Students Win National and International Prizes

Caltech undergraduate and graduate students have collected an array of awards this year, including a Fulbright grant, two Hertz Fellowships, a Marshall Scholarship, and 20 National Science Foundation Fellowships.

Fulbright Fellowship

Senior Soumya Kannan was selected as a Fulbright Scholar. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Seniors and graduate students who compete in the U.S. Fulbright Student Program can apply to one of the more than 160 countries whose universities are willing to host Fulbright Scholars. The scholarship sponsors one academic year of study or research abroad after the bachelor's degree. Kannan will be studying next year at the Technical University of Denmark, developing a mathematical model for promoter activity—promoters are a class of genetic elements that initiate transcription of a gene—in Saccaromyces cerevisiae, a species of yeast. Additionally, she will be pursuing master's coursework in bioinformatics and systems biology.

Hertz Fellowships

Caltech seniors Kurtis Carsch and Paul Dieterle were selected to receive 2016 Hertz Fellowships. Selected from a pool of approximately 800 applicants, the awardees will receive up to five years of support for their graduate studies. According to the Hertz Foundation, fellows are chosen for their intellect, their ingenuity, and their potential to bring meaningful improvement to society. Carsch will begin PhD work in inorganic chemistry at Harvard University in the fall; Dieterle will also attend Harvard University, pursuing a PhD in quantum physics.

Marshall Scholarship

Senior Bianca Lepe was selected to receive the 2016 Marshall Scholarship and will spend the 2016–2017 academic year at the University of Edinburgh studying for a master's degree in synthetic biology and the following year at Imperial College London, completing a master's degree in science communication. Funded by the British government, the Marshall Scholarship provides support for two years of post–bachelor's degree study—covering a student's tuition, books, living expenses, and transportation costs—at any university in the United Kingdom.

German Academic Exchange Service Scholarship

Senior Laura Shou has received a Graduate Study Scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service to pursue a master's degree in Germany. She will spend one year at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and the Technische Universität München, studying in the theoretical and mathematical physics program. The Scholarship supports highly qualified American and Canadian students with an opportunity to conduct independent research or complete a full master's degree in Germany. 

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

The National Science Foundation (NSF) selected 20 current Caltech students and 13 alumni to receive its Graduate Research Fellowships. The awards support three years of graduate study within a five-year fellowship period in research-based master's or doctoral programs in science or engineering. Caltech's awardees for 2016 are seniors Kurtis Mickel Carsch, Webster Guan, Soumya Kannan, Emil Timergalievich Khabiboullin, Laura Shou, and Karthik Guruswamy Siva; and graduate students Hannah Marie Allen, Charles H. Arnett, Sarah Michelle Cohen, Heidi Klumpe, Rachel Ann Krueger, Usha Farey Lingappa, Joseph P. Messinger, Andres Ortiz-Munoz, Shyam M. Saladi, Lee Michael Saper, Nancy Helen Thomas, Annelise Christine Thompson, Elise M. Tookmanian, and Jeremy Chi-Pang Tran. Caltech alumni in the 2016 class of Graduate Fellows are Sidney Douglas Buchbinder, Kaitlin Ching, Katherine Jennie Fisher, Emmett Daniel Goodman, Edward W. Huang, Jacqueline Maslyn, Misha Raffiee, Connor Edwin Rosen, Nicole Nisha Thadani, Malvika Verma, Eugene Aaron Vinitsky, Yushu Joy Xie, and Doris Xin.

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships

Graduate students Preston Kemeny and Kirsti Pajunen have been named recipients of three-year Department of Defense (DOD) National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowships. The NDSEG award is given to applicants who have demonstrated the ability and special aptitude for advanced training in science and engineering, and who will pursue a doctoral degree in, or closely related to, an area of interest to the DOD.

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Caltech undergraduate and graduate students have collected an array of awards this year.

Percin Finishes Year with Impressive Achievements In Swimming, Water Polo

In the Spring issue of E&S magazine, the article "Where Brain Meets Brawn" featured student athletes who have distinguished themselves over the years in a wide array of sports. Here we highlight the more recent and pioneering achievements of swimmer and water polo player, Brittany Percin.

Brittany Percin has had an enviable freshman year, with remarkable performances as both a swimmer and a water polo player.

In February, she became the first female Caltech swimmer in the Institute's history to claim a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) title, winning the 200-yard freestyle at the SCIAC Swimming & Diving Championships.

Percin—a Truckee, California native, and recent transplant to Moraga, California—says winning the historic SCIAC title was the result of a lot of hard work. "My whole team has been working hard all year, and Coach [Jack] Leavitt has been really pushing us to be able to compete with the rest of the conference. So winning didn't come out of nowhere. But I am really excited to be able to represent Caltech at the top of the podium."

In May, Percin received a Division III All-America Honorable Mention for her water polo prowess, having scored the second-most goals in Caltech women's water polo history with 52—only four shy of the team record, despite missing the first four games of the season while competing on the swimming & diving team.

 "Athletically, I'm enjoying the ride and I'll see where that takes me next season," she says. Her plans over the summer include a preceptorship in neurosurgery, cardiology, and radiology at Huntington Hospital, in preparation for a career in medicine, and training for some open-water swimming races, including the Donner Lake crossing, Lake Tahoe Sharkfest, and the Tiburon Mile in San Francisco Bay.

Percin says she loves being able to compete in swimming and water polo, while still "receiving a world-class education that keeps me challenged. I'm looking forward to another three years of showing the rest of the conference that high-level academics and accomplished athletes are not mutually exclusive."

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Gupta Receives Library Friends' Thesis Prize

Senior Ayush Gupta has been named as the winner of this year's Library Friends' Senior Thesis Prize. The Thesis Prize, established in 2010, is intended to encourage undergraduates to complete a formal work of scholarship as a capstone project for their undergraduate career and to recognize sophisticated in-depth use of library and archival research. For their achievement, recipients of the $1,200 prize are listed in the commencement program. This year's prizes were announced and awarded at a reception at Alumni House on Tuesday, June 1, with students, alumni, Friends of the Caltech Libraries, library staff, and faculty present.

Gupta's thesis was titled "Noncovalent Immobilization of Electrocatalysts on Carbon Electrodes via a Pyrenyl Ligand" and he completed the work under the supervision of his advisor, Harry Gray, the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and Founding Director of the Beckman Institute. Gray remarked that Gupta "has developed into an independent investigator, cleverly and adeptly using library resources."

"I began my research in Harry Gray's group during the spring of 2013 and I quickly became interested in looking into catalysis for the production of solar fuels," Gupta says. "My first project expanded into what I have been working on for the past three years, focusing on attaching molecular catalysts to graphitic electrodes. Attaching catalysts to electrode surfaces is one route to easily assemble devices that can convert renewable energy, like solar, into chemical fuels."

"Writing a thesis that encompasses all of my research at Caltech was a daunting task," he says. "Luckily, I was able to combine many of the smaller reports I had completed as a part of the SURF program and then further elaborate on those topics in my thesis. Another challenge was finding ways to blend in all the various parts of my research into a cohesive narrative, but I was able to get a lot of help both from my advisor Harry Gray and my supervisor James Blakemore."

Gupta will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall to begin work on a PhD in chemistry.

Caltech faculty nominate seniors whose theses they deem to be deserving of the prize. Nominated students then supply a research narrative that explains their research methodology, detailing not only the sources they used but the way they obtained access to them.

Other finalists for the prize were Kurtis Carsch, nominated by Professor Theodor Agapie for his thesis in chemistry; Harinee Maiyuran, nominated by Professor Steven Quartz for her thesis in history and philosophy of science; and Monica Li, nominated by Professor Beverly McKeon for her thesis in aerospace.

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Gupta Receives Library Friends' Thesis Prize
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The winner of this year's Library Friends' Senior Thesis Prize was announced on June 1.

Shou Receives Fellowship for Graduate Studies in Germany

Laura Shou, a senior in mathematics, has received a Graduate Study Scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to pursue a master's degree in Germany. She will spend one year at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and the Technische Universität München, studying in the theoretical and mathematical physics (TMP) program.

The DAAD is the German national agency for the support of international academic cooperation. The organization aims to promote international academic relations and cooperation by offering mobility programs for students, faculty, and administrators and others in the higher education realm. The Graduate Study Scholarship supports highly qualified American and Canadian students with an opportunity to conduct independent research or complete a full master's degree in Germany. Master's scholarships are granted for 12 months and are eligible for up to a one-year extension in the case of two-year master's programs. Recipients receive a living stipend, health insurance, educational costs, and travel.

"As a math major, I was especially interested in the TMP course because of its focus on the interplay between theoretical physics and mathematics," Shou says. "I would like to use mathematical rigor and analysis to work on problems motivated by physics. The TMP course at the LMU/TUM is one of the few programs focused specifically on mathematical physics. There are many people doing research in mathematical physics there, and the program also regularly offers mathematically rigorous physics classes."

At Caltech, Shou has participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program three times, conducting research with Professor of Mathematics Yi Ni on knot theory and topology, with former postdoctoral fellow Chris Marx (PhD '12) on mathematical physics, and with Professor of Mathematics Nets Katz on analysis. She was the president of the Dance Dance Revolution Club and a member of the Caltech NERF Club and the Caltech Math Club.

Following her year in Germany, Shou will begin the mathematics PhD program at Princeton.

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Senior Laura Shou has received a Graduate Study Scholarship to pursue a master's degree in Germany.

Gilmartin Named Dean of Undergraduate Students

On July 1, 2016, Kevin Gilmartin, professor of English, will begin serving as Caltech's dean of undergraduate students.

In announcing Gilmartin's appointment, Joseph E. Shepherd, vice president for student affairs and the C. L. Kelly Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, described him as "an accomplished scholar and author who brings to this position twenty-five years of experience in teaching and mentoring our students, and who has shown a keen interest in the welfare of our undergraduate students in and outside of the classroom."

In his new role as dean of undergraduate students, Gilmartin will work on fostering academic and personal growth through counseling and support for student activities as well as acting as a liaison between students and faculty, says Shepherd.

A recipient the Feynman Prize, Caltech's highest teaching award, Gilmartin says he was attracted to the job of dean because "I have always found our students to be so interesting, and engaging. They are extraordinarily optimistic. They seem to have a positive attitude toward the world—they're curious, and they're open to new things. What more could you ask for?"

He says he sees his role as helping undergraduates develop and thrive. "I'm excited to work with students to help foster their intellectual and academic growth and their development as individuals," he says. "Our students are remarkably diverse and they have diverse interests. The Caltech curriculum is demanding, and focused, no doubt. But within it, and through it, our students do find so many opportunities."

He adds, "The dean's office provides essential support. But we can also encourage our students to do more than they are inclined to do, to challenge themselves, to try new things."

Gilmartin received his undergraduate degree in English from Oberlin College in 1985. He received both his MS ('86) and PhD ('91) in English from the University of Chicago, joining the faculty of Caltech in 1991.

Barbara Green, who has served as the interim dean over the past year will return to her regular position as associate dean in July. In his announcement, Shepherd thanked Green "for her work with our students and service to the Institute [and for] being so willing and committed to the success of our undergraduate student body."

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Gilmartin Named Dean of Undergraduates
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On July 1, 2016, Kevin Gilmartin, professor of English, will begin serving as Caltech's dean of undergraduate students.

Ditch Day? It’s Today, Frosh!

Today we celebrate Ditch Day, one of Caltech's oldest traditions. During this annual spring rite—the timing of which is kept secret until the last minute—seniors ditch their classes and vanish from campus. Before they go, however, they leave behind complex, carefully planned out puzzles and challenges—known as "stacks"—designed to occupy the underclassmen and prevent them from wreaking havoc on the seniors' unoccupied rooms.

Follow the action on Caltech's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages as the undergraduates tackle the puzzles left for them to solve around campus. Join the conversation by sharing your favorite Ditch Day memories and using #CaltechDitchDay in your tweets and postings.

          

 

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When Science Mentors Art, and Art Plays with Science

"I'm trying to do my best to put science on stage—because science is going to save us."
— Tira Palmquist, author of "Two Degrees"

When Tira Palmquist wrote her play "Two Degrees," focusing on a female climatologist dealing with personal grief and professional strain, she knew she had to get the science—and the scientist protagonist—just right.

Fortunately, the Orange County playwright discovered a ready resource in a four-year-old theater festival called "MACH 33: The Festival of New Science-Driven Plays at Caltech," presented by Theater Arts at Caltech. MACH 33 pairs playwrights with science advisers from Caltech and JPL who can inform the plays' fictional worlds with scientific authenticity and insight to produce richer dramatic works.

Mach 33 linked Palmquist with Jennifer Walker, a Caltech environmental science doctoral student in Simona Bordoni's research group, who helped shape Palmquist's understanding of her protagonist's work. For example, Walker suggested specifying that the character, originally conceived as a "climate scientist," be recast as a specialist in paleoclimatology—someone whose job is literally to drill deep into the past. The change presented the author with an unexpectedly rich metaphor for the protagonist's desire to understand her own personal history.

Walker says her six-week stint as a science adviser "was interesting and exciting. I had never been involved in theater before and to see this story—especially about a person in a related field—come to life on stage was really fun. There aren't a lot of plays about scientists, so it's nice to have that kind of representation." She praised the program as a means of making science more accessible and welcoming to lay audiences "and helping engage people and open up a whole world for those who might not be thinking about science."

In 2013, Caltech formalized the festival, to allow for development of new plays at the nexus of science and art. Since then, MACH 33 has featured plays dealing with such scientific subjects as climate change, quantum information theory, the discovery of Pluto, space flight, cold fusion, and ecology. MACH 33 refers to both the speed at which an object on earth reaches escape velocity and breaks free of its gravity—about 33 times the speed of sound—and, more figuratively, to the innovative, dynamic breakthroughs that the scientists and artists achieve together. This year, the Caltech student-driven theater group EXPLiCIT has joined the team to help produce and develop the festival.

To find plays, Brian Brophy, director of Theater Arts at Caltech since 2008 and artistic director of Mach 33, and Arden Thomas, associate artistic director of MACH 33, solicit submissions by playwrights from Caltech, JPL, and the larger Los Angeles community. Playwrights of chosen works are then matched up with science advisers—usually Caltech PhD students—who work with the playwrights for several months developing the science in the plays. During that collaboration, there may be several informal readings of the plays to provide the playwright with additional feedback. Thomas said writers consider the festival to be extraordinarily useful, noting, "They leap at the chance to get the science right."

After workshopping the plays throughout the academic year, MACH 33 stages readings of the plays during a festival in the spring. This month, MACH 33 has presented four such productions, including a comedy about selling your soul for science, a historical fantasy about the discovery of Pluto, a play about the Los Angeles aqueduct and the drought in the Owens Valley, and a screenplay about Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Brophy says that, through MACH 33, the playwrights and scientists have been able to work together to produce scientifically accurate drama by balancing the needs of art with the rigor of science. "You don't want to sacrifice the theatrical, artistic element of the play just to get the science right," Brophy explains, "but at the same time you don't want to sacrifice the science to have a piece of theater. These two things have to work together."

In the end, Thomas says, science and art are often two sides of the same coin: pushing boundaries, seeing the world in novel ways. "Scientists and artists are doing the same thing," she notes. "They're creating, they're discovering, they're taking risks, they're failing—and they're trying again."

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A Celebration of the Performing and Visual Arts at Caltech

On May 21, 2016 at Pasadena's Ambassador Auditorium, the Caltech Concert Band, Glee Club, Jazz Band, Orchestra, and a few of the Institute's many chamber music groups will take the stage for a unique Performing and Visual (PVA) Showcase. The one-night event—featuring over 200 Caltech students—also will include a reprisal of favorite scenes from Boldly Go!, Theater Arts at Caltech's recent Star Trek musical parody, as well as presentations from students in the course Storytelling for Scientists (PA040C), taught by lecturer and Boldly Go! director Brian Brophy. In addition, select works from Caltech's visual artists will be displayed in the Ambassador lobby—which also will feature pre-showcase performances by additional chamber groups.

The idea for the first-of-its-kind showcase originated in 2014, when William (Bill) Bing, director of the Caltech-Occidental Concert Band (and former director of the Caltech Jazz Band), was looking for a world-class venue in which the band could perform; in prior years, the band had played at Carnegie Hall in New York and Beijing's Tsinghua University, among other locales. Bing hoped to next take the group to Italy, but the trip proved too expensive. Then long-time ensemble member, guest conductor, and Caltech professor of geology and geochemistry Paul Asimow (MS '93, PhD '97) suggested an alternative: Pasadena's Ambassador Auditorium. Bill and his wife Delores, founder and director of Caltech's chamber music program, had both played the Ambassador in the past—Bill on trumpet and Delores on cello—so they knew the acoustics well. The pair decided that this local performance should include all of the different performing and visual arts groups at Caltech, and the showcase was born.

While plans for the showcase developed, Bill and Delores made the decision to retire from Caltech in 2016, after a combined 75-plus years heading the Caltech's music program. Friends and colleagues made the obvious connection, determining that the showcase should honor the Bings. The call for a celebration of the Bings was not surprising, as the pair is well known across campus to current and former undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty, and others.

"Bill is one of the kindest people I know," says Rebecca Glaudell, a graduate student in physics. "I found out about Caltech's music program the week before I started classes at Caltech. I hadn't even brought my trumpet to California, but Bill was able to lend me an instrument until I had mine shipped. He really looks out for the members of the band."

"As a student, I greatly looked forward to getting my brain away from the technical world and into the world of sound and music," recalls Robert M. Manning (BS '81) of JPL, chief engineer for the Mars Pathfinder flight system. "Bill was gentle, fun, always self-deprecating, and respectful and enthusiastic even when we rolled late into his rehearsals in the Beckman basement disorganized, tired, unprepared, and unpracticed. Within an hour of being with Bill, we were full of energy and focus and found our groove as if we had practiced all week. We did it as much for Bill as for ourselves."

Clare Hao, a freshman clarinetist who is "thrilled" to be playing at the Ambassador, describes the Bings as "amazing" people. "They are very enthusiastic and supportive of everyone's musical endeavors, and they are always a great reminder of why I love music." Victor Tsai (BS '04), assistant professor of geophysics and an alumnus of the music program, was coached by Delores. "She was always so nice and understanding, and was somehow able to bring out the most musicality we had in us," he says.

"What sets Caltech's PVA program apart from those at other higher education institutions is their all-inclusiveness and the depth of their community integration," notes Tiffany Kim, grants administrator in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, who has participated in the program as both an alto and an actor. "From the moment I came on the scene, it felt so warm and inviting that it was hard not to keep coming back!"

Leslie Deutsch, deputy director for the Interplanetary Network Directorate at JPL, is another who has kept coming back—literally, for decades. Deutsch joined the Caltech Band as a freshman in 1972 and the Caltech Jazz Band in 1973, and began playing the organ at Caltech's commencement ceremony in 1974. Because of his father's connection to the Bings, Deutsch's son Elliot began trumpet lessons with Bill as a child. Today he heads up the Elliot Deutsch Big Band, a Los Angeles-based swing band. After learning that Bill was retiring, Elliot composed a piece titled Lyric/Endurance Suite in Bill's honor. ("Lyric Endurance" is the title of a series of trumpet exercises Bill developed for his students.) Elliiot's piece will premier at the PVA showcase.

Bill and Delores are coming to terms with their decision to retire, but both say that they will really miss the students. "I enjoy being around smart people, and I enjoy being around nice people, and Caltech students have both those qualities," Bill says.

However, long after the Bings depart, a new endowment created in their honor—the Bing Fund for the Arts at Caltech—will continue to help students. "The Bings have left a marvelous legacy in the form of a vibrant music program that forms an important part of the student experience at Caltech," says Joseph E. Shepherd, vice president for student affairs and C. L. Kelly Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering. "Music and more broadly, the arts, complement our students' intense education in technology and the sciences. I am hoping that all the supporters of the music and arts program at Caltech will join me in helping ensure that our present and future students will continue to enjoy the marvelous benefits of these programs."

The Performing and Visual Arts Showcase is funded by the Office of the President, Caltech Student Affairs, the Alumni Association, and the Moore-Hufstedler Fund. Tickets are $10 for students, $25 for general admission, and $50 for premiere seating, and can be purchased by visiting music.caltech.edu and clicking the link for the showcase, or by calling (818) 538-4911. Net proceeds will go to the Bing Fund for the Arts at Caltech. Donations to the Bing Fund also can be made at http://breakthrough.caltech.edu/.

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Two Caltech Seniors Win Hertz Fellowships

The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation has selected two Caltech seniors, Kurtis Carsch and Paul Dieterle, to receive 2016 Hertz Fellowships. A total of 12 students were selected from more than 800 applicants and will receive up to five years of support for their graduate studies.

Carsch and Dieterle bring the number of Caltech undergraduate students who have received the Hertz fellowship to 62.

Kurtis Carsch, a chemistry major from Bellevue, Washington, attributes his interest in chemistry to playing with LEGO blocks at a young age—paving the way for his current focus on what he describes as "combining elements to create molecules with unprecedented properties." His work experiences at SAFCell and Honeywell UOP, as well as his research experiences at Caltech with William A. Goddard, the Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics; and professor of chemistry Theodor Agapie, have focused on the interface between experimental and theoretical chemistry. He will receive both a BS and an MS in chemistry this spring and begin his PhD work in inorganic chemistry at Harvard University in the fall, where he, inspired by multimetallic enzymes in biology, will study the manipulation of chemical bonds by multiple metal centers. Carsch is also a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Paul Dieterle is a senior in applied physics from Albuquerque, New Mexico. While attending high school in Madison, Wisconsin, Dieterle discovered a passion for physics, as well as for rock climbing and creative writing. At Caltech, he has worked and studied under the guidance of Oskar Painter, the John G. Braun Professor of Applied Physics and Fletcher Jones Foundation Co-Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute; professor of physics Maria Spiropulu, professor of applied physics Keith Schwab, and the late professor Tom Tombrello. His research focuses on the physics of superconducting quantum circuits, photon-phonon interactions, and many-body interactions. In the long term, he says, he aims to "construct integrated quantum systems to explore both fundamental and application-oriented physics." Dieterle will also attend Harvard University in the fall, pursuing a PhD in quantum physics.

According to the Hertz Foundation, fellows are chosen for their intellect, their ingenuity, and their potential to bring meaningful improvement to society. "Following in the footsteps of Hertz Fellows who have come before them, these young men and women will utilize this fellowship to pursue work that will have a tremendous impact on the future of our country and society as a whole," said Robbee Baker Kosak, Hertz Foundation president, in a statement.

Since 1963, the Hertz Foundation has awarded fellowships to students they describe as "the best and brightest" from the fields of science and engineering. The highly competitive selection process for the Hertz Fellowship includes a comprehensive written application, four references, and two rounds of technical interviews. 

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STEM Olympians Come to Campus

One thousand of Southern California's brightest middle- and high-school students came to Caltech this past Saturday as the Institute hosted the Southern California finals of a nationwide science and engineering competition. Caltech students from across campus seized the opportunity to show off the Institute, to demonstrate Caltech's commitment to K-12 educational outreach, and participate in a program designed to help students start their careers in science and technology.

Science Olympiad, one of the country's premier science competitions, has been fostering student interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields since the 1980s. Each year, tens of thousands of elementary-, middle-, and high-school students participate in regional meets, with the latter two groups advancing to the state and national levels. Tournaments consist of multiple events that involve laboratory investigation, hands-on engineering, or a written test.

Caltech's involvement with Science Olympiad dates back to 2004: hosting coaches' workshops, designing and scoring regional and state tournaments, and supporting practice competitions. (Observant viewers of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory—much of which purportedly takes place at Caltech—can spot a Science Olympiad brochure on a cafeteria wall in two recent episodes.) But last Saturday was the first time the campus has hosted a meet.

The tournament involved 17 campus buildings and 46 events. Sixty teams, each the winner of a regional competition, chose from among physiology, hydrogeology, protein modeling, and other subjects atypical of the standard pre-college curriculum.

To provide logistical support, Caltech Science Olympiad Club copresidents Nick Trank, a sophomore, and Tony Zhang, a senior, assembled a group of roughly 150 volunteers. "Most were Techers," says Trank, "but some came from UCLA, USC, and other schools." The Caltech Y, which has supported Science Olympiad in recent years through its Make-A-Difference Day, provided volunteers in connection with its centennial celebration. And more than a few walk-ons turned up. "Caltech students and alumni are really into events like this," says sophomore Stephanie Gu, "and this was a local event, so we got a lot more volunteers than we usually do."

One non-local volunteer was former competitor (and Caltech Prank Club president) Julie Jester (BS '14), who flew in from France just for the event. "There was no way I was missing [Science Olympiad at Caltech] after working so hard to get it there," she says. "Science Olympiad is the reason I decided that I wanted to become an engineer."

Sophomore Tiffany Zhang and junior Tyler Okamoto were kept busy coordinating events, while Gu's responsibilities included scorer support. "Scoring can be challenging," she says. "A written test with an answer key, like the Disease Detectives event, might take a few hours to score. But Experimental Design, an engineering event, took six."

The overall winner of the Division B competition (middle school) was Muscatel Middle School from Rosemead—their eighth state win in a row—and the overall winner of the Division C competition (high school) was Troy High School, a Fullerton magnet school that has won the state competition every year since 1996. Both will go on to the national finals at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in May. "Those schools have incredibly dedicated students, parents, and coaches," notes Trank. "Muscatel has hosted an invitational tournament for the past five years, and Troy has weekly after-school study sessions."

For Zhang, one of the day's greatest challenges was not connected to academics. "Most Science Olympiad awards ceremonies start late and run long," he says. "We thought hard about how to streamline ours. We watched videos from other meets and timed how long each portion took. In the end, our ceremony started a little late, but it finished early."

The ceremony opened with a pair of recorded messages. Stephen Hawking welcomed the Beckman Auditorium overflow crowd of family, friends, and locals. Then Caltech President Thomas Rosenbaum expressed the Institute's gratitude at being able to host the event because "having incredibly talented young men and women on our campus doing great things is exactly what we like to see."

And what does it take to be invited to host a statewide science competition? In this case, student leaders strategized for years, then coordinated with administrators to petition the Science Olympiad national organization. "The Caltech administration was tremendously supportive," acknowledges Trank. "They've been as excited as we are." In the future, he hopes Caltech will have the opportunity to host more statewide meets, perhaps even the nationals. "We've got great facilities. We've got great people. And what better opportunity is there to get these young students onto campus?"

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