I just wanted to brag about how awesome my Spanish class is. So about every term we tend to have some movie that has LGB themes. For some reason, they tend to be movies instead of books, but I think that’s just because the movies are more modern than the books.
The first gay themed movie is “Fresa y Chocolate” (Strawberry and Chocolate, a reference to ice cream, and also a bit of gay slang referring to militant gay groups). It’s about young college student that encounters a middle-aged gay artist in Cuba, who shows him how society has changed under the dictatorship. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the movie is just really adorable. Although, it was pretty funny at how many gay movie tropes they managed to cram into it, given that it’s not a Logo Special. They had locker room scene, roommate drama, the spilled drink on shirt, love triangle, jealous best friend, straight crush, long walk together, watching the sunset together, and the list goes on and on.
My friends and I took this is an excuse to look up all the gay slang we could find for Spanish. I think the best word we picked up was a toss-up between “comehombres” literally man-eater, or “reina”, which literally translates to queen, but has a meaning much closer to diva.
The latest movie we watched, which reminded me about all of this, was “Soldados de Salamina”. It’s based on an eponymous book by Javier Cercas, who is a fantastic author. The book is an intellectual detective story and a historical investigation. The set-up and writing remind me a lot of Umberto Eco.**
If you have read the book, you would know the male protagonist, named completely coincidentally Cercas, is dating a girl named Conchi. Now, in the movie, the director replaced the male protagonist with a female one, also coincidentally with the last name Cercas. The director changes the relationship up between the two characters and makes it a more significant focus of the movie relative to the book. The characters do have real depth and realistic dates and such, and they are not merely one-dimensional fan-service objects. The treatment of their relationships was impressively realistic and occasionally hit a little too close to home.
**I definitely recommend all these movies. They’re so fantastic!
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.
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.