What to do with an extra semester at Harvey Mudd

Hello! I’m Jeni and I’m currently a sophomore (class of 2020) studying applied chemistry! 

I finished my last final as a frosh knowing I wasn’t really done with Mudd for the year. My excitement was short-lived and died off when I remembered I still had 3 weeks of summer math (my roommate wrote a blog post detailing our experiences!) and thus, two finals left as well as 10 weeks of summer research in the computer science department. This totaled to a long 13 weeks ahead. As dismal as an equivalent of a 3rd semester on campus might sound, I got to experience some of my favorite moments last summer such as crossing off food places off my bucket list, presenting a startup concept in the Bay Area at two HMC Entrepreneurial Network (HMCEN) events, and meeting up with an admitted frosh that I helped host last fall.

Jeni points to the "HMC INQ: The Mudd Incubator" sign in front of a conference room

Me during presentation setup at the Menlo Park HMCEN event

My summer research was unconventional to say the least. Instead of starting with a problem and making way in the field of artificial intelligence or machine learning, my teammates and I were essentially given 10 weeks to brainstorm, prototype, and market a startup idea from conception to a presentable product. Weeks were spent fighting with Xcode and HTML as well as tackling the dreaded public speaking. You can find our presentation slides along with our web application at www.suite-life.org! An awesome fact is that Josh Jones, a Mudd alumni, started an incubator (HMC INQ) for start-up companies with at least one Mudder on the team and Sergei and Vai are two alumni who got accepted into the first 10 week program.

Josh Jones, Professor Gary Evans, Sergei Tsalkov, and Vaibhav Viswanathan sitting side-by-side

Josh Jones (‘98), Prof Gary Evans, Sergei Tsalkov (‘09), and Vaibhav Viswanathan (‘16) before the Menlo Park HMCEN presentation

Giselle, Julianne, and Sol pose on a couch.

Giselle Serate (‘20), Julianne Lin (‘20), and Sol Cruz (‘20) before our presentations

Beyond presenting at CS chats for the other summer researchers, at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, and at the Bay Area HMCEN events, I got to spend summer adventuring around LA county. I’m an east coaster and I hadn’t visited places other than the tourist spots during my orientation adventure trip which was going around LA to places like the Grove, Griffith observatory, and the Walk of Fame. Over summer, I got to go to a 4 day convention, drive around to food places like a boba truck, cronut bakery, ramen houses, and more! I also met up with a freshman, Jacob, and a high school friend in the city and went around Westwood, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills.

Left: The "Diddy Riese Cookies" sign. Center: Jacob bites into a donut. Right: A donut covered in pink frosting and multicolored fruity pebbles cereal

Left: Diddy Riese Cookies in Westwood featuring my snickerdoodle with coffee ice cream
Center: Jacob Donenfeld (‘21) at DK’s Donuts in Santa Monica
Right: Fruity Pebbles cronut from the donut shop

Forest Kobayashi (‘20) helping us bury him after a day of research presentations at USC

Having an extra semester on campus was great! I got to network with alumni, present work I’m proud of, and explore LA through food. Research was a great experience to learn how to battle Swift, build patience between builds, bond through debugging, and creating friendships that will last a lifetime while working on CSS stylesheets. When you’re tired of banging your head against a keyboard, exploring the county is a great stress reliever, as is sleeping, or watching tons of Criminal Minds. It was a really enriching, long 13 weeks. I hope this gives you a decent idea of what opportunities you can have as a first-year on campus both academically and non-academically!

Giselle stands with the "Summer Startup: Suite Life" research poster.

P.S. Summer continues into the school year when research gets presented at the poster session! (ft. Giselle again)