Today (may or may not be true depending on when this ends up being posted) starts my second week of SURF at Caltech. I’m working in Maria Spiropulu’s lab, with Javier Duarte as my co-mentor. Everyone in my lab is cooler than me. (Anyway, they all know what they are doing more than I do…which is really not that suprising). This is a pretty common phenomenon for freshman SURFs. Expect to learn a lot.
Right now I’m waiting for the cluster we use to be rebooted so I can submit a job. I’m trying to use the cluster to simulate collision events between protons, which I want to result in the creation of dark matter coupled to squarks as mediators.
I spent the weekend in San Diego with some friends; we went to the house of one of our friends and ate the delicious food her parents gave us. It was lovely. For three glorious days, my dreams of good food came true.
Thought, to be honest, Caltech food is really not that bad. For a dorm, it’s nothing to complain about at all. Chandler is pretty good, and dinner is decent. It’s just that sometimes I get tired of eating the same thing over and over…which makes it actually really nice that Caltech doesn’t have a meal plan on the weekends.
We spent some time going about Balboa park and looking at the museums. We went to the free ones, and to the Museum of Man. Just walking around the park was really pretty:
The Museum of Man attempted to talk about human civilization in around five exhibits–a bit of an undertaking, in my opinion. Nevertheless, they had some interesting exhibits. There was an exhibit on beer which was actually very interesting (apparently beer was more like fermented oatmeal in Egypt, and people were paid in beer or something????)
We tried to go into the Japanese Friendship Garden, but it was under construction.
Afterwards, we went to the beach and saw a herd (????) of seals. Seals are ridiculous. They look like huge inflated slugs without the disgustingness just lumping around, and when they move they look like they’re trying to role, but are too fat, so just have to lump there.
However, almost as importantly, I discovered something wonderful–my friend has too incredibly fluffly kitties!!! DA FLUFF!!!!!!!
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.