With a faculty and alumni population that includes 31 Nobel laureates, five Crafoord laureates and scientists who have discovered everything from anti-matter to the difference between the left brain and the right brain, Caltech is one of the smartest places in the world. But it’s not a particularly populous place: It’s home to just 967 undergrads and 908 grad students. There are almost that many faculty members, as well as another 2,600 non-faculty employees, so students enjoy a remarkable degree of support. As well they should—these are the people most likely to find a cure for cancer, unravel the secrets of the universe and invent something even better than Velcro.
Located in the heart of Pasadena, Caltech’s campus is a lovely place, full of gardens and a fine mix of old and new buildings—including Beckman Auditorium, which hosts first-rate public concerts and lectures. Locals know they have truly arrived if they can score a membership to the Athenaeum, a private club for Caltechers, JPL folks, Huntington Library fellows and a lucky few neighbors and community leaders. Funded by a stock gift that was cashed in just before the crash of 1929, the ornate club (including hotel rooms, dining facilities and entertaining spaces) was officially launched in 1931 with a formal dinner welcoming visiting professor Albert Einstein. Guests of Athenaeum members can even stay in the Einstein Suite, which housed the Einsteins for a couple of months.
Besides educating the scientists and visionaries of the future, Caltech is a serious research center, and it also staffs and manages (for the federal government) nearby JPL, with which it collaborates on all sorts of R&D ventures. Its students also work with the Huntington on various research projects.
California Institute of Technology
1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena