I never did a lot of stuff before coming to Caltech - research, eating mangos, and seeing a rattlesnake [don’t worry, it was a three hour drive from campus] - and that now includes going to a fancy schmancy movie theater (to be honest, I didn’t even know there was one in Pasadena!). I already blogged about my summer jobs, but as a quick refresher, in addition to SURFing this summer [I’ll be posting about that again soon!], I’m working eight hours a week as a House Assistant.Housing super-kindly agreed to fund an HA (House Assistants) “team-bonding” event! We decided to go to the Gold Class Theater. Only one of us had been there before (there’s this other really good $2 movie theater with, apparently, $1 hotdogs that are really good even closer to campus) and we were quite impressed as we rushed in, slighly late [luckily these things have a ton of advertisements at the beginning].
I won’t give away anything about Captain America for those fans out there who have yet to watch it, but it was 3D and the chairs were SUPER-COMFY!! There’s some pictures of the theaterhere. We had the super-fancy tickets, so we also got popcorn and food. I was kind of unhappy about the food. So, I am a pretty strick veg. AKA, unless someone sneaks meat into my meal, I’m not touching it or eating anything that was cooked in the same dish as meat ect. Sneaking is exactly what happened - at a place where the food is paid for!! [I have two younger brothers at home:) I wouldn’t be suprised to find out that they tried to sneak meat into my food at some point…] I ordered a cheese pizza, and they brought me a chicken pizza. The disadvantage of being in the dark is that I asked the waitress if it really was cheese, because there were wierd shadows on it that cheese pizzas shouldn’t have. Yes, of course it was cheese. So I took a bite. It was not cheese. It was artichoke, chicken, and spinache. But they brought me a cheese pizza, and that was good though greasy :) [Disadvantage of fancy order-while-you-watch theaters: you have to be kind of quiet when ordering your food!]
After the movie, we hung out in the loungy area for a while.
We all enjoyed this “work” and even though I’m just fine with the cheap, afternoon showings of movies when I really, really need to go see the next Harrry Potter (I blogged about that, too:)), it was really interesting to see the theater. And sit in the comfy chairs!
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.