It’s a question every Techer has heard multiple times in their lives. And for each of us, the answer is a little different. Sure, thematically there are similarities: amazing science and research opportunities. The ability to carve one’s own path. Unparalleled access to the top academic minds in the world. The California sun. We all have our reasons. As the Alumni Association President, I get asked this question a lot. So why did I choose Caltech?
I grew up in a small suburb in Southern California. Our rival high school was four times our size. On paper, our rival should have beaten us in every category. But my high school was never intimidated. We routinely won in sports and academics alike. I loved being in that environment. I loved being the underdog with a little something to prove. I loved constantly defying expectations. In many ways, Caltech was an extension of that for me.
On paper, Techers shouldn’t be who we are. A school our size has no business turning out 38 Nobel Laureates among our faculty and alumni (with our newest members of the prestigious group, Michael Rosbash (BS ’65) and Kip Thorne (BS ’62), having just won this past October—see page 42). We shouldn’t be the university that redefines chemistry, biology, and even the names of the planets in the solar system.
That’s why I chose Caltech.
Even within Caltech, I chose the “underdog” major. I was a planetary scientist, which means I am a proud alumnus of the Geological and Planetary Sciences division (GPS). Caltech is small, but GPS is smaller. I was one of three GPS undergraduates who wore a cap and gown my year. The division rarely turns out more than a dozen Caltech diplomas any given year. Computer Science, Biology, Physics, Mechanical Engineering are always more popular. But as Caltech is to the rest of the world, GPS is to Caltech. On paper, GPS shouldn’t be such a powerhouse division.
That’s why I chose Caltech.
This issue of Techer celebrates GPS’s 90th anniversary and the impact of our alumni as they continue to change the world in GPS and beyond. Look through the pages that follow, and learn how Travis Bayer (page 22) is helping to improve the world’s food supply and how Dan Lieberman (page 32) is inventing medical technology to transform the lives of children in developing countries. Hear from fellow alumna C.J. Beegle-Krause (page 28) about the art of predicting oil spills, and see how Telle Whitney (page 8), is forging new pathways for women in technology.
We celebrate Caltech in Hollywood (page 36) with Techers imbedded at Pixar, DreamWorks, and Disney, and we go behind the scenes to learn about some of the technology in your favorite animated films.
So, as you enjoy this issue of Techer and read stories about your fellow alumni, I hope, like me, it fills you with pride. And I hope, like me, it reminds you why you chose Caltech.
David Tytell (BS ’99)
Caltech Alumni Association