Scholarships at Caltech: Four Stories of Impact

Scholarships at Caltech: Four Stories of Impact

November 9, 2019 3 By Ronny Jaskolski


Caltech undergraduates are amazing. They can process information almost as fast as you can deliver it. They’re energetic, they’re enthusiastic, and they’re idealistic. I felt very excited and almost very shocked to get a scholarship from Caltech. It was something that gave me a lot of energy to make sure I take every opportunity I can while I’m here. When I was a kid, I was really interested in building things and doing projects with my hands, so that really inspired me to pursue mechanical engineering. When I came to Caltech I really loved the hands-on work that we do as well as the theoretical work, and I think it goes into great depth into preparing you for both research but also industry. ME72 is a capstone design course that all mechanical engineers take. I participated with a group of three other women. We worked for two whole terms on this class designing robots, going through iterations to complete a specific challenge. We ended up winning the whole competition, which I’m really proud of. When I was starting to look at universities to go to I was just reading papers and a lot of them had authors who were either at Caltech or Caltech alumni, so I think it just made sense for me, since I wanted to do that kind of tip-of-the-spear science, to come to Caltech. Caltech celebrates interdisciplinary research, collaborations across fields. The further on I went taking classes at Caltech, the more I felt that there were underlying connections between these different fields but I just couldn’t get to them through a single major. I’m putting together my own curriculum that corresponds to this broad idea of interdisciplinary science. Since I want to do so much, choosing the ones that I actually let go of is the more challenging part of things. Financial aid has been a big part in my decision to come to Caltech. Since I don’t have to worry so much about the finance aspect I can dive deep into research. Caltech is just so rich in terms of things you can do in a day, honestly I feel like the day should be 36 hours long. I never would have thought a few years ago that I would be able to come to Caltech, learn from Nobel Prize winners, and get to do my own research here, get to do internships at these really cool companies and kind of, realize that there’s not many limits at a place like this. For my freshman summer I was working in a water tunnel laboratory learning about different aerodynamic and hydrodynamic forces. After I had gotten the taste of research, I wanted a little taste of what industry would look like. I was a systems engineering intern. I got to do some of the final acceptance testing on an electronics board that’s actually gonna go to space. It’s just wild for me to be able to say that I had my hands on something that one day will be in space. In high school money was a big thing. I worked 35 hours a week while attending school and then during the summers I took on another job. When I got here, that was the one of the biggest things about these scholarships I received was that I’m making myself into the best student I think I can possibly be and getting to take advantage of every opportunity thrown at me. It feels like I had people backing me. Scholarship support from Caltech had a major impact on my decision to come here. I think if I had gone someplace else that didn’t have this emphasis on research, I probably would have ended up in a different career path. If you asked me when I was 17, 18 years old if I could ever become a neuroscientist that would contribute to the body of knowledge that we know about the brain, I would have just thought that was, you know, for somebody else. The further I’ve gotten along in my career the more I’ve realized how important it is to draw on every pool of talent. You need all sorts of people in a lab to make a research project go forward. Scholarship support plays a key role in helping that happen. We need the exchange of ideas, the creation of knowledge that comes from the conversations between people with different backgrounds, with different life stories, with different perspectives. That is the diversity that makes Caltech such a special place.