I spent my Sunday at Liwonde National Park on safari!
We drove through a herd of elephants within the first 15 minutes of being there! I had been warned not to get my hopes up, but luckily saw so many elephants. We saw four different groups of elephants in total. This first herd, pictured above, was the largest at one time with approximately 30 members that we could easily see. As a biology nerd, and just being a person, this was awesome to see! We probably sat in our car for a half hour watching them and only tore ourselves away because we knew we would see all sorts of creatures on the boat ride later.
In fact we saw all sorts of animals on the Shire (that’s pronounced Shear-Ay, not like in Middle Earth) River. I was super excited a week ago to have seen nine hippos, so imagine my happiness at seeing dozens and dozens, maybe up to a score, of hippos on Sunday! There were also yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, monitor lizards, fish eagles, kingfishers, wart hogs, impala (and lots of other similar animals), savannah buffalo, and crocodiles. Lots of crocodiles. And, what’s a safari without a cheesy photo next to a crocodile?
I know the photo is almost too small to really see (darn internet!), but that isn’t a log I’m so excited about. It’s a crocodile taking a nap! Actually, giggling and jostling in the boat woke it up, scary! It’s left forearm stops above the elbow and is all scarred over, a fight with a fellow crocodile perhaps?
Every time we saw some amazing phenomenon I kept thinking, “I’m so lucky!” and “It couldn’t possibly get any better!” but then it always did. The most amazing experience was last. We were actually way over the allotted time for our tour, but our guide spotted an elephant totally in the water so he drove up over to see it. We were able to get really close and watch him cool off! Then we looked to our left and there was a whole herd of elephants! A man, kind of off to the side, once he saw us from a hundred yards away very resolutely and regally walked towards us. Straight at us! He didn’t seem agitated,more curious than anything about us. Reaching the edge of the water didn’t stop him. He would have walked right up to the boat if our guide hadn’t started the engine in time! The elephant’s march was so majestic! What a great note to end the day on!
I’m blown away everyday by the wildlife I see, the people I meet, or the experiences I have here! Translation: More students should apply for the Studenski Award!
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.