Hi again, everybody. Welcome to the last Frosh Experience of
Christmas was excellent— it’s the one time of the year that I get to see
all of my extended family. And now New Year’s is tonight! It’s my favorite
holiday. As a kid, I just liked that I got to stay up late. Now, New Year’s is
a stopping point for me. A time when I get to take a break, reflect on my
accomplishments in the past year, and more importantly, reflect on what’s in
store for me this year. Last year, I was thinking about graduation, research
presentations, and getting into college. This year….hmmmmm…I’m looking forward
to my next term at Caltech and thinking about what I want to do differently.
This term, I signed up for fewer units than last term,
hoping to develop the study skills that I didn’t really need in high school.
This term, I want to get off campus a little more often,
venture into Los Angeles a little more.
This term, I want to think about getting a SURF (that’s a
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) for the summer.
This term, I’m going to attend a few seminars and lectures
on topics completely beyond my comprehension, just because I’m at Caltech and I
Of course, there are the classes themselves to think about!
Which is what I want to talk about today. But first, I got a response to my
last post asking me to elaborate a little on Prefrosh Weekend. So, Prefrosh
Weekend is our admitted students’ weekend, and though it’s definitely worth
attending, not everyone can, so I suppose I could give some examples of PFW
So, you will stay in one of the houses, and have dinner at that
house as well as one other house during the weekend. I remember mentioning that
each of the houses puts on activities. Some examples would be Ricketts Open Mic
Night, Venerable Greens (in which Venerable House is turned into a miniature golf
course), DDR in Avery, Blacker Deconstruction (where Blacker asked the age-old
question: Who can take apart a piano faster- prefrosh with sledgehammers or
Techers with their bare hands). Deconstruction is also where I took this
picture of Techers making ice cream with liquid nitrogen and a drill.
Our final day, prefrosh were encouraged to spend the day
exploring Pasadena, so I grabbed up two of my new friends and took in my first
tastes of California and Pasadena. We ate Korean food (something I’d never have
seen back home!), I saw my first Jamba Juice (very California, IMHO), nearly
crashed a wedding taking place near Pasadena town hall, and snapped a picture
After consulting the map, we found that
there is also a Newton Ave. and a Eureka Ave. in Pasadena, but after all that,
we were ready to head back to campus. I mentioned a lot about visiting classes,
and there were information sessions too. I remember a session on financial aid,
but little else. Months later, what I can’t forget is watching the fireworks
over Tech, eating strawberry donuts, and not being able to take my eyes off the
mountains. I hope that helps, but if there’s something more you wanted to know,
just say so, and I’ll yak some more.
Ok, now that that’s done, I’ve been thinking a lot about
classes second term. So, I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the core in the
Facebook group, but that’s pretty much decided for you already. Having core,
however, does not mean that there’s no flexibility in the freshman schedule.
The way I see it, there’s two types of flexibility: there are classes you need
to take, but you get some choice (like your hums), and then there are the extra
units left in your schedule that are completely up to you. For your first term,
the registrar sends you a sort of scheduling sheet that outlines your options,
but for terms after that, you register for classes online.
So what have I chosen? I took Hum3B (Early Modern European
History) last term as my hum and really loved it. Frosh hums are limited to
about 20 people, and it was my first experience with a discussion-based history
class. There was an awful lot of reading, but the prof was so enthusiastic, I
didn’t mind. I’m not taking a hum this term, but looking ahead to third term,
I’ve heard good things about Hum8 (Right and Wrong), a philosophy class.
Additionally, you have to take 2 frosh labs, and I took Ch3a (Freshman
Chemistry Lab) last term. I enjoyed it, but the chemistry faculty is looking to
completely makeover the class, and so they have introduced Ch3x this term. It’s
an experimental class, in which the students will help develop a completely new
freshman chemistry lab course. It was open only by lottery, and I’m excited to
hear how it turns out.
Then the were the classes I had complete latitude on. I
didn’t take a language last term, but this term I’m signed up for French class.
I’ve really missed French since high school, so I have high hopes for this one.
I’d like to make room for a language class every term, if that’s possible. I’m
also continuing to take Ch10, Frontiers in Chemistry, better known as the
chemistry pizza class. It’s a class that meets once a week to listen to
research presentations by Caltech chemistry faculty, and well…eat pizza!
There’s a similar class for biology, physics, and engineering as well, and I’d
recommend that every frosh take one. Your freshman classes are informative and
everything, but its nice to take time each week to hear about all the amazing
research going on around you at Caltech.
Talking about all the
classes I’m taking next term has got me surprisingly pumped for my return to
Tech, which is good because my plane leaves this Saturday. I’ll be posting
again before that, but once get back, it’ll mean new classes, new pics, and
new frosh experiences.
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.