmas-themedalmond-cream, fruit tart.
Before Christmas is another important day for the Japanese. December 21st is celebrated in Japan not for being the supposed “end of the world” but for being the winter solstice, the day of the shortest amount of sunlight. Being a very spiritual-based religious society, the Japanese believe that on this day the body is most prone to illness. Therefore, in order to combat this, the Japanese take what they call “yuzuyu” or “yuzuburo” – a hot, “yuzu” citrus bath. Bathing in general is a very important part of life in Japan. Even in apartments and condominiums, there is a dedicated bath room which consists of a bathing area and bathtub.In Japan, resources are more scarce than in America, so in order to conserve water they first “shower” in the bathing area to clean themselves then soak in the bathtub. I say “shower” since they only run the water to rinse off the shampoo/soap, instead of keeping it on the whole time like in America. Since the water in the tub is only used to soak, they then use this water the next day to do the laundry, making for an overall efficient use of water.
For yuzuyu, they float yuzu citrus fruits (sort of a cross between a lemon and an orange) in the soaking water. The yuzu is supposed to guard against colds by helping to improve the circulation of the body and relax the mind.
Although it may sound a bit like hocus pocus, it really is very relaxing and makes the skin very soft! Since it’s getting colder, if you have the chance, try a yuzuyu (or any kind of citrus bath if yuzu is not available) and keep warm!
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.