Hey y’all. Sorry it’s been a while. Between wrapping up the semester, a whirlwind of travels, limited internet, and coming back home, it’s been quite a busy month! Since my two final papers and exam were scheduled early in the examination period (which at UniMelb lasts for three weeks!), I had just over a month to spend travelling around Australia before heading back home. I hopped from Melbourne to Western Australia to Cairns, back to Melbourne to reset, over to New Zealand with my friends Holly and Maddi, back to Melbourne, and then up to the Outback with Holly for the final adventure. Not the most efficient route (grab a map and you’ll understand why), but it was the only way to do it considering that no one finished up with exams as early as I did.
So let me tell you about my travels!
I flew into Perth, where sadly I only got to spend one day wandering the city. It was really bizarre to be walking around in shorts and flip flops (fun fact: Aussies call them ‘thongs’) and seeing Christmas decorations in the summer.
[Side note: Can you picture barbecuing and going to the beach on Christmas Day? My Australian friends have told me about it multiple times, and I believe them, but it still doesn’t quite make sense in my head.]
I climbed to the top floor of the Swan Bell Tower for the full bell ringing at noon. It took eight people to ring the bells. At first it just sounded random, but after a few minutes I was able to pick out the different rounds.
I took a nice long walk around Kings Park, which had a variety of landscapes, including the Australian bushland, parkland, and botanic garden. One bushland walk was particularly steep and turned out to be quite the workout!
The parking lot and the street leading up to Kings Park were full of cars, but I never felt like there were many people around because the park was so big.
My allergies usually make being surrounded by flowers a pretty overwhelming experience, but I managed a rare and pleasant stroll through the botanic gardens. I’m not big on flower pictures but these were my favorites:
Tune in next time and I’ll tell you about my tour up the coast of Western Australia!
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.