Hello, there!This post is about things wrapping up, in a good way, and I’m so excited to be sharing these experiences with you! I apologize for not having a new one in a while, and won’t have a cooking one - missed Asian Week so I could pack for my interview.
Speaking of interview, I have officially FINISHED interviewing this year! I just got back from the University of Washington, and had a great whirlwind weekend. Thursday was crazy, flying in and right away talking to some really cool professors! I got to visit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (which is world-renowned for their work!) and be in Seattle on a beautiful weekend! There was a break in the clouds so someone a bit de-sensitized to gloomy weather (like me) enjoyed the change of scenery! I was really excited to describe in one interview what I think makes an ideal Caltech student, and this is what I said (what I say on all my tours!):
A Caltech student MUST love math and science. Not like, but love it. Want to immerse yourself in it for four years of your life. If you’re not sure what you think of math and/or science (or engineering, which is both!), I don’t recommend you come here. Our core curriculum really stresses a fundamental understanding of science, and it’s tough. But having that passion for science is key to making the time so much more enjoyable.
Also, you have to love research! Coming to Caltech and NEVER taking advantage of research would be like going to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum… it makes no sense. The opportunities are endless, but you’ve got to go out there and grab it. I thank Caltech for giving me such opportunities, and if you want the same, I definitely encourage you to come!
So now… I am done interviewing and now just waiting. Can’t believe it’s been such a long process. By the numbers:
Flights Taken: 26
Miles Traveled (approx.): 30,000
Days From First to Last Interview: 126
But you’re more concerned with the pictures, so here they are!
The other way that this title is fitting is that the third term class schedule just came out! It’s kind of bittersweet, because it is my last term at Caltech. But it’s exciting, because the end is now in sight. Needless to say I don’t have much left to do so I can finish my double degree. I have two humanities classes: one “advanced social science” (for which I am planning on taking The Neuronal Basis of Consciousness, a biology/psychology class) and one “any humanities.” For the latter, I’m more divided. Either epic poetry (I do love The Aeneid!) or Saints and Sinners in the Middle Ages. Hmmm tough choice! Also, I’ll be continuing to do some research. And most importantly, prepping for DITCH DAY!!!
Time to unpack and RELAX for a bit! :)
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.