Tuesday was a pretty regular day. I made a lot of progress on my project. We had a lunch & learn where I ate pizza and learned computer stuff (signed an NDA, that’s all I’m saying). I got to go home a little earlier than usual because there wasn’t an event and I didn’t have to go to the gym. Instead I came home, did a yoga video, and made bibimbap. I was still recovering from a low-sleep weekend so I was feeling a little slow, but the yoga is good for me.
Wednesday was exciting. I got into work and finished writing and unit testing stage two of my project, which is more computer stuff. We had a welcome lunch for the three (!) people newer than me on my team, which was pretty solid. Thai food is my jam :) I wish I knew how to make it myself, but it never tastes quite right. Plus our new guys are pretty cool, our team is hiring people and then sending them to Virginia (the other Opower office).
I left early on Wednesday for a Kleiner Perkins Fellows event - dinner with John Doerr (this guy!). He was actually super nice, he let us ask a bunch of questions and solicited our feedback on diversity in the workplace (an offshoot question from the recent case former partner Ellen Pao brought against the company). We got free books - one on taking advantage of your twenty-something years and The Martian by Andy Weir. I’ve only just started the former but I highly recommend the latter, the science is totally valid and it’s a thrilling read. You can even get it online legally without paying anything! Also I got an awesome seat completely by accident (I’m the blonde one!).
The guy on my left is really really important. That’s why he’s standing up and holding a whiteboard marker. I know it looks like I’m texting, but I’m taking notes. There is an excellent case to be made for carrying a tiny paper pad and pen everywhere. I actually got some excellent takeaways from this talk. I’m signing up for some activities to improve my public speaking and sales capabilities; I used to be pretty good but I’ve fallen out of practice in college. Also here’s another picture of me during the post-talk Q&A, which was also very valuable. He made a real effort to focus on and speak with everyone who came to talk to him.
This afternoon I worked from home. I went into work in the morning, decided today I wasn’t focused enough at work, and I went home. I went to the gym in between and did some lifting, and did yoga when I got home to stretch it out. Working in bed is actually really nice - big fluffy pillows, snacks you pick whenever you want. I’ve never been a big desk person, I like to work on couches and beds and sometimes the floor. Boyfriend is very jealous - he’s a chemistry major and he obviously cannot bring his super explosive chemicals home with him (I don’t actually know what his job is, so I’m forced to assume that he’s using lab chemicals to make fire).
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.