Another week down! Can you believe we’re already starting
the 4th week of the term? Up until now, it’s been all about starting
fresh and getting acclimated to our new classes, but sometime this week, the
new wore off and we all got settled into our schedules. Speaking of schedules,
the other frosh on my alley and I have developed this standing appointment that
I think I’ll name “Friday Mad Dash”. The frosh schedule this term has worked
out so that many of us have all of Friday afternoon off after 1. Consider also
that the chemistry set is due every Friday at 4, and this becomes a recipe for
some serious procrastination. Now, under normal circumstances, 3 hours is not
really sufficient time to complete a set, even with collaboration. But behold
the power of rushed, stressed Techers working in large groups at top speed.
Somehow we’ve managed to knock that thing out by 4 every week so far. And if
that’s not intense enough for you, this week, due to the holiday, our physics
set was also due Friday at 4. This meant that Friday Mad Dash was one big
mix-up of frosh done with chem but not phys, frosh done with phys but not chem,
and a handful of frosh half-done with both. This resulted in an alley full of chairs,
papers, people, and shouts of NMR interpretations alongside Lorentz
transformations. With all the confusion, I won’t be surprised if I tried to
determine the momentum 4-vector of methyl ethyl ether at some point on one of
my sets. Oh well, point is, I got ‘em turned in! *(Note: This frosh blogger realizes she is setting a horrible example of
procrastination for others.) *
Other cool events of the week? Most obvious is the presidential
inauguration. Problem is, us folks out here in California kind of got the short
end of the stick that day. While those on the east coast spent their late
morning/lunch beak watching the ceremonies, our party kicked off at 7:30AM.
Chandler dining hall set up a loaded breakfast buffet and invited the whole
Caltech community to come and watch together, so I got to chomp down on fried
potatoes, eggs, and yogurt while watching. Not too bad! There were cameras all
around, catching the action as the room clapped and cheered throughout the
inauguration. To top it all off, as I was walking out, I caught sight of these
Obama cookies! I didn’t manage to snag one, but I ask myself if I would really
have been comfortable eating the head of the President. Hmmm…depends on how
good the frosting is, I guess.
So, it may seem impressive that I got to hold President
Obama’s [cookie] head in my hand, but I had an even closer brush with stardom
today. Let me first say that I am such a giant Red Hot Chili Peppers fan that,
when I was getting ready to fly over here for PFW, my friends gave me a card
that said, “You’re going to California! Now you’ll get a chance to see what the
Chili Peppers have been singing about this whole time!” Well, imagine how
delighted I was when I discovered that RHCP’s Flea would be coming to Caltech
to play his jazz trumpet. So delighted
that I went to wait outside Beckman Auditorium at 6:20 for an 8:00 show, in
hopes of a good seat. I got it too! Front and center, baby! I was freaking just
a little as Flea walked out, and of course, he was excellent, but what I wasn’t
expecting was how stellar the Caltech Jazz Band is! Now, as a New Orleanian, I
love jazz, and listening to the Caltech Jazz band sent me right back home to
the city. And it was all a free show! You can’t beat that. Well, yes you can.
You can beat it if you rush the stage afterwards and snap a picture with Flea
himself. Which I did. Unfortunately, it came out terribly blurry, so instead
enjoy these (clearer) ones my friend took during the show.
Now, it’s my understanding that this is likely my last blog before
a new blogger takes over The Frosh Experience, so let me say goodbye. Blogging
has been such an excellent experience: Taking time to stop and reflect on my Frosh Experience has made me realize how
unique my freshman year has been, how many cool opportunities I’ve had, and all
the things I don’t want to miss out on for the rest of my frosh year.
Take care, and as always, you can email me at jtheriot [at] caltech.edu.
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.
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.