Personal Update: What I’ve been up to

As we approach August and the start of a new school semester, I have been reflecting to myself a lot about the last year. Although this is primarily a spot for triathlon-related posts, I thought I’d share some of my reflections. Thus, I will attempt to summarize my time thus far in the Bay Area and as a UC Berkeley undergraduate.

Taken from my research building at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

First, I must say that I am EXTREMELY grateful to be living in such an incredible area. There is a very unique vibe in this part of California: everyone has at least one big passion, and everyone is always doing something. On top of that, you have a student body that has been one of (if not) the most progressive, open minded, and politically active of any university in American history. Next, throw in an impressive world-class history in the physical sciences and mathematics (e.g. discovering 16 chemical elements, more nobel laureates than any university in the world). Finally, toss in one of the best collegiate triathlon teams in the United States. At this point in my life, it certainly feels like this is the place I NEED to be. Let me summarize some of the things I’ve been up to:

I've grown really fond of Algebra!

Perhaps the most obvious and time-consuming of my endeavors has been taking two semesters full of upper division coursework in mathematics and physics. Coming into Berkeley, I wasn’t quite sure which I would ultimately choose, although I knew that (as I approach graduate school applications) I would certainly have to choose one of them. Fortunately, I got a solid dose of both mathematics and physics courses, and I now have a very clear goal of what I want to do with my education and what kind of a scholar I want to become. Although I will continue working in physics research, I am going to focus my coursework primarily on theoretical math and subjects in applied math (financial engineering, econometric analysis, theoretical microeconomics, etc.). After I graduate, I plan on studying actuarial science and making that into a profession, while continuing to study mathematics (and applied mathematics) at a rigorous level.

We Winnebago'd to the UCLA vs. Cal game

Another big part of my time thus far as a Cal bear has been my involvement in a social fraternity. I pledged Chi Psi at UC Berkeley last Fall, and since the beginning of the spring semester have become very involved with management/leadership positions. In fact, I was elected to be the External Vice President for the upcoming Fall semester, which essentially puts me in charge of all social events that involve guests (we have more than 20 of these events this Fall). My experience has been extremely enlightening: I have developed skills and had experiences that have made me a much better individual. Thus, I am very excited to see how I will continue to grow in the coming year.

My work station at LBNL

Another huge part of my experience at Berkeley has been my research job that I’ve had for almost my entire time here. I’m essentially doing software engineering for a physics research lab (at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab), and it has been a very rewarding opportunity! Not only am I making money to support myself, but I am learning a ton and being challenged at the same time. I am primarily working on research methods for a specific kind of chip that will (hopefully) be integrated into the particle accelerator at CERN in the next 10-15 years. Oftentimes we approach a problem and cannot find an easy solution, so my task is simply to research (and document) methods for a solution using software and physics testing equipment. Although I will focus my coursework primarily on mathematics, I think it is a great idea to continue working in physics research and getting exposure to applied, hands-on work.

There are 15-20 colleges in the West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference

A big part of Berkeley that I haven’t experienced is the Cal Triathlon Team. I went to a couple of their events/practices in the Fall semester, but eventually got too busy to workout on their schedule (before I ran out of time to work out at all). Now that I am consistently putting out weeks in the 10-15 hour range, I feel confident I will be able to consistently make at least 4-5 practices each week in the Fall semester. I miss the feeling of training with a team, and for a sport like triathlon its a very interesting dynamic. Particularly, I think I can make big improvements on my swim (my last low-hanging fruit) if I swim with a group who is being coached real-time. Come the spring semester and I will hopefully compete for Cal at West Coast Collegiate Triathlon Conference events, USAT Collegiate Nationals in April, and at Wildflower in May.

As for the future, I have a couple options, but I have mapped out a basic plan of what I plan on doing to be successful in the future:

  • Take and pass two exams in Actuarial Science (to get internships/jobs during summer and after graduation)
  • Graduate from UC Berkeley with: a degree in Mathematics/Applied Mathematics, a strong set of skills in management, business, and leadership, and a strong set of contacts for opportunities in the future
  • Get a masters degree in a subject like Mathematics/Applied Mathematics, Financial Engineering, Economics, etc.
  • Enter the field of Actuarial Science, pass exams quickly, and build solid financial independence as quickly as possible
  • Find a way to produce a self-sustaining income (a business) and THEN focus on the thing I am absolutely most interested in, whether that is theoretical math/physics, enterprise, triathlon (or a combination of things)

This more or less wraps up my life from the last 12 months, as well as a bit of my plans for the future. Regarding triathlon, I’d really just like to see how good I can get with the time that I have. I can see myself devoting up to 20 hour weeks consistently, but not much more than that, so it will interesting to see how far I can get with that!

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