Students at Caltech work toward undergraduate and graduate degrees alongside their intellectual equals in an academic environment that emphasizes interdisciplinary teamwork, critical thinking, mutual support, and a deep understanding of core concepts and principles across fields.
Caltech students, faculty, and postdoctoral scholars are addressing fundamental scientific questions and pressing societal challenges. Together, they are expanding our understanding of the universe, shifting paradigms, launching new fields, and inventing the technologies of the future.
Caltech is home to more than 50 research centers and institutes. Some 90 percent of Caltech undergraduates participate in research during their time here.
UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS AND RESEARCH
Caltech offers undergraduates 27 majors (called “options”) and 17 minors across the six academic divisions. The most popular options are computer science, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics. Caltech also offers interdisciplinary programs in applied physics, biochemistry, bioengineering, computation and neural systems, control and dynamical systems, environmental science and engineering, geobiology and astrobiology, geochemistry, and planetary astronomy.
The Institute offers the opportunity for qualified students to engage in research early in their careers under the supervision of a faculty member. There are four principal avenues for undergraduate research: the senior thesis, the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program, research courses for academic credit, and research for pay under a faculty member’s grant or contract.
The senior thesis involves original research under the mentorship of a faculty member, an effort that develops research, writing, and presentation skills that together provide an excellent preparation for future graduate studies and/or professional life.
The SURF program provides continuing undergraduate students the opportunity to work on an individual research project in a tutorial relationship with a mentor, usually a member of the Caltech/JPL research community, but occasionally a faculty member at another college or university. The work is carried out during a 10-week period in the summer, after which SURF students submit a written report describing the project, methods, and results of their work.
Most options offer undergraduate research courses in order to encourage research participation during the academic year; students should consult listings and descriptions of opportunities.
In some circumstances, faculty will hire students to conduct research. Students should discuss this option with a prospective mentor. Students with work-study financial aid should also contact Caltech’s Career Advising and Experiential Learning (CAEL) about how to apply funding to research positions.
Learn more about undergraduate programs and research at sfp.caltech.edu/.
GRADUATE PROGRAMS AND RESEARCH
Students can enroll in Master of Science, Degree of Engineer, Doctor of Philosophy, BS/MS, and MD/PhD degree programs; the majority of graduate students are enrolled in the PhD program.
The academic work of the Institute is organized into six divisions: Biology and Biological Engineering (bbe.caltech.edu); Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (cce.caltech.edu); Engineering and Applied Science (eas.caltech.edu); Geological and Planetary Sciences
(gps.caltech.edu); Humanities and Social Sciences (hss.caltech.edu); and Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy (pma.caltech.edu).
Graduate study at the Institute is divided further into a number of individual graduate options (degree programs), which are supervised by those professors whose interests and research are closely related to the area of the option. Entering graduate students are admitted into one of these options. The most popular options for graduate work are chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, and biology. Learn more at gradoffice.caltech.edu.
Caltech maintains an array of external partnerships with other institutions in Southern California. These partnerships provide pre-med students with opportunities to work in area hospitals and train with practicing clinicians; allow students to participate in ROTC through a joint program with USC; and offer a 3/2 dual degree for students from 13 select liberal-arts colleges. Caltech undergraduate students can cross-register at Occidental College and Art Center College of Design, and the Institute maintains relations with research partners such as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD. Undergraduate students can also study abroad in Cambridge, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, London, Paris, Melbourne, or the University of Chicago during their junior or senior years For graduate students, joint programs between Caltech and both the USC Keck School of Medicine and the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine grant MD/PhD degrees.
The contributions of Caltech’s faculty have earned national and international recognition. Caltech was elected to the Association of American Universities (AAU) in 1934 and remains a research university with “very high” research activity, primarily in STEM fields. Research is central to Caltech, and the Institute manages over $400 million in sponsored awards annually. Its largest federal funding agencies are the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, and Department of Energy. More than a quarter of Caltech’s active and emeritus faculty members are members of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and/or are fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Caltech receives more invention disclosures and holds more patents per faculty member than any other university in the United States.
POSTDOCTORAL AND SENIOR POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS
More than 550 early-career scientists and engineers conduct research at Caltech as postdoctoral scholars. In addition, JPL hosts postdoctoral scholars whose studies cover many aspects of Earth, planetary, astrophysical, and technology research. All scholars work under the supervision of professorial faculty members or JPL researchers.
RESEARCH CENTERS AND INSTITUTES
Research centers and institutes across campus bring together scientists and engineers to collaborate and add innovative and diverse perspectives to tackle society’s most pressing challenges. Among those centers and institutes are:
- the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech, which seeks to deepen our understanding of the brain and how it works;
- the Beckman Institute, which develops methods, instrumentation, and materials for fundamental research in chemistry and biology;
- the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, which advances cross-disciplinary research in the areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology;
- the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center, which encourages intensive, fruitful collaborations between bioengineering researchers;
- the Resnick Sustainability Institute, which fosters advances in energy science and technology through research, education, and communication;
- the Richard N. Merkin Institute for Translational Research
Learn more about Caltech’s research centers and institutes at caltech.edu/research/centers-institutes.
ON-CAMPUS ACADEMIC RESOURCES
Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO)
The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO) supports Caltech’s multifaceted educational efforts, including the design and instruction of undergraduate and graduate courses and curricula, formal and informal student learning, and educational outreach partnerships with K–12 teachers and students. The CTLO is committed to advancing evidence-based, inclusive practices through our programs and services, and to fostering innovation based on this foundation. CTLO focuses on:
Instructor Support: Supporting effective course design and teaching methods for university faculty and teaching assistants (TAs). Topics regularly addressed through individual consultations, training programs, workshops, and courses include in-class techniques, choice and use of instructional technologies, feedback on teaching, and discipline-based educational research.
Student Learning: Fostering opportunities for students to grow as teachers, mentors, and leaders. In addition to advising students on teaching and outreach-related projects, CTLO oversees the Caltech Project for Effective Teaching (CPET), a graduate student-led community offering seminars and Certificates of Interest and Practice in University Teaching, and collaborates with the undergraduate Academics and Research Committee (ARC) on course improvements, course ombuds, and other initiatives.
Educational Outreach: Helping faculty and students to develop K–12 outreach programs, including collaborations with schools and districts in Pasadena and Greater Los Angeles. CTLO assists faculty on grant proposals with educational components, convenes educational outreach coordinators from across Caltech’s divisions, runs signature educational outreach programs for K–12 students and teachers during the summer and year-round, and serves as an interface for partner organizations offering K–12 opportunities at Caltech.
Learn more at ctlo.caltech.edu.
Hixon Writing Center (HWC)
The Hixon Writing Center (HWC) promotes excellence in writing and communication. The HWC operates on the premise that writing is a mode of discovery and learning as well as a tool for communication, and thus strong writing skills are fundamental to inquiry, learning, and success across disciplines.
The HWC works actively with Caltech students, faculty, and the Caltech community. The HWC offers students the opportunity to meet with professional and peer tutors to discuss works-in-progress; these sessions help students accomplish short-term goals while they also promote the acquisition of skills that are valuable for long-term success. The HWC regularly holds presentations and workshops on communication-related topics that interest our students. HWC staff members are available to consult with Caltech faculty and TAs about best practices for incorporating, designing, and responding to writing assignments in courses across all disciplines. Finally, the HWC sponsors events and creates resources that support campus-wide discussions about the roles writing and communication play in teaching, learning, and research in science and engineering.
The HWC is a part of the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and it is funded in part by a generous donation from Alexander P. and Adelaide F. Hixon. Learn more about current support and programming at writing.caltech.edu.
The Caltech Library advances the Institute’s mission to expand human knowledge by catalyzing information discovery and sharing. The Library maintains extensive research collections, a variety of study spaces, state-of-the-art knowledge-management platforms, and a user-focused program of instruction and outreach.
The Sherman Fairchild Library (SFL) is the main library on campus. SFL is usually open 7 days a week late into the evening and offers a range of collaborative and private study spaces including five bookable group study rooms. All textbooks assigned for courses are available for short-term use through the Library’s Course Reserves service. The Library’s interlibrary loan service, DocuServe, is located on the first floor of SFL. Users can obtain books and articles not owned by Caltech Library at no charge and typically within 24 hours.
SFL is complemented by three branch libraries: Humanities and Social Sciences (Dabney), Astrophysics (Cahill), and Geology (North Mudd). Caltech Hall also houses additional collections in its basement, along with two specialized Library locations: the Lookout on the ninth floor, and the TechHub on the first floor. The Lookout is a flexible collaboration and study space with large displays. The TechHub, houses and facilitates the Library’s eDevice lending program and is home to the Techlab, the Library’s 3-D printing service. Equipment available in the TechHub includes 3-D printers in the Techlab as well as iPads, laptops, Kindles, and electronic kits that can be borrowed for short- or long-term loans.
The Caltech Library hosts the Caltech Collection of Open Digital Archives, or CODA. It consists of several digital repositories including CaltechAUTHORS, for research papers, monographs, and other publications; CaltechTHESIS, for theses and dissertations; and CaltechDATA, for primary research data and computer code.
Visit the Library’s website, library.caltech.edu, to access Library collections and services or to request research assistance.
Archives and Special Collections
The Caltech Archives and Special Collections facilitate understanding of Caltech’s role in the history of science and technology, and of the research and lives of its faculty, staff, and students. The Archives collect, organize, preserve, exhibit, and make available for research the papers and other materials that document this history, both tangible and virtual. Collections include the personal and professional papers of Caltech faculty and alumni; Caltech records, publications, and websites; scientific instruments and other artifacts; photographs; fine art; and rare books from the Scientific Revolution to the present. These collections are available to both the Caltech community and outside researchers; contact the Archives at 626-395-2704 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an appointment. More information, including guides to many collections and digital access to some, can be found at archives.caltech.edu.