I wake up and throw a glance at my alarm clock - it’s 9:00 AM, the start of another wonderful day in my summer research adventure. Rather than groan at the thought of going to lab, I eagerly jump out of bed and start getting ready to spend the next eight hours in Schlinger Laboratory.
What makes me so motivated? As I walk the path from Dabney Hovse past the turtle pond and Milikan Pond, and enter the pathway leading to Schlinger, I think of all the possible discoveries that can be made, new advances waiting to be made in the world of atmospheric engineering research.
Five minutes later, I arrive:
This is the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Laboratory for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. It is the newest (2010) of three buildings (with Cahill[Astrophysics] and Annenberg[Computer Science] in 2009) built with eco-friendly architecture and operation and state-of-the-art technology.
My office is located on the north side of the first floor, which I share with two postdocs and an associate professor. There are two other offices containing other grad students and postdocs - I am the only undergrad! We all work for a team of two professors who specialize in atmospheric particles, and have won numerous awards and recognitions from ACS, AIChE, etc. for their discoveries.
I work with my professor on modeling how weather factors affect the growth and dispersion of pollen and ways to predict its seasons. In the process of researching, I gained new sets of skills and learned to use and improve on the latest technology for collecting and analyzing pollen data (it’s exciting that we have our own pollen collecter!). My professor and the team encourage me to go beyond what’s known and make new discoveries, which is why I treasure the support I get at Caltech. I work with my peers and professors in a competition-free environment, where everyone is asked to bring their best to the research table.
My lab also has a diverse set of students and international networks in the research world. The postdoc that sits next to me comes from Finland with a background in aerosol physics, and the lab members and I exchange information about our respective cultures. This diverse background is representative of the entire campus, where we bring minds from all over the world to unite for the advancement of science and the betterment of humanity.
Join me next time as I delve deeper into the life of an undergraduate researcher at Caltech!
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.