Our 8-day Galapagos adventure was jam-packed: we’d get up at 5:30 am to begin our day of hiking, snorkeling, more snorkeling, and more hiking. We’d return to the boat at 6 pm for dinner and lecture/ presentations. By 10 pm, the entire boat would be sound asleep, lulled by the boat’s gentle rocking.
With such an action-packed schedule, it’s difficult to remember every animal and plant we saw, every scientific question we asked, every piece of information our guide Ernesto shared with us, so we needed a field notebook of sorts.
If you’ve worked in a research lab, you’ll know how important a lab notebook is– accurately recording information is essential to the scientific process. Not surprisingly, the same is true of field study trips. Before we left for the Galapagos, our profs suggested that we invest in a small, light notebook– one that will easily fit in our small backpacks.Luckily for me, the Caltech bookstore was having a sale during the last week of second term, so I decided to buy my handy dandy notebook there, shown below.
Side note: I practically bought out the bookstore during the sale. By 5:30 pm (which is when the store closes), I’d walked out with two enormous bags containing: my field notebook, a tie for my dad, a Caltech mug, a Caltech pillow, a sweatshirt for my brother, and windbreaker for my mom, and a zip-up jacket for myself.
Day 1, hike 1, we explored La Playa de Las Bachas, a beach with beautiful white sand and dark, basaltic rock.Immediately, wenoticed the striking red crabs that inhabitedthese rocks, and Ernesto took the opportunity toteach us about the colorful creatures. He swiftlypicked up a crab shell we’d stumbled upon, andbegan his ecological lesson.According to Ernesto, Sally Lightfoot crabs shed their hard shell every year and emerge with a softer shell in order to grow larger in size. To harden the shell, the crabs will intake salts to convert their soft shells. As we examined the crab shell, Ernesto mentioned that we can discern the sex of a crab based on the color of its abdomen (the one we’d found was male). With our first-day enthusiasm, the entire class quickly took detailed notes on the crabs.
Our first field lesson
Opuntia cactus and tortoise nests (If I hadn’t labeled these drawings, I would have had no idea what they were trying to depict..)
Sally Lightfoot crabs and Marine Iguanas
Fun fact: Marine iguanas inspired the monster Godzilla. If you can’t spot the resemblance from my drawing, here’s some photographic evidence:
(That’s not to say that I didn’t snap 1000+ photographs during the trip).
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.