Yokoso Japan! (“Welcome to Japan!”) is the slogan for the Japanese National Tourism Organization’s campaign to bring more foreign visitors to the country. I thought it would be an appropriate title given that I completely expect to be spending my weekends/vacation days doing some pretty tourist-y things. My name is Joanne and for this summer I’ll be doing an internship at Mitsubishi Electric in Japan and blogging about my time here.
I’ve been studying Japanese since freshman year of high school, so I’ve wanted to go to Japan for a while now to be able to see and experience all the things we’d learned about in Japanese class. The way I finally ended up in Japan is through Caltech’s Japan Internship Program. It’s a program that sophomores and juniors can apply for in the fall term and helps match them up with one of many Japanese host companies according to their experience and majors. The program coordinator for the program also happens to be the Japanese professor at Tech for the Intermediate and Advanced Japanese classes, so she advertised it quite heavily in class at the beginning of the year.
When I got to Japan, one of the first things I noticed, even at the airport, was the ubiquitous vending machines. They are literally everywhere. I can understand a vending machine or two at train stations and such, but there’s probably as many stores here with a vending machine out front as without. And then some more machines along the street. It makes sense though; they’re super convenient and available 24/7. What made me chuckle was that they sell cans of UCC brand coffee, and just last week someone in my House had handed me a can of UCC brand tea since I’m going to be a UCC (upperclass counselor) next year. Maybe it’s a sign I’ll be needing that caffeine pretty soon…
One of the things I already know I’m going to miss when I go back to the LA area is the Japanese railway system. There are dizzyingly many rail companies that service all the different regions of this country and yet they all work together like clockwork. It makes me wish LA had something as reliable and ahem useful. But the culture and population density are probably big obstacles in making better public transportation a reality back home. You may have heard somewhere about the morning rush hour causing train passengers to squish into the traincars like sardines in a tin. It didn’t cross my mind before coming to Japan that I’d be subjected to that in order to go to work, but after my first few days of work, I don’t think we have it much better than the sardines. There’s even station staff whose job during the rush hour is to push people into the train cars. I made the mistake of hesitating on the first day and found myself on the receiving end of a firm shove.Fortunately Mitsubishi is only two stops from where I’m living, so it’s not that bad.
My first day of work was pretty uneventful. I spent the morning being shown around the company buildings, sitting through orientation, and signing a bunch of company agreements (including an NDA, so I can’t talk that much about my work). The afternoon I spent meeting my coworkers and having my project explained to me. Basically, my project deals with English sentences and semantics from a machine learning perspective. It’s an interesting topic but not something I’ve really worked with in the past (both on the semantics side and the machine learning side–I’m taking the Intro to Machine Learning course fall term though) so that’ll be interesting to learn about. It’s remarkable that we can form and express such complex thoughts without even thinking about it, and yet instructing a computer to extract meaning from sentences is so difficult.
Anyway, I’m pretty tired from my first few days here–I’m still trying to catch up on sleep post-finals and trying to adjust to life and work in Japan. Talk to you guys later!
(PS: I joked with some of the folks at Admissions that my first post would probably be about getting stranded somewhere. So if you read this, Jann and Mackenzie, I haven’t gotten lost yet ;] )
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.