Heh, I’ve been wanting to label a post with that for a while!
At least this time it will make more sense: MAD is the Caltech Y’s annual Make a Difference Day. We organize up to 20 different off campus volunteer projects for 200 volunteers. Usually these projects are tutoring, environmental restoration, working with animal shelters and serving at local homeless shelters. Last year, I led a group to help out at the Red Cross. We cleaned their cars and got to take a ride in one of them! The vehicles, of course, is equipped with much more than a normal car because the Red Cross provides emergency first aid and disaster relief services. This year, I led a group to help out at MACH1, “Move a Child Higher”. This group gives horseback riding lessons to disabled children. One of the regular volunteers there that we met actually used to receive lessons because of his autism. The horses are all very gentle, especially around the children. The organization was founded by a woman who suffered from polio herself, but was able to ride competitively nonetheless. She said that her goal in founding MACH1 was to give every child a “chance to dance” and that learning to ride a horse gave her the courage to overcome her polio. We deweeded, swept and raked the grounds for them, and also got to groom one of the horses, Heidi! Heidi is a Norwegian Fjord, and has a really beautiful cropped black and white mane. Her coat is a sandy tan color and she was very patient with us. We also met the other horses as well as a donkey. After getting freshly groomed, the donkey decided to roll around in the dirt XD
As usual, I took a lot of pictures ^^
After feeding this horse with lots of carrots, Wrigley started nibbling on our jackets and sleeves for more.
I don’t know if you can see it in this picture, but Heidi’s mane is trimmed very short and has a beautiful black and white pattern.
The donkey is being led back to his stall by one of the staff, and in the background, Will O, another pony, is getting his injured foot treated.
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.
This summer, from the confines of my Brooklyn apartment, you could find me typing away on a tiny 13-inch laptop screen. At times I was looking for answers on countless Stack Exchange pages, editing a Jupyter notebook, or making blood flow measurements on a software called Arterys. This was my 2021 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURF) experience.