On Thursday at 8am, seniors all over campus ran around the houses yelling “WAKE UP IT’S DITCH DAY!”. Excited underclassmen sprang out of bed and rushed to sign up for stacks. I got to be part of the insanely amazing Wreck it Ralph stack!
Ditch Day is one of my favorite Caltech traditions. It originated long long ago, when seniors used to simply leave campus for the day. Then, some underclassmen snuck into a senior’s room while they were away, took out all their furniture, disassembled an SUV, and reassembled it inside the room. “They stole that from Real Genius!” some of you may object. No they did not. Real Genius stole it from us. Pranks on senior rooms continued until the seniors started protecting their rooms - they mostly built brick or concrete walls (“stacks”) in front of the door. If you could get into the room, there would be a bribe. You could either accept the bribe or counter-stack (prank) the room. Over time, Ditch Day has become a full day of activities to entertain underclassmen.
It was far too busy for me to take pictures - besides, the Pasadena Star News covered it! We decorated wagons, then played life-size Pac-Man. We had to get fruit out of a maze… larger fruit was worth more points! A tiny freshman girl carried a 24-pound spiky jackfruit out for our team. Then we played Rock Band on fruit. The fruit was the instruments. The game was set up by a senior so you could hold a wire with one hand and tap the fruit with the other, and it would act as a controller. Then we had lunch, then did a puzzle. The puzzle was really hard. It was a version of “Keep Talking or the Bomb will Explode,” but we only had 45 minutes. Then we smashed concrete and hurled fruit at plastic chickens. We ended with a competition to break down furniture into splinters and cart race the splinters to a trash can. It was so much fun! I can’t believe how hard the seniors worked. Our bribe was an hour at Chuck E. Cheese and an 8 course Cantonese meal. It was insanely good.
The day ended with a four-hour happy hour, during which many alumni joined us. A bunch of the seniors just passed out. They mostly pulled all-nighters to get it set up.
Saturday started out less exciting for me. I worked until 6pm, but a lot of people spent the afternoon at Techstock. Techstock is a now-annual Battle of the Bands that only accepts Caltech- and JPL-affiliated bands. This year, a band called Many Distant Cities won. I really liked them and another band called Mr. Vampire. Well, to be fair, I liked Many Distant Cities’ music better but Mr. Vampire had a really fun stage presence. Techstock is concluded by a performance by a real band with a contract - this year we got Bowling for Soup! They had a great sense of humor and they were really fun to watch.
It was so much fun! BFP (Big Fleming Party, or substitute what you like) was right afterward. It was a great party, people had a lot of fun.
On Sunday I went to my friend’s house for a Memorial Day Weekend BBQ. We had corn and burgers and pie and did nothing. It was great. I did a little work that afternoon and Boyfriend and I went to dinner.
Today was all work. Ker Lee (roommate) and I made curry. It is quite spicy but very tasty, and I’m looking forward to that for the week. I finished all my sets until next year! Just finals and an essay left. Wish me luck!
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.
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.