My summer was a perfect mix of revisiting my favorite hangout spots in Los Angeles with friends, venturing into California’s beautiful scenery, and continuing research projects at USC. I found a healthy mix of endless fun and diligent investigations that kept me entertained for the entirety of summer.
Right off the bat, I started my summer with a family trip to Bishop, California, neighboring the breathtaking Inyo and Sierra National Forests. As my brother and I raced to finish hikes before my parents even reached the halfway points, I couldn’t help but lay my eyes on the mountain peaks that seemed to tower over me regardless of how many switchbacks I traversed. By the afternoon, we’d be fishing at lakes with water so clear we could see the fish swimming near shore.
After my trip to Bishop, I returned to buzzing Los Angeles and began ticking off every obligatory plan I made with my closest, and now LA-returned, high school friends. Ranging from trips to downtown LA’s Grand Central Market and Union Station, to Hollywood’s Funko POP Museum, and, of course, Santa Monica’s beaches with gradient skies, I found myself back at the places that shaped a majority of my teenage years and reconnecting with my dearest friends.
All this time, however, I was squeezing in time everyday to continue conducting research with my Ph.D. mentor who I had been working with all of freshman year through the Center for Undergraduate Research in Viterbi Engineering, or CURVE. Having been paired with the McCurry Water Lab, under the mentorship of a Ph.D. student and Professor Daniel McCurry, I spent my freshman year studying the formation pathways of disinfection byproducts (DBPs). I continued my research into the summer and designed and performed experiments independently, learning to use instrumentation like High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LCMS). Oftentimes, this would require collecting and analyzing data, where I would find peaks in the generated graphs of data in order to identify whether some chemical compound was present in my samples at high concentrations or not. Most of the time, these experiments were successful, but every once in a while, I’d need to go back and edit my methodology. But hey, that is precisely what research is: trial and error.
What wasn’t trial and error, though, was enjoying my summer, because I spent it doing a little bit of everything I love, and I wouldn’t have changed a single day about it.