Last week was the official end of the SURF program and so many of my friends started packing and saying their goodbyes. Meanwhile, my roommate and I moved into our new fall assignment. Since I left for Japan right after finals week, we decided not to move in the beginning of summer, as most people did, but instead decided to move at the end of SURF. However, I nearly wished we had done so at the beginning of SURF because after waking up super early to go to lab to start a gel, running back and forth to the housing office to check into our new room and get the new combination and then checking out of our old room, and having to wake up my groggy roommate who had spent the night doing who knows what instead of packing, I was exhausted! But, many of my friends, already moved in and packed up, offered us a helping hand and it went much faster than expected!
So here’s a shot of our newly moved into room…. Trust me, this is nothing compared to how bad it looked when we first moved in. What with the housekeeper trying to clean and vacuum our room and my thousands of boxes piled everywhere and my roommate’s thousands of books stacked everywhere and all the random items the previous owner decided to leave behind (namely one dirty sock, a bottle of aloe, and many many coat hangers as well as two pillows and a rather dingy looking towel), there was hardly any space to walk around at first. That and my roommate and I were too exhausted at first from moving everything downstairs to unpack anything. We joked that we should have just kept our room in that state for the whole year. But, of course, after lunch and some resting, we set off on the even more tedious task of unpacking. I took this shot only after I could find my camera, which was after unpacking and organizing at least half of our stuff.
Ta-da!! And here’s a shot of my desk and living area after organizing everything. So I still have some boxes lying around and some things that I still need to figure out where to put, but it’s generally in a much, much better state than how it was before. Much to my roommate’s and my chagrin, having spent hours moving around the furniture in a different layout as our previous room, all my friend’s first comment when they came over was, “Wow, it looks exactly the same!” Next year we will strive for an even more unique looking set up for certain!
Since this weekend was the last one for many of my friends, we decided to go out and eat at a nice, fancy Italian restaurant. This one was conveniently located on Lake street so it was just a 10-15 minute walk away from campus. We, however, took the lazy way out and bribed an upperclassman to drive us to it. But, after getting confused with where exactly it was on Lake, we still ended up walking about 5 minutes to the location. When we finally showed up looking a little disheveled and rather under dressed, we were whisked away to a table, sheepishly looking at the bachelorette parties, fancy get togethers and what not…. But all that was forgotten when the food came out:
This here is a pappardelle pasta (think very thick fettuccine) with a mushroom and some kind of game bird (I forgot exactly which one.. quail maybe?) sauce. Super delicious!! But still, being the frugal college kids we are, we decided to opt out of the after dinner tea/coffee and dessert which our server tried so hard to make us order.
But no worries, just because I didn’t have any dessert that night, my friends and I certainly made up for it the rest of the weekend. First was the ubiquitous (or at least ever present in my blog) shaved ice. This portion was a small as well (apparently California Asian dessert shops don’t know the meaning of “diet-portioned” haha) although it was nowhere as large as Guppy Teahouse’s “small” shaved ice. But it was still plenty for four Asian girls.
But of course just one night of sweets isn’t enough for sugar-loving Asian girls. The next night we went to a Japanese styled cafe (though complete with other Asian food and desserts) and had crepes! They were full of nutella or pastry cream and lots of yummy fruits and topped off with a generous portion of whipped cream. Yummy!!
The cafe, called Genki Living (located in Arcadia, which is only a 5-10 minute drive from campus), was complete with Tokyo city scenes covering the walls, an old-fashioned telephone booth, lots of “park” benches and even a fake tree that had lantern lights. It was super cute and cozy feeling.. the perfect way to spend one last night with friends :)
I ended my busy weekend with a visit to the Huntington Garden. Caltech was giving away free tickets to an outdoor classical concert, so some friends and I decided to take advantage of the offer (as usual) and spent the night at the Huntington which is conveniently only a few blocks away from campus. As you can see, most people brought blankets and towels and enjoyed a picnic on the picturesque lawn before listening to the music which was played from the building behind me. To be honest, since we were pretty far from the building, the music was rather soft but it was still very beautiful. All in all, listening to the music under a full moon and stars (and shivering just a tad because it was very chilly….) was a nice, peaceful way to end the weekend.
Only two more weeks left of SURF and many more results needed… Till next time!!
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.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.
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.