With Friday, August 22nd came the termination of SURF. And so I went home and began my summer vacation for real. As in away from Caltech. (More will follow about my second half of SURF, but in a later post. I apologize for my anachronistic style.)
On Sunday the 24th, we went to drop my brother Leonard off at Pomona College. As a semester school, they get to start a whole month before we do. That being said, they also end about a whole month before we do. Not judging about which is better, but all I know is that I’m going to have a weird month at home without the ever-present little brother this summer.
We began driving at 6 am (definitely not my thing) in order to reach campus by 7:40. Then there was a hustle for my brother to register his name, while my mom and I went to the rummage sale to pick up a microwave and a fan–because, apparently, Leonard’s dorm only has one microwave and it’s located all the way in the basement level.
After multiple near-misses, we finally met the roommate, who comes from Germany and seemed quite chill. Introductions were made between the parents, room arrangements were discussed, and we all went to lunch.
^Early impressions: Pomona is awfully fond of square plates…
^A note on the wildlife: Their squirrels are skinnier than the Caltech squirrels! Perhaps we are too generous with ours (all those olive trees and their fruits must’ve raised their lipid intake or something). Pomona squirrels are not only able to climb trees but also scale buildings!
The rest of the day was the usual convocation speech and question-and-answer panels that comes with all first days at college (and yes, I am most definitely justified in making such a generalization after going through two college orientations). A noteworthy moment: they kicked all of the parents and family members out after 5 pm, under the pretense of treating them to a delicious reception involving coconut shrimp, blackberry-infused cheeses, and strawberry parfait desserts. You devious devil, you, Pomona College!
So it was that I came away one little brother short and several camera-phone masterpieces richer on the 22nd of August, 2014.
But we didn’t go home to stew over our loss–not at all. We went on vacation.
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.