There’s a ton of
venues for hiking in the San Bernardino mountain range just north of Pasadena. Some
trails start just 20 minutes from campus, up by JPL. However, if you’re looking
for an adventurous all-day hike, with snow to trek through in the summer, the
remains of a 1950s plane wreck along the trail, and a higher summit than any
other place in Southern California, the place to go is San Gorgonio Mountain in
the San Bernardinos, about a two-hour drive from Pasadena. I went there a few weeks
ago with a group of friends, some of whom you can see in the picture above. We
were surprised at how much snow was still on the mountain! We left Pasadena at
around 9 am and started on the Fish Creek Trail, which has about 3,400 feet of
elevation gain, at 11. Every so often we would run into other hikers on the
trail, but there weren’t as many as I would have expected for a weekend.
San Gorgonio Mountain has been the site of a
few tragic plane crashes over the years. A couple of hours into our hike, we
came across the remnants of the Douglas C-47 Dakota that crashed into the side
of the mountain in 1953. Most of the plane is still there, as you can see from
the picture above, which is part of a wing. Below is one of the propellers.
We hit several
large patches of snow along the trail, as you can see in the picture at the top
of the page. I was fascinated that the snow wasn’t melted, because the sun seemed
to be hitting it pretty directly, and the temperature was probably in the high
eighties. The snow crossings were the most epic and dangerous part of the hike,
because if you lost your footing you would probably end up sliding quite a ways
down the mountain.
And here’s the view
from the summit, at 11,502 feet! The mountains in the background are the at the
same elevation as ones behind Beckman Auditorium in my previous post; since
they seem so high from the ground, it was crazy to have to look down to see
It was 5 pm when we
reached the summit and 11 pm before we arrived back at our car. Despite losing
the trail for a brief period on the way down (it was dark out, but fortunately
we had a GPS and could collectively make a good guess about which way to go),
we made it safely back to Pasadena.
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.