What was the most surprising thing you learned during your time at Caltech?

I delight in recalling that we were enrolled in the very first graduate program in rocketry and jet propulsion— under the guidance of Robert Millikan’s son, Clark, with visiting lecturers Theodore von Kármán and Wernher von Braun— eight years before Sputnik!
—Dick Boera (MS ’49) ESSEX, VT


A few things stand out:
1. I don’t need to wear makeup.
2. I can handle failure.
3. I can teach myself pretty much anything I need to know.
—Debi Tuttle (BS ’93) ALTADENA, CA

 There were enough of us ex-pats and former colonials to make up a cricket team!
—Hugh Kendrick (MS ’62) ANACORTES, WA

That math was not purely algorithmic: that there is a place, and indeed a need, for the educated guess in solving math problems.
—Larry McClellan (EX ’64) PORTLAND, OR

Nature is simple. Therefore, complicated explanations are problematic.
—Oreste Lombardi (BS ’55) LAKE CITY, FL

As an undergraduate physics student, I struggled to understand quantum mechanics. As a grad student at Caltech, I spent a year with Dick Feynman, who explained it to me in a way that was both a surprise and a relief. He said, “Nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
—Frank Mullen (MS ’86) WOODSTOCK, VA


Three months after arriving at Caltech, on a clear morning after an overnight storm, I discovered there was a 5,715-foot-high mountain virtually in the backyard that I had not seen before.
—Alvah Strickland (MS ’65) HONOLULU, HI

 Caltech’s motto, “The truth shall make you free,” was not just a pretty phrase, but an actual, ultimate “truth” in itself. Life and work are much easier and most satisfying if one sticks to the truth all the time.
—Robert Tait (BS ’62) PASADENA, CA

When a 13-foot-long cannon barrel elevated to around 40 degrees is filled with a raspberry Jell-O, ice, and water mix on a November night only the first few feet of the mix will gel.
—Tom Trinko (BS ’76) FREMONT, CA

—Erin White (BS ’08) NEW HAVEN, CT