Day 3 of the Western Australia tour was spent in Monkey Mia – a popular tourist spot famous for its bottlenose dolphins. These guys show up at the beach in the morning and whenever they feel like stopping by for free fish. Of all the dolphins in the area, only five of them, by now well known by the researchers on site, get a small snack so as to not mess too much with the local ecosystem.
Our tour joined a sail boat cruise that took us out to search for more of the sea’s magnificent creatures. We saw some of the dolphins from that morning’s feeding as well as several dugongs. I spent the rest of the day sitting on the beach writing up postcards.
Our last day in Western Australia was probably the most…interesting? Bizarre? Funny? You’ll have to tell me what you think once you read about it.
As our tour guide told the story, in 1970 there was a wheat farmer in Western Australia that had a lot of land and thus a lot of wheat and he wanted to sell, obviously, lots of it. But the Australian government put a limit on how much wheat he could sell and he wasn’t very happy about it. So he dug around the law and found himself a loophole that would allow him to secede from Australia. He named himself Prince Leonard I of Hutt River.
We drove into Hutt River Province, which, as far as I could see, had one post office, one government affairs building, one chapel, one gift shop, and one garage. We were welcomed into the small chapel where Prince Leonard himself told us very, very quickly all about himself, Hutt River, the chapel, the art decorating it, and the two royal chairs behind him in a rather monotone sort of voice. I was one of two native English speakers in the group (well, native enough), and I could barely understand him. The Swedish, German, and French girls just smiled and nodded per our tour guide’s instructions. When he was done with this first bit of talking, Prince Leonard invited us to sit in the royal chairs.
We went to the post office next, where the Prince showed off stamps, coins, royal medals, maps, and the Hutt River currency. He then personally stamped our passports, but not before showing us all the pretty pictures on them under the UV light. I decided that American passports were lame compared to the European ones and that the French passports looked coolest under the UV. As we moved past the flagpole and into the gift shop, Prince Leonard didn’t stop bragging about how awesome his little principality was, how awful Australia was, and how cool his car was. No big deal.
But my absolute favorite part of this tour was our last stop at Greenough Wildlife Park:
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.