FSRI Program Description
The FSRI participants attend daily math classes and evening math workshops that are aligned with Caltech's first-year math program. The FSRI Mathematics curriculum is specifically designed to take advantage of an intensive summer setting while preparing the FSRI student for research and each individuals’ future in Caltech’s math courses. The four week-long modules for the FSRI Math course are: Set Theory & Logic; Differential & Integral Calculus; Linear Algebra; and Ordinary Differential Equations. These topics were chosen to prepare students for the mathematics they may see in their summer research experiences and to prepare students for much of the rigorous topics taught in the first two years of Caltech’s required mathematics sequence. Based on previous assessments, FSRI students perform statistically significantly better than their matched counterparts in first year math scores. This success can be directly attributed to the preparation, exposure, and training they receive during their intensive summer course.
Instructionally, the course is designed as a hybrid lecture/workshop model. Basic definitions and concepts are presented in lecture, and students work in small group settings to complete their and homework assignments and problem sets. Students have a mix of computational and proof-based assignments, exposing them to the type of coursework they will be engaging in their first quarter at Caltech. Beyond merely constructive correct solutions, students are required to present their solutions verbally in a way that demonstrates their content knowledge.
“The math workshops were transformative in that for the first time, I collaborated with others to work through very challenging math problems and we all taught each other things.”
FSRI participants have the opportunity to work on a research project and become deeply connected to their carefully matched research mentor; as well as with postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students who work in Caltech/JPL laboratories during the summer. As a member of the Caltech research community, FSRI participants attend group meetings, present on their findings, and learn about the ongoing work of their assigned research group. In addition to technical skill building, the FSRI participants learn important skills on how to collaborate in a lab setting and present their research to colleagues and peers.
In addition to working in a laboratory, FSRI participants attend weekly research seminars given by faculty or the staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Speakers prepare their talks for students at all levels and in all disciplines to provide a full scope of the work carried on at the Institute and NASA's JPL. FSRI participants have opportunities to interact with faculty who will teach their core curriculum classes at faculty-student lunches for freshman students.
“Collaborating with my mentor gave me a good sense of direction and she was always supportive and willing to clear up things I didn't understand. I haven't worked with a research mentor until now, and I think having such a positive first experience is useful for the transition to a research environment like Caltech.”
The Freshman Summer Research Institute creates an engaging and intellectually rich residential experience for students that extends student learning outside of the classroom and into the everyday lives of our students. The FSRI Residential Life staff, composed of FSRI alums and graduate students, plans and implements weekly programming to help students transition into college life and learn about campus-wide and local resources. The five-week residential experience provides incoming students with an experience that is engaging, thought-provoking, exciting, rewarding, meaningful, and fun.
During their residential experience, the FSRI participants are paired with roommates, establish community expectations, and develop skills in communication and conflict resolution. Additionally, the students learn independent living skills and are better prepared to manage living away from home and balancing college life.
As part of the program, the FSRI participants join group excursions highlighting Pasadena and the Los Angeles-area during the weekends of the program. These excursions give FSRI participants an opportunity to become familiar with public transportation, cultural events, service-learning opportunities, and community resources.
“Meeting other Caltech prefrosh in an intimate setting was a highlight of my FSRI experience. Being introduced to twelve prefrosh initially before being introduced to all of the prefrosh at once helped ease my transition to college. As a result, I felt as if I truly belonged in a student body, something I had never felt before.”
The FSRI experience is full of exciting opportunities to learn and engage in math, research, and creating a diverse learning community for incoming students. The program also features a form of experiential education called “service learning” in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve desired learning outcomes
“I feel that participating in the service learning project was important both for the community and the FSRI cohort. Given the growing homeless population in the greater Los Angeles area, cooking dinner for approximately sixty homeless people at Union Station positively impacted the community. Cooking dinner for the homeless also taught us how to manage our resources wisely, how to work as a team, and how to address shortcomings.”