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? (:
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.