So I have recently returned from my second Midwest trip this week - this time to the Gateway to the West: St. Louis, MO. I have never been to the city before, so I was excited to check it out! The school I was interviewing for was Washington University in St. Louis (WashU for short). It’s definitely been difficult to talk with my friends and family about it and tell them that this is NOT the school in Seattle (that’s the University of Washington).
Anyway, after a very long wait at LAX going through security, I made it on the plane with 15 minutes to spare and settled in for a 3:15 flight to the STL. Fortunately, this gave me some time to brush up on the professors I would be interviewing with - I had to know what their research was about! Once I arrived and made it to the admissions office, I met the other 8 applicants there this week from all over the country (3 from Harvard, though…interesting…) and got to tour the facilities and the really fun Children’s Hospital! We even saw a baby in the Neonatal ICU, which was really neat (I guess I’m kind of a medicine nerd).
Well needless to say it was an exhausting afternoon, but then it was time to go to our accommodations and rest up before dinner! Well let me just tell you that WashU pulled out ALL the stops for our visit - we stayed in the Chase Park Plaza Hotel and THIS is the room that I shared with one other interviewee! I was literally in shock when I walked in…
So we really were spoiled by the rooms, and definitely took advantage of the space to relax a bit! We then went out to an amazing dinner with some current MSTP’s and enjoyed 3 delicious courses (if Dannah were there we’d probably rate it an A on our food review scale!). But we couldn’t have too much fun…the next day was the INTERVIEW DAY! Very dramatic…
Well needless to say I woke up ready to rise to the challenge, and with 7 interviews ahead of me from 9 AM till 4:30 PM, I would definitely need the energy! The way WashU does their interviews is they have a panel interview of 8 (about your research), 4 individual professor interviews, 1 med school interview, and a wrap-up with a member of the admissions committee. After a long day of interviews (on which I think I did pretty well), I was definitely ready to go out for a nice dinner with a different group of current students - we got to see more of the city and sample some delicious fare.
Me being the BIG tourist I am, I was super-excited to see the Gateway Arch…it’s so symbolic of the city! I think I asked about 10 separate people where the elusive arch was, but to no avail. I didn’t get to see it (not even from the plane!). :(
But I did make it back to Caltech in one piece and not too tired after a busy 2 days. Here’s some pictures from my return!
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.