A team of undergrads recently received accolades for their research at an international competition in Boston. Their studies, which earned them a gold award at the 2011 International Bio-Molecular Design Competition, started out as a summer undergrad research fellowship (SURF) project. The group also received a third place ranking in the "best wiki" prize category, based on a series of web pages that explained their project, "DeoxyriboNucleicAwesome."
Their summer research is about to take a group of Caltech undergrads SURFing across the country for a global competition. The students, gold medal winners in last month's International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) regional competition, are headed to MIT this weekend for the world championship jamboree.
Kip Thorne, Caltech's Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, has been selected to receive the 2012 John David Jackson Excellence in Graduate Physics Education Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).
Classes are in full swing this week, marking the beginning of the school year for students at Caltech. For some lucky freshman, that means spending a bit of quality time with faculty members. Seven new freshman seminar courses were introduced to the curriculum this fall; in each, 12–15 students are paired with professors to discuss topics in-depth and outside of the lecture halls.
Caltech senior Wilson Ho spent his summer completing a SURF project in the lab of Robert Grubbs, one of the winners of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Ho tells his nonscientist friends and family that the goal of his project is to develop "stem-cell Band-Aids" that might one day help restore vision in those suffering from macular degeneration.
For many 17-year-old students, the summer before senior year represents a last hurrah before the reality of planning for life after high school sets in. But for Angela Guerrero, the summer before senior year represents an important step in an already flourishing research career. She may be 17, but she's prepping for her final year in college, with plans to pursue an MD/PhD upon graduation.
When summer started, Caltech senior Yuyang Fan was handed a picture taken with a cell phone. The image showed a large box with an array of small fans covering one side. It was a wind tunnel—a simple one, but a wind tunnel nevertheless. Fan's mission? To build one himself as part of his SURF project. And the catch? Other than the picture, he was given nothing. "That's all the information I got," he says.
Like so many things in life, it all started with a girl. In fifth grade, the girl who sat next to Keith Hawkins every day in class would check out encyclopedias and look up subjects in astronomy, admiring pictures of swirling galaxies and colorful nebulae. Hawkins would join her, and the two of them would sit together and gaze at the heavens, one page at a time.
One looks like little more than a stethoscope head attached to a wire; the other seems to be an oven mitt with three metal disks sewn on. Simple, yes, but these prototype medical devices—developed by young Caltech researchers working on a SURF project—could one day save lives.