Quite literally. Since a couple months ago, the lawns on campus are being remodeled, for lack of a better word. It’s quite a long and arduous process actually. Landscapers come and first get rid of the dead grass with rakes; a lot of the grass is dead so by the end there’s really not much grass left, mostly just dirt.
Then, they’ll add this fertilizer-seed-mixture. A wonderful smell of chemicals and poop surrounds the area. In a week or so, bright green sprouts emerge. And the smell goes away! (a chem/bioengineer could explain this better to you; I can’t figure out how a smell can be so strong then disappear.) The grass is mowed, and looks like this!
You can’t really tell from the pictures, but it’s the brightest green color. It looks like turf but has the sort of reflective transparency that only live plants have. Every single blade uniformly stands straight up. Then a couple days will pass, the grass grows a little longer, and now it’s like a shaggy carpet.
No joke, I’ve seen people stop at the grass and touch it as if they were petting a dog. Okay yea it is just a lawn, but it looks and feels REALLY nice.
Over break I was home in Colorado, and though the weather was warmer than usual, I was still freezing. Pasadena will spoil you; I mean, the Sun shines and the grass grows all year. Actually, in 2005 Caltech pranked MIT where our students went to their prospective student weekend, handing out T-shirts that had the MIT logo on the front. After unwrapping the plastic and putting them on, the students realized that on the back of the shirt, it said “…because not everyone can go to Caltech” with a little palm tree drawn on the side. They’re still sold at our bookstore.
So, to conclude this rather random post, come to Caltech because our weather is great and we have green grass and palm trees!
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.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.