At the end of my SURF, we’d made quite a bit of progress. We had a working prototype which we coulddemonstrate!
My mentor arranged for us to present at the Smart Grid Symposium, which was sponsored by Southern California Edison. They were interested in our work because they would like to be able to protect the electric grid in the event of an earthquake.
My mentor was one of the keynote speakers. In the middle of his presentation, he stopped and told everybody to make sure to check out our poster. I was so happy!
Our poster was a little big for their easels, so it hung off the sides. We had to watch it carefully to make sure it didn’t fall over!
Our presentation required three laptops. The organizers were astonished! We got our own table.
Several of the Caltech professors presented their current research. In addition to Mani Chandy (my mentor), Steven Low, Adam Weirman (who is currently running the RankManiac 2010contest in his CS 144 class), and Andreas Krause all talked about what they were currently working on.
In addition to the SmartGrid symposium, I got to do three on-campus presentations. My mentor arranged for me to present to the Rigorous Systems Research Group, which is composed of several of the CS professors and graduate students. They asked quite a few probing questions, which kept us on our toes! They also had some good suggestions.
I got to present to the CS 9 class as well. It’s a class that reviews the current Caltech CS research, intended for freshmen. I highly recommend it.
Lastly, I presented at SURF seminar day. I was really pleased to see that my sponsors, Dr. and Mrs. Kiyo (BS ‘40) and Eiko Tomiyasu. He graduated with a degree in EE, back in the day. It was really nice that they took the time to come and see my presentation.
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.