I’ve been a bit MIA this past week. I’ve been organizing my term a bit, getting into the groove of new classes, new work schedules, and joining a startup! Two Caltech alums (class of 2014!) came up with an idea for a personal safety app powered by some pretty cool machine learning technology, and I joined their team! I’m currently working on product research and iOS coding. I guess everyone in an early-stage startup team (especially one with 5 people, 3 of whom are full-time Caltech undergrads) has to wear every hat, so we’re all doing every job right now. I picked up Sketch and the working basics of Objective C last week to design our User Interface and build some pages for our app. My friend Niki (an architecture student at another school) gave me a wonderful color scheme for our UI, so I’ve been working on making the app pretty before we integrate the database we are going to use to save user data. So I’m going to learn some back-end development next week. Whew.
Besides sprinting around to investor meetings and spending my time between classes coding this app, I do actually go to class! This term I’m taking four classes: Computer Architecture (CS 24), Software Engineering (CS 3), Business Analytics (BEM/Ec 150), and Jane Austen (En 127). CS24 is notoriously incredibly time consuming and difficult, but it has turned out to be ok for the first two problem sets. I spent about 6 hours on the first one, and it looks like I’ll spend a similar amount of time on the second one. I’ll update you later this term on whether or not it stays reasonable and understandable, though :P
CS3 is a pass/fail class taught by a group of four Google engineers. It teaches the fundamentals and good practices everyone needs to work on large code projects by pairing students up and tasking them with building a web server. I’m working with my friend Eugene, who has more experience working on large, multi-person coding projects than I do. By which I mean he has experience, while I do not. But everyone has to start somewhere, and this class is a great place to start!
BEM/Ec 150 is great, so far. The lectures for the first two weeks have been along the lines of “this is what people use big data and data analytics for, and these are some good practices for displaying data in useful ways”. Now we are getting into some machine learning practices (gradient descent, regression) that will allow us to do predictive analytics, which is very cool. This class also has a group project aspect: teams of 3-4 students will be given free reign over large data sets provided by companies in the Pasadena/Los Angeles area, and will come up with their own ideas of how to explore the data and what insights they can pull from it. We will be pitching our project ideas in week 5, and presenting our final analyses to the CEO’s and data scientists from these companies in week 10.
Getting into the groove of a new term is usually pretty nice, because having no assigned work the first week allows you to organize your life a little. Since I’ve started working for this startup, however, I’ve had less free time than only having four classes would indicate. So I’ve gotten creative with my time. During Prefrosh Weekend this past weekend, I needed some alone time away from prefrosh (I love you guys, and I love answering all of your questions, but I have work too!), so I rode my bike to Old Pas, back to my favorite coffee shop in the world, Home Brewed Bar.
Their special of the day was Pumpkin Cold Coffee, so my inner basic b*tch was so, so pleased.
Friday night, Page hosted our annual Chill at Page event for prefrosh. We had a bar with “mocktails,” a huge DDR setup, lots of snacks, loud music and an inflatable jousting ring. I wish I had gotten video for you guys from the jousting ring! We had some very silly wipeouts on the bouncy castle :P
I met some awesome prefrosh, and met up with some Caltech freshman that I remember meeting at Chill at Page last year! One of them even told me that the conversation we had at Chill was one of the reasons she decided to come to Caltech.
The people in orange lanyards are prefrosh. Hope to see you ladies at Caltech next fall!
All in all, an exhausting week. Catch up with you all later!
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.