This year, I celebrated my first birthday away from home. On top of that, it was the first day of spring term. Happy birthday to me! But thanks to friends and family, it was one of the best ones yet.
At Venerable, we celebrate birthdays at midnight in 1.5, the common area between Alleys 1 and 2. Over spring break, my roommate messaged me saying that she planned to order me a cake (whilst in Taiwan), but wanted to check if I had any plans. Since it was the first day back, Chloe wanted to make sure I didn’t fall asleep before midnight. So it wasn’t a surprise, but it was still quite an ordeal listening to about 20 Rudds sing in various keys while I sat awkwardly on a couch. The cake was simply amazing — Chloe remembered me saying something about strawberry cream cake (I talk about food a lot), so she got this beautiful strawberry cream cake from 85 C bakery in Old Pasadena:
She had the SuperShuttle driver stop by the bakery on her way back from the airport! I have the BEST roommate ever. The cake had a similar texture to Korean cakes, and the strawberry cream layer was very special.
The following day was the first day of classes, absolutely packed from morning to night. In the short hours in between the last class and dinner, Chloe and I decided to go to Starbucks during their frappuccino happy hour to get their birthday cake fraps. (Chloe: Starbucks fraps are one year older than you!) Jim, our UCC, drove us and our friend Malavika, and we all feasted on the goodness that is half-price fraps:
Mine was free because it was my birthday, and I had gift cards, so the total cost of four fraps was less than $6 (covered by 1.001 of my gift cards). Once again the strawberry cream prevailed as our favorite flavor of the day.
Soon after we returned, I received a delivery from a cupcake business — cake pops from my mom!
Chloe and I went around the house giving out cake pops. It turns out cake pops are almost never refused. There must be something appealing and approachable about their size, shape, and built-in stick. I had an Oreo and a red velvet (the pink ones). The orange ones were vanilla, and the brown ones were salted caramel pecan.
And then it was time for our first Pipettes rehearsal of the term. Just when we were about to split up into sectionals, Stephanie walked in and everyone started singing. This was a total surprise! For the record, a cappella groups are probably the best “Happy Birthday” singers. At the end of rehearsal, we feasted on a chocolate cream cake from 85 C:
These people know my tastes. It was amazing, and I was so touched. Even though I was already stuffed to the brim with sweets, I still downed a piece of this fantastic cake. I love these girls!
I ended the night with some Dhamaka (Bollywood/hiphop dance) to burn off maybe a sliver of cake, and some struggles to acquire and power an iClicker.
I also received some non-edible gifts that were just as precious, like this card from some friends in Avery I got to know through church groups on campus:
Chloe also got me a book, which I thought at first was an attempt to get me to read about math, but turned out to be a pasta cookbook interspersed with discussions on pasta shapes. I know what I’m doing this summer! In addition to a SURF, of course…
And finally, I asked for two Squishables for my birthday present from my family, so these cuties arrived:
They are unbearably adorable, and I must have one in my arms at all times. Though the week was packed with events, rehearsals, and classes, it started off on such a good note thanks to my family and friends (=Caltech family!), and rejuvenated me for the term ahead. Let’s go!
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.