One of the most awesome things as a SURF student at Caltech is that the Student-Faculty Programs Office arranges and hosts activities for us! These events are usually geared to help people chill out from work and socialize.
This year, they setup a trip to go to Disneyland for half off and transportation provided. I hadn’t gone to Disneyland in recent memory, so I was definitely very excited. I love rollercoasters! My friends and I decided to go to the Disneyland California Adventures Park rather than the iconic Disneyland Park because it has more rides. We went on all the rides (except the ones clearly only for kiddies), but I’m only going to talk about a few.
One of the many rides we went to was the Toy Story based Midway Mania Ride.
It’s not a rollercoaster, but more like a 3D arcade shooter with a running score throughout the ride. In the ride, you “fire” digitalized plates using the canon in front of you (green and yellow in the picture above) at the targets in each mini-game screen. I have the aim of a blind dog, so I missed most of the targets.
I feel that the ride was very well put together with the guests in mind. For example, we were kept entertained by HUGE Mr. Potato Head figure while waiting in line.
Mr. Potato Head was really cool! He could pick out features of people in front of his exhibit (ie white top, red hat, etc), ask questions, and gesture appropriately with his arms. At the end of performing a song, he even made a funny comment, something along the lines of, “Wow! A standing ovation!”
The most unexpectedly fun ride was the Cars basedRadiator Springs Racers ride.
I personally didn’t find Cars that great of a movie, but I figured going on the ride was a part of the complete Disneyland experience. I didn’t expect much - just figures moving and “speaking” with some preset audio. And while initially that’s what happened, our Car ride (pun fully intended) turned into a fast and wild race. I wasn’t able to capture a good picture with the feeble camera on my phone, so I grabbed a picture from flickr for your viewing pleasure.
We also attended a live concert called the Mad Tea Party!
My friends and I were super surprised by the fact that there was a live performance. We stumbled across them while looking for other rides to go on. Later, we found out that there are multple people who play each role (ie Alice, Mad Hatter, etc). The particular group that we listened to were awesome - Alice had a gorgeous voice and Hatter really knew how to work the crowd.
This post only describes a snippet of my experience at Disneyland during the day. For Part 2, I will go into detail about the activities we did during the evening.
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.