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What’s on my desk?

I’d like to think that I keep a tidy desk, but hey— entropy prevails for everyone. Here’s a breakdown of all the items you could find on my desk, circa February 2023.

1. My computer.

A trusty Macbook Air I purchased just as we were entering The Covid Era in the spring of 2020. My old laptop had, quite literally, combusted. I had opened it up using a chipped-tipped Xacto knife and, in the process of picking out five years’ worth of dust from the fan, short-circuited the backlight for the screen. I redeemed myself when I successfully replaced the thermal paste on the heat sink of this newly-purchased computer, boosting its power and my competence around electronics.

Don’t look too carefully at the code that’s onscreen. As my monitor reveals, I’m currently taking an introductory class to the computing language C. My primary coding language is Python, so using semicolons and pointers and memory allocation has been a strange change of pace; I’m not sure if I’m a fan; but there is something prose-like about declaring the end of every logical phrase; oops, guess I got carried away there.

If you like the stickers you see on my computer, you’re out of luck! The left one was made custom by my friend, Jackie, and the right one (a clever way to spell "kate") was made from a Facebook sticker I got from a career fair. Not that I was applying to Facebook. I just liked the free stickers.

2. A mug of freshly steeped Earl Grey tea.

I was never able to get into drinking coffee. My usual go-to is a hot matcha latte from Red Door, but a homemade cup of Earl Grey is just the thing to get me through the day. The mug is from my favorite place to go skiing, Mammoth Mountain, where Lloyd goes for our annual ski trip. After making my way down a double-black that felt practically vertical, I’ve deemed myself enough of a skier to own a skiing mug.

3. A "Busy Beaver Zone" sign my brother purchased in Québec.

I stole this from his room. I mean, I go to an engineering school with a beaver for its mascot. How could I not?

4. A deconstructed mini fractional collector.

This is an early prototype for my research in the Pachter lab. Essentially, we are working on developing open-source, low-cost bioinstruments to allow for people to make their own lab equipment. This device is used to allocate small amounts of liquid into 96-wells. If you’re interested in this research, feel free to check out the Pachter lab’s Github!

5. The Lloyd Presidential Gong.

For the past year, I served as the President of Lloyd House, one of the eight residential houses on campus. Lloyd has three gongs—two five-foot-long gongs that are banged at every house dinner and one mini gong that lives in the president’s room. Honestly, I don’t know where the gongs came from, or why they have such a large presence in the house. I think there was a document from the 90s that said Lloydies had bought a $700 gong to "promote house culture." Guess they were right.

6. A hedgehog plushie.

One of my closest friends is also a bioengineering major. After an ill-fated biology exam with a particularly tricky question about hedgehogs, she bought all of us hedgehog plushies. Our group chat was named "All my homies hate hedgehogs" for the longest time. It’s now called "All my homies are frog."

7. A medicine cup full of Covid spit sample tubes.

Caltech is probably one of the last institutions to mandate twice-weekly spit testing for Covid, but starting next term, these tubes will be defunct (unless I’m feeling symptomatic, of course). Don’t you think these tubes are huge?

The owl is a mini-vacuum for eraser shavings and various other bits of debris on my desk. Top ten best birthday gifts of my life.

8. A Post-it to-do list.

This is my favorite way to keep track of everything I need to do in a week. As a second-term senior who could’ve graduated a term early, this to-do list is pretty sparse. Not that I’m complaining.

9. An arrangement of glassware.

I thought this Coca-Cola bottle looked cool! I scavenged it from my friend after he finished drinking it. There’s an arts-and-crafts project in it, for sure.

One of my favorite animals is a sloth. My mom got this sloth bowl for me for my birthday. Another top ten best birthday gift of my life.

My friends and I made a gingerbread house in late January. It was on sale at the local Michael’s, and was Pez themed. I got to keep the reindeer dispenser at the end.

A dried rose from my freshman year that my friends gave me after my first acapella performance. I’m a little bit nostalgic like that.

  1. A brick.

Also, a cat toy. A squeaky pig. Some shells. A 3D printed dinosaur head. A Mandalorian plushie. A striped rock that I use as a paperweight. I love looking at my little trinkets on this shelf. Each one has its own story, but it would take too long to explain each one.

Katelyn Lee ’23

Hi, my name is Katelyn, and I’m an alum (Class of 2023) from New York City majoring in Bioengineering! As a member of Lloyd house, I served as President and Social Director. You could also find me singing with the acapella group, Fluid Dynamics, tutoring in the Caltech Y RISE program, or developing open-source bioinstruments with the Pachter lab. I am an avid runner and museum-goer, and I love to read, tinker, and do crosswords.