I’ve been on campus to SURF after spending my first three weeks of summer partly at home shadowing in the emergency department of a children’s hospital and partly driving through the mountains and forests of Oregon and Seattle on a family road trip. The hospital didn’t let me take pictures, and I don’t think pictures would adequately capture the experiences, anyway. The road trip, though. A quick picture recap is kind of necessary:
I became a Junior Park Ranger for the Olympic National Park in Washington, too! It’s now hanging next to my Death Valley Junior Park Ranger badge. (: Let’s see how many others I get in these next couple of years.
So since that happened back in July, I’ve been back and having all sorts of adventures. When I first told my friends back home that I was SURFing for ten weeks in California, they were so jealous. Maybe I shouldn’t have told them that SURF stands for Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. I think SURFing is more exciting than surfing, but I wouldn’t mind doing both this summer. (Did I ever tell you how many times I fell off that paddleboard back in May? Probably not–I couldn’t keep count of how many times!)
I must say, summer here is so different from the other three quarters of the year. For one thing, students are here from all over the world to research in our labs and to intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). My boyfriend, Mr. K, is among the summer interns at JPL, so it’s been really fun to explore LA with him and get him addicted to boba. (;
My froomie (friend + roomie), Gauri, and I were really excited for summer to come along. We had a long list of DIY projects to do and places to visit and food to try cooking. Now that summer’s here, we were both a bit taken by surprise at how fast the time flies. We both spend most of our weekdays in lab, so that leaves mostly just weekends for our adventures. That’s okay, though, because even now we feel a little too spoiled with all the free time we have.
So here’s to summer. Here’s to great plans that will probably be unfinished. Here’s to the dreams and the funky tans and the smell of sunscreen.
I hope y’all have wonderful summers, too! I’ll be talking more about my research in other posts as I make more progress. I hope a lot of y’all have productive summers, too! Tell me about it in the comments? (:
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.
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.