Just a quick note about very relevant current events. Last week on Wednesday, a wildfire started a few miles away from JPL, up the Angeles Crest Highway. This ‘Station Fire’ has since grown to be huge. The main JPL campus (on Oak Grove) was closed over the weekend, and the fire line got quite close to here over the weekend – within a mile or so. But that part of the fire boundary was contained, and the active burning is not so close to the main JPL campus anymore, so it’s out of direct danger. Still, the Oak Grove part of the lab was closed for most people (like me) on Monday because of air quality concerns.
Things went back to normal here on Tuesday, but the air quality is still pretty bad. I’d estimate less than a mile of visibility this morning, looking to the East.
But that doesn’t mean that things are over. The current estimated boundary size is 140,150 acres (over 200 square miles!), and while JPL is safe, other areas are being threatened. This includes residential communities, as well as the Mt. Wilson communications center and the observatory. There has been a lot of work that has gone into protecting Mt. Wilson, from laying down fire retardant to back burning to get rid of fuel that the wildfire could use to jump to the facilities on the mountain top. Apparently things are looking somewhat up as far as keeping the facilities safe, but it’s not over yet. The towercam on the 150 ft solar telescope went offline yesterday afternoon, so we can’t directly see what’s going on up there.
Still, if you’re inclined to follow what’s going on, the incident website is here.
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.