[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Programs & Awards  

2005 SPS National Interns
2005 Interns | All Interns | Internships Home

Matthew Hall Matthew Hall
Coe College, IA

Internship: American Association of
Physics Teachers
Online Journal
Final Impressions    
Week of August 2, 2006 Week of July 15, 2006 Week of June 24, 2006
Week of July 29, 2006 Week of July 8, 2006 Week of June 17, 2006
Week of July 22, 2006 Week of July 1, 2006 Week of June 10, 2006
Final Impressions: December, 2005

Looking back on my internship experience now that I am back in the crazy flow that is life at school, it seems that its effects have been even greater than I thought they were several months ago as the internship ended. I have begun to see the value to AAPT of the work that I was doing for them. As I was told before, these projects may not have been completed without my help. My experience this summer truly was different than any of my previous summers away from home (this was the eighth in a row). This time I was, to a much greater degree than before, on my own in a completely new place. When people talk about their study abroad experiences, I think of my time in DC because at first it was about as foreign to me. By the end I was fairly comfortable and able to take advantage of many opportunities I would not normally have that are available in this larger city.

I learned some valuable skills during my internship-the most important of which deal with working with other people. I have talked before about my dislike for working in an office, but honestly I do miss the people and the environment sometimes. Ironically, I am now giving more consideration to a career which will probably put me in an office (working on web design and development-if anyone knows someone who needs that kind of work done…). I will need to learn to adapt better to the politics of the office environment and culture, but my experience this summer will help to make that transition easier. The connections that I have made with the people I met and worked with this summer will continue to be valuable as I finish school and move on to new adventures.

< back to top

August 2 , 2005
Final Week

And I'm spent. It has been an awesome summer. I've been busy right up to the end. Things should be ready to be turned over to the people who will be continuing my projects after I go. Just to remind anyone who is confused about why I was here all week, I am here for a few extra days at the end and came a week early because of my trip to Italy with my school's research group.

In the midst of the last work being done, I found time to do a few of the things I still wanted to do before leaving DC. Over the weekend, I finally made it to the International Spy Museum and the National Archives, both of which are very cool. I didn't realize how much stuff there was to see in the archives. They have several exhibits besides the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. It was also neat that the guard by the Constitution knew lots about it and pointed out some things. The spy museum is great. It has all sorts of spy gadgets like lipstick pistols and watch cameras. You even get to assume a spy identity.

Another fun thing this week was going to a Nationals game (baseball) on Tuesday night. It was the last night some of the interns would be in DC. We didn't quite stay until the end, but I'm pretty sure the Nationals lost. It was fun to be there though. One of the coolest things was a guy sitting in a section near us trying to start the wave. He tried really hard and eventually got it to go around the entire stadium twice. Quite an accomplishment.

Rebecca and I also got to go to see "Crowns" again (a cool play) with Jim Stith. That was a lot of fun. It is always interesting to see a play more than once because of the little things that you notice each time.

This week I got to do a telephone interview with one of the physicists chosen as an "outstanding physicist." It sort of made me wish I had done more of the interviews via phone instead of email, even though it would have meant more work for me. We had a great conversation. It was neat to hear stories from someone who has been working as a physicist for a while and who has written textbooks that I've used for class.

It's time to close with some thank you's to SPS, AAPT, Carol, Dr. Hein, Liz, Gary, Jack and everyone else who helped me this summer. It really has been a great experience. Thanks also to anyone who took the time to read about what I've been up to all summer. DC is a fun place to be. I hope to come back someday. Now it's time to take the things I've learned and head home to use them.

(Some final counts: miles run=295, pi digits memorized=1000)   :-)


< back to top
Week of July 29, 2005
Crazy. Things are getting crazy. This week was very busy, and next week should be too. The weekend was spent seeing more of the Air and Space and Natural History museums during the day. Saturday night we went to see the Capitol Steps, a political satire comedy group who I saw earlier in the summer. A lot of the acts were the same as the first time I saw them, but they were still hilarious.

I spent a lot of time out of the office this week because of our final presentations. Tuesday afternoon was spent rehearsing, which was very helpful. Then on Wednesday was the real deal. Everybody did well, getting a lot of positive comments from the audience. Naturally I noticed the little things about mine that were not quite right and had to be convinced that it was good. A bunch of people came to see us speak about our experiences this summer. Sometime over the next year we will each need to give our talk at a professional meeting. In the afternoon we toured the Niels Bohr Library, which is in the building. They have lots of cool stuff in their archives, like old photos and interviews with famous physicists. I even saw a journal that may be useful for my senior honors thesis.

Friday we were supposed to go on a tour of the capitol building, but we completely messed it up. Our powers to organize as a group were bound to fail sometime. Basically, we were too late and missed it. So then we got some food and went to work.

Most of work this week was devoted to preparing my presentation, but I also managed to start another little project a database for the interviews with outstanding physicists. I have learned a lot about making things like this over the summer. It should make keeping track of everything much easier. This is very important since I will be handing the project over to someone else when I leave. I'm also still grinding away at the trivia questions. I should be able to finish them before I have to head home.

A couple other cool events this week thanks to Paul Guinnessy, editor of the online version of Physics Today: seeing a soccer match between DC United and Chelsea (U.K.) on Thursday night and Café Scientifique on Friday night.

We had awesome seats for the soccer game (second row about on the goal line on the DC United fans' end). The fans were loud and excited. Goals were scored right in front of us. This was an exhibition game, but they still seemed to play pretty hard. I didn't really care who won. I just wanted to see a good game. That worked out because it was very close (Chelsea 2 to DC United 1). We think Chelsea may have been toying with DC United though because about two minutes after DC scored, Chelsea scored, and they scored again in the first few minutes of the second half.

Café Scientifique was a thing where a group of science writers from the DC area came to eat and listen to Walter F. DeNino, who was speaking about his discovery of a professor making up data and then getting it published. DeNino publicly accused the professor, and it went to court. The professor was banned from getting federal funding and moved to Canada. DeNino answered questions from the audience about the trial process and how to recognize fraud like this in the future. He said there was no secret trick to it. You would probably just have to be careful and lucky.

Only one more week to go. Only one more weekend too. I hope to go to the spy museum and American history museum. I'm on pace to meet some of my summer goals. I am over 250 miles, and I'm at 875 for pi. I will need to work hard to meet my first thesis deadline in a few weeks (a reading list). It's going to be strange to pack things up to leave next week, but I think I'll be ready to be home for a few days before I pack up to go back to school.


< back to top
Week of July 22, 2005

I was hoping to go to some museums and relax this past weekend, but I was very tired, probably from the jet lag. I went to the Air and Space Museum on Sunday, but Saturday I think I just sat and read. That's good though. Bridger's dad was in town, and he got us pizza on Saturday night—always good. Not quite the same as the pizza in Italy, but I can't complain. He was trying very hard to get us to talk, but I think everyone was kind of tired so it took a lot of work.

When I said that I would be busy at work this week, I was right. There was plenty to do with working on trivia questions and the interviews. I got to e-mail a Nobel Prize winner. That was neat. On Friday I even got to meet Bill Phillips, who works at NIST and is a Nobel Prize winner too. Talking with him, which mostly involved listening to him talk since he gave long answers to the few questions we asked, was very cool. He spoke well and showed me that he is a scientist doing good work just like other scientists. Earning a Noble Prize was a combination of this work and some luck because there were several groups working on the same problem. He told us lots of stuff about atomic clocks and how they work.

It was also a busy week outside of work. Wednesday morning Mika, Rebecca and I went to meet Senator Harkin from Iowa at his constituent breakfast. This was set up very differently from the breakfast we went to for California Senator Feinstein, which had a huge room with a bunch of tables and the senator addressing the audience from a podium. The Iowa version had a small room with everyone standing around and the senator making his way around to meet everyone and shake their hand. I liked it a lot better. I might still try to set us up to meet with a Wisconsin senator during the final week we are here.

Wednesday night was busy too. John Layman, a retired professor from U of Maryland who is around AAPT a lot, took us out to dinner at a Mediterranean style restaurant called Zayatina and then to a play called "Crowns." The play was great, and it was about African American women and the hats they wear, mainly the hats they wear to church. It had lots of music and a range of serious and hilarious moments. Definitely worth seeing. Dinner was quite interesting. It is recommended that each person order 3-5 dishes because the portions are very small. We each ordered a few things and shared on the giant lazy susan in the middle of the table. There was a lot of good stuff; however, it would be difficult to get it again because most of the time we didn't know the name of the thing we were eating. Many of the names were in a different language. Mika said there was a bunch of Turkish food.

Thursday morning we had our tour of the Pentagon. That was cool. We didn't get to see any secret headquarters or anything like that, but I suppose that is not very surprising. It was still neat to walk around the huge building and see what it's like inside. We saw the inside area of the Pentagon, which is like a big park. Our tour guide also showed us the place where the building was hit by the plane on September 11. There was a memorial room set up and plans to build an outdoor memorial. The hallway inside which had been destroyed was completely rebuilt and looked pretty good. Before going back to work, we went to get some lunch and saw news of the second bombing attacks in London. Luckily, these did less damage, and I think no one was badly hurt or killed.

The week ended with a cookout at Gary White's house. We met his family and also Liz Dart Caron's family came. There was tasty food, including some great gumbo that Gary made, and some fun stories. We got to play with some cool magnets and physics-ish toys. Overall I think it was a very pleasant, relaxing evening. Thanks again, Gary.

Just two more weeks. It's hard to believe it's almost over. We give our closing presentations next Wednesday. (850 pi)

Until next time,

< back to top

Week of July 15, 2005

Conference in Italy
I was going to the Fifth International Conference on Borate Glasses, Crystals and Melts. This was unrelated to the SPS internship. It was part of the research I did at Coe the past two summers.

My trip to Italy started out relatively smooth. I read the book "Once a Runner" pretty much all the way to Italy, meaning that I didn't sleep much. It is very good, especially if you are a runner. There were some delays on one of the runways, but I made it safely to my destination to meet up with the rest of the Coe group who I was meeting in Verona. They had gone over a few days earlier to tour a bit of Italy. We caught a train to Trento and were soon riding the little cable car up to the conference center. What an amazing view. Trento is in the mountains (though I guess these are barely foothills for the Alps).

We got checked into our rooms, which for the students in our group turned out to be an apartment-style room in the basement (floor –2 on the elevator). It was a very nice room. The first event of the conference was a reception with a bunch of tasty food, including some great desserts. At registration we got awesome stuff. They gave us a ton of information about Trento and some maps, and they gave us a great bag. It is a backpack that is set up for carrying a laptop. At many conferences you get a plastic bag, so this was a huge step up. As you can tell, I found it pretty exciting.

That night we played Wist, which is a card game one of my professors learned in college. It is sort of like hearts, and, of course, it was very competitive. It's a game where the scores carry over from one day to the next, meaning that at the end of the trip we would have a winner. Though I was joining the game late (it is set up to allow for this), I got some good cards and was in decent position.

The first morning I woke up very early, but it was not because of jet lag. Somehow I set my alarm clock an hour ahead, causing me to think it was 7:30am when it was 6:30am. Luckily, I didn't realize this until I was ready to go to breakfast because otherwise I would have missed seeing the clouds coming through the valley (and had less time to eat the good stuff for breakfast).

The conference was a combination of oral presentations and poster sessions. Because we weren't sure whether I would be able to come to the conference, I was not signed up to present. So I got to sit back and listen and learn as others gave their talks. They went pretty much all day long. There was a morning and an afternoon coffee break and lunch to mix things up a bit, but otherwise it was lots of consecutive oral presentations. These varied in quality, both scientific quality and presentation quality. One thing that made some of the talks difficult was the language barrier. All of them were given in English so many of the presenters were not working in their first language. I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be to do that. I learned about a bunch of techniques for studying glass that I didn't know anything about before. I was completely lost some of the time, but that is okay.

Outside the conference, we went down to Trento (the conference center was basically on a mountain) for dinner. That was an excellent experience. I ate lots of awesome food including some pasta types I'd never heard of and gelato, which is like ice cream only better. There wasn't time to stop at any of the little shops around there so I wasn't able to do much for souvenirs, but I did get some good pictures.

On Wednesday afternoon, we all went on a side trip to Lago di Garda (a big lake) to walk through some of the cities around it and to go on a boat ride. It was gorgeous. The town was neat to walk through because it had the little alleyways like you see in the movies. That night was the conference banquet dinner. It was a great three course meal followed by an amazing dessert.

Thursday we took a train back to Verona to stay in a hotel for the night because we had an early flight Friday morning. That night the wist game was finished. Barbara, my professor's wife, was the winner. I managed to come in third and had a chance to win, but I was eliminated too early in the final round.

Our flights back to the states went smoothly until we got to Detroit. Air France had a very nice plane—individual video monitors with games (I played chess) and good airplane food. Then my plane to DC was delayed because of the weather—a thunderstorm related to the hurricane on its way out to sea. So I finally made it back after about 4 extra hours in the airport. It was very humid and hotter than it had been in Italy, but that's how it's been most of the time here so I guess it's okay.

Well, I guess it's time to get back to work. While I was gone the interview questions for the 75 outstanding physicists were sent out so I should have some response to look at. It's going to be a busy week. (800 pi)

Until later,

< back to top

Week of July 8, 2005

7/1-7/4 | 7/5-7/8

Weekend of the Fourth of July (July 1-4)

My weekend started early when ACP closed for the day at 3:30 pm on Friday. I ran earlier than usual and had a chance to relax and do a bunch of reading. I'm working on the fourth Harry Potter book and a few other books as well. I think that's about all I did that night. It was great. I decided that I would take the rest of weekend off from running because of the increased traffic and crowds, and it was time to give my legs a rest.

Saturday I ran into Morgan, her dad and Mike while I was walking down the street. They were headed for Arlington Cemetery and invited me to come along. First we saw the "Faces of the Fallen" exhibit. Artists have created representations of the official military photo for men and women who died serving in Iraq. It was a powerful reminder that this is really happening. Next we went to the Tomb of the Unknowns for the changing of the guard. It was very interesting to see. It is obvious that being a part of this guard detail is a big deal. A wreath laying ceremony was also performed. Walking through the cemetery is an awe inspiring experience. Gravestones as far as you can see—so many who have given their lives defending America. Our last major stop in the cemetery was at President John F. Kennedy's gravesite. Many people were there to pay their respects.

The newspaper said that the parade would be Sunday, but when we got there, we quickly found out that it was going to be on Monday. So I went over to the Folklife Festival on the National Mall. I saw lots of interesting things, like a guy talking about bees while standing in a tent full of bees, a woman who makes her own cheese, and an area with information about Oman. I was very intrigued by a napkin folding demonstration (in pretty shapes like at a restaurant). I stayed around there a long time and learned a bunch of cool folds. That probably does not sound like much fun, but I thought it was.

Sunday night brought more good things. The rehearsal for the big Monday night concert was open to the public (free) and much less crowded than the official show. We took advantage of the chance to see the Beach Boys, Gloria Estefan, the National Symphony Orchestra and many more. The imposter Beach Boys sent out for the rehearsal were a bit disappointing. For some reason they had their stunt doubles or someone come out and played a recording over the top. I don't know why they weren't there, but I guess you can do stuff like that when you're the Beach Boys. Otherwise the concert was very cool. The rest of the performers were the real deal. The O'Jays were hilarious. One of them came back out after singing to promote their new album. We had a nice walk back past some monuments when it was all finished.

Lots of people showed up for the parade on Monday. Mika and I were right at the edge of the street and thought we would have a good view, but we were overrun by the stroller brigade. Parents and their strollers parked right in front of us—in the street! So we tried sitting on the edge of a planter to see over the crowd—pretty effective. The parade was interesting. Lots of bands, a lot of flags (not surprising) and lots of groups who wanted to remind us that they are American and support America. The magic school bus balloon brought back some memories. I am pretty sure that I saw someone I know marching in the parade. The South Tama High School marching band (from Iowa, near Cedar Rapids where I go to school) was there. The biggest disadvantage of our viewing location was the complete lack of shade. This was a long parade, which meant some sunburn for me. We were also confused by the very high number of people who insisted on running across the street in the middle of the parade, despite police officers' attempts to prevent this.

After the parade, it was time for a quick transferring of the pictures we had taken so there would be room for more later and time to get out of the sun for a while. I made some rice krispies bars and packed up some food for the rest of the day. We made our way down to the Jefferson Memorial, which we planned to stake out as our fireworks watching place, passing through 3 checkpoints and giving out rainbow glasses and World Year of Physics stickers along the way. Then we gave away the rest of the glasses, checked out the very cool memorial and found a good spot to wait for the fireworks. I discovered that Jefferson was very interested in applying science to life and have decided that I need to learn more about him.

There was some reading, some cards and then some fireworks. What a spectacular show! The rainbow glasses made it especially awesome because they show you different spectra depending on what the firework is made of (i.e. even more pretty colors all over the place). I got lots of pictures of the fireworks, with and without the glasses. We waited a bit for things to clear out and then walked back, passing the FDR, the Korean War and the Lincoln memorials and the Einstein statue. We gave out some more WYP stickers and told people about WYP. I love it when we hand kids the rainbow glasses, and they instantly say "Wow!"

It's time to go continue the week. Things are off to a good start. (735 pi)

Until later,

July 5-8, 2005

Week 6 continued

The rest of the week was less eventful. I got a lot of things accomplished at work, such as more trivia questions and the letter that will be sent to physicists chosen to be interviewed for the 75th anniversary booklet I need to make. Running was good. Thursday I got totally soaked in the rain, but it was fun. I'm now up to 175 miles for the summer.

Tuesday was an AAPT holiday so I didn't have to work. I spent the day working on stuff for websites I'm in charge of at school. That was productive, and I learned some new things.

Thursday brought the scary news of the terrorist bombings in London. I haven't seen much of the resulting changes on the DC metro. There are more police officers around, and I saw a couple more cameras.

Friday I managed to sleep through my alarm so I got to work late, and then I needed to leave early so I could try to get to a bank. After walking about 30 minutes, I found the Bank of America by ACP, but they wouldn't let me do anything without opening an account. I just wanted to buy a money order and some traveler's checks, but I guess that is not allowed. That was disappointing, but oh well.

Tomorrow I leave for Italy, and I will be there until next Friday. I'm really excited, and I'm sure I'll have some good stories to tell you when I get back. (785 pi, I read about the guy who set a new unofficial world record at around 83000. I don't plan to go for anywhere near that much.)

Have a good week,

< back to top

Week of July 1, 2005

The ACP picnic was fantastic! I spent most of the day in the rainbow room, telling little kids and big kids about why they were seeing all the pretty rainbows with their diffraction glasses (more explanation of rainbow room in previous entry). Later in the day, Mika painted a solar system on my face. That was fun. There was lots of good food at the picnic. All of the bake off entries looked (and tasted) delicious. I didn't win anything in the contest, but it was still fun. The egg relay was exciting. AAPT really wanted to win, so they had been practicing. It paid off because they cruised to victory.

The picnic was just the beginning of an excellent Friday. That night we all went to Wolf Trap, an outdoor theatre/stage, to see the National Symphony Orchestra perform selections from Bernstein and Gershwin musicals. There was a lot of good music from West Side Story and from Porgy and Bess. The random fireflies were very cool and reminded me that I was outside.

The night was not over at the end of the concert. We decided to watch West Side Story (on dvd) since a few of us, myself included, had never seen the whole thing. It was great. While we were watching it I made another batch of chocolate peanut butter bars. Those didn't last much beyond the weekend. :-) I distributed the recipe to the other interns.

Saturday was pretty low key. I did see a deer while I was running, but that may have been the most exciting thing that happened. We tried to go to the BBQ contest that was going on all weekend, but we got there too late at night. We walked by the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, but it was also shut down for the night. Then Rebecca and I walked back while the others took the metro. We walked by the WWII memorial and the Einstein monument, both of which are awesome. Rebecca had not seen them before.

Sunday I went to the BBQ contest on my own because everyone else wanted to go to the folklife festival instead. That was okay. I got a bunch of free samples of tasty things. I found out that the teams who enter the competition are not allowed to give out any samples. It was exciting to see some of the teams that I recognized from BBQ shows on the food channel and to see in person how everything was set up. Since I wasn't able to get any free ribs, I bought some because it just seemed sad that I might go to a BBQ like this and not have any BBQ. On my way back for our Sunday dinner (tasty taco salad) I stopped for a few minutes to listen to a band at the folklife festival.

Riding the metro to work every day has created some new habits for me. I grab a newspaper and read it on the way, pretty much every time. I hope that this daily news reading will continue once I get back to school instead of becoming sporadic like it usually does. It's so easy to forget about what's going on in the rest of the world. The paper is now even more exciting because they have added a new puzzle called sudoku. I heard about it when I was home and was hoping that it would reach the DC papers. It is a simple logic game that uses a 9 by 9 grid and numbers. The goal is to arrange the numbers 1-9 so that they appear only once in each row, column and smaller 3 by 3 square. I find puzzles like this addicting, so I am having a great time solving them every day.

On Monday Mika and I figured out the package system where we are staying. That was good because both of us had packages waiting. I got another package on Thursday. Very exciting.

Trivia questions were the main project at work this week. I have made significant progress and have at least partially completed 50 of the 60 I need. Carol was expected to return to work on Monday, but was not feeling well. Later in the week she was doing better and came back.

The last big event for the week was a tour of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). NIST is huge, and there are a lot of different projects going on. We saw the labs where Lindsay and Bridger work. They are a lot like other labs that I have seen, which surprised me a little. I thought that they would all be super tidy looking. I'm sure that everything that needed to be clean was, but it just goes to show that even big labs have some messes around. The museum tour was also very cool. We saw lots of old devices and instruments that were used, and often designed, at NIST. There were also some talks about NIST and the semi-conductor industry which were very informative.

Other running highlights this week: I got completely drenched on Wednesday after looking at the White House and seeing dark clouds behind it. I almost beat the storm, but not quite. I ran to Virginia (for real this time), and tomorrow I should hit 160 miles for the summer.

Wow! That was a busy week. I'm looking forward to this weekend and celebrating the nation's birthday in the capital. It should be awesome. I'll let you know how it goes. (700 pi)

Until then,

< back to top

Week of June 24, 2005

What a fast week! I'll try to hit some of the highlights. First, the weekend. We went to see the movie "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" which was pretty funny and entertaining. Afterwards a few of us watched Star Trek episodes into the wee hours.

Saturday I hit the 100 mile mark for my summer running and found a new trail to run on. It was also a late night. This time playing cards a long time and then switching rooms with Mika (I had been living in a triple by myself, and a new intern who would be living with Mika was arriving on Sunday. So it made more sense for them to have the bigger room).

Sunday I found another new trail and had a good, fast, long run. And then there were six. Rebecca arrived, filling the last internship spot. She seems cool so far.

Monday brought in the new work week, so I was back to more trivia questions and time capsule research. Carol, my supervisor, was on vacation all week, but I had projects to work on so it was okay. I took my first run to the other side of the Potomac via the Arlington Memorial Bridge. At the time, I thought I was in Virginia, but I just figured out that I was not quite there.

Tuesday was a big day. Well, mostly a big night. We were on Capitol Hill for something called the CNSF reception (Coalition for National Science Funding). This is an event where a bunch of groups and universities who get funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) come to show what they have been doing and to talk with representatives from NSF and from the government to convince them to continue their funding. Morgan and Mika were working at a booth for AIP, and the other interns were invited to walk around and meet people and learn about the other programs. Morgan and Mika got to do a little of that too, I think. They certainly met and talked to lots of people while at the booth. I talked to a bunch of grad students about several programs that sounded pretty neat and also to some other groups.

Wednesday night I saw a small motorcade while I was running. That was exciting. Make sure you stay out of their way. That night I also did some web page work.

Thursday we worked on getting things ready for the two rooms we would be running on Friday at the ACP picnic (for the whole building and their families). In one room was a mass experiment with lots of people dropping cones to see how they would land. The other room was the rainbow room. It had a bunch of different light sources that have different spectra when looked at through rainbow glasses (which work with some kind of diffraction grating—they spread out the many colors of light). We stayed a little later and played a joke on Gary. We piled a bunch of balloons in his office. These were extra ones from the huge pile that were blown up earlier in the day for the picnic. (It was okay. He laughed about it when he saw them). My excitement was not over yet. That night I had to make my entry for the bake off for the picnic. I made chocolate peanut butter bars (that people told me were very tasty). It was the first time that I had made them by myself, so I was pretty happy they turned out well.

It's hard to believe this is about half-way over already. It feels more like it just started. I am becoming much more comfortable moving around in the city.

Time to get back work. See you next week. I'll have picnic news. It should be great. :( 690 pi, there will be more)


< back to top

Week of June 17, 2005

That last entry was really long so I'll try to be more concise for this third week entry. The weekend started out with some dancing on Friday night. I didn't dance much because I didn't know how to salsa, but I think by watching lots of other people dancing I may be able to do it next time.

Saturday most of us went together to see some sights. First we checked out the botanical gardens, which were very cool. There are exotic plants from across the globe and some you could find in your backyard. Next, we moved on to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. As a model rocket builder and stargazer I thought it was awesome. I saw full-scale rockets, a bunch of space suits and a model of the Hubble Space Telescope. I learned a lot about our space race with Russia. Unfortunately, I was going very slowly through the museum, so I didn't get to see everything before we decided to leave. That's okay though. I can always go back later.

Sunday I went to the zoo and took a lot of pictures. It's huge. It took Morgan and her boyfriend, who was visiting for the weekend, and me about 5 hours, and we still didn't see the pandas. There was a big line for that, and we were all pretty tired from walking around all day. That night all of the SPS interns got together to cook dinner. This was a big success and should be an ongoing tradition for the summer (cooking together on Sunday night). We had some pasta and salad before going out for ice cream to celebrate my recent birthday. It was a good chance for us to sit around and talk and get to know each other better. After ice cream, I went with Morgan and Mike to find the nearest Wal-Mart using instructions from the Internet. What an adventure. You see, the directions did not account for any of the construction which is going on all over the place. So what we thought would be a quick trip turned into a longer one. We eventually did find it. Then we needed to get back. I asked for directions to the nearest metro. Once we found that things went pretty smoothly, but that took a few minutes too.

I spent most of the week at work creating physics trivia questions and finding more information about where to buy time capsules. It's tough to think of good questions. I'm thinking about going to museums to wander around looking for inspiration. If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

On Wednesday Mika, Morgan and I got to go to the third grade class with again. This time we helped the kids analyze the data they collected last week. They made predictions and graphs. I'm really surprised to see how far along they are on their math skills. I don't know if I'm misremembering my education or if schools are moving faster now. The kids all had a great time, and I think all of us did too.

Thursday was easily one of the most exciting and interesting days so far. We had the opportunity to go to a constituent breakfast for Dianne Feinstein, one of the senators from California. She spoke a bit and introduced her staff and interns. We were a little disappointed with some of what she had to say. This has sparked our interest in going to as many other events like this as we can. We started researching our other senators and hope to visit more of them.

After this breakfast, we went to the Rayburn building, which is one of the House office buildings, to observe a hearing before a subcommittee of the science committee. The hearing was about reprocessing our spent nuclear fuel and whether or not we should invest in doing so. It was fascinating to watch the hearing process and listen to the ensuing debate. Even more interesting were the things I learned later on when we met with Jack Hehn to discuss the hearing. He told us about a lot of the subtle things that were going on. For instance, the order in which people were allowed to speak and the order in which things were said and to whom mattered very much. The chairwoman made a point to talk about bipartisan actions, only to have the ranking minority member say something contrary early in his opening remarks. We had all missed that, but it was very important. I think most of us are interested in seeing other hearings if we can.

I guess I will wrap this up with a summary of my moments of running excitement for the week. First I am at almost 100 miles total for the summer. I should top 100 this coming weekend. While running this week I went in some new directions and saw new stores that might be worth stopping at sometime, another Army band concert on the steps of the capitol, rain and a Segway tour service. The Segway (Segway human transport I think is the full name) is basically a thing with two wheels that you stand on, and it cruises around without you needing to do any work. They are very expensive, so I am guessing it is not cheap to go on the tours with them. Another nice thing was that later in the week it started to cool down. Instead of mid-90's with high humidity it was in the 80's with less humidity. It didn't even seem hot anymore.

Time to go find more excitement. I'm sure that won't be very hard. (690 pi)

Till next week,

< back to top

Week of June 10, 2005

Before Work Started
Since I have been here for two weeks already, I will include my thoughts from the first week along with the current week. I came here early because I will be traveling to Trento, Italy in July with my school's research group (Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA) for about a week for the Fifth International Conference on Borate Glasses, Crystals and Melts. At Coe we do glass research, which is how I spent my past two summers.

My initial arrival in DC was exciting because I had no maps to follow because I had been packing right up until the time I had to leave and didn't get a chance to print any. So I was following the instructions on a few pieces of paper to try to get checked into my room at the George Washington University (GWU). To help simplify the story, let me just say that the instructions I had were not quite right, and this resulted in my following some signs to discover that the building I needed to go to was about 8 blocks away and the building where I live was only about a block away, which meant walking a long way with all my stuff. It was all right though. I eventually made it to the dorm apartment that I will be calling home for the next couple of months. Later that night I decided to take a stroll by the white house, since it is not far away. That turned into a 40 minute walk, partly due to stopping to look at things along the way.

The next day was Memorial Day. I took the opportunity to go exploring. I did some wandering in the area nearby and headed down to the National Mall-using the metro (subway) for the first time. I was in DC once before a couple years ago and went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Dinosaurs are cool, so I went to see them again. I decided to just look at that exhibit because I have time to go back for more later. I couldn't believe I was really in DC. I looked one direction and saw the capitol and in another the Washington Monument. It was awesome. My exploration continued as I made my way toward the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On the way I came to the WWII Veterans Memorial, which is incredible and which I somehow missed completely the last time I was here. I spent some time there before going on to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is also moving. There were tons of people in both places, many of them in tears as they found the name of a loved one on the wall.

I walked over to the Lincoln Memorial. For some reason being there has a good feeling connected to it. Perhaps it is because of all the things that Lincoln stood for and fought to protect and change. After making my way down the steps of memorial, I went over to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which I had not seen before. One of the main parts of this memorial is an area with a bunch of statues of soldiers walking together in their raingear. This was also a remarkable place. It was then getting dark, and everything was beginning to be lit up. The monuments and memorials are especially gorgeous at night when these lights go on. Near the Korean War Memorial, I found a great map which showed all of the statues and monuments scattered around the city. I quickly spotted the Einstein one, which was even on my way home. I felt a certain duty to go there as well. There is a huge bronze statue of Einstein with a map of most of the visible universe spread at his feet. I stayed at this place for quite a while after which I went home to prepare for the next day.

After Work Started
Tuesday was my first day of work at the American Center for Physics (ACP). I got to meet lots of people and go through a brief orientation. I work for AAPT-the American Association of Physics Teachers. It was not long before I met Carol Heimpel, who is my immediate supervisor, to discuss my projects for the summer. Then I got right to work on the first one. In 2006 AAPT is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and all of my summer projects are geared toward this anniversary. My first task was to look for someplace that could make a 75 cm ruler and print our custom graphics on it. This turned out to be tougher than I thought it would be. After much searching, I found a few that looked like they may work. I'll return to the ruler story in a minute, but before I forget, Tuesday was also my birthday. People from home kept telling me that I should do something to celebrate, so I bought a sandwich and walked over to the White House and ate it. I thought that was a unique and pretty cool birthday experience.

Another of my projects for the summer is to research time capsules so that AAPT can plan one as part of the celebration. I found some good information on these in the midst of my ruler search. Ah yes, the ruler search. Well, we had a meeting last week for the 75th anniversary committee, and my search was modified and made more complicated. Dr. Warren Hein, associate executive officer of AAPT, had a ruler with a graphic that moves when you turn it. It was a promotional product for another company. We didn't know where that company had bought the ruler or what the animation technique was called. Everyone thought the animated ruler was really cool. So now I needed to find someplace that could make 75 cm rulers with custom graphics and animation. Calling the company on the ruler did not lead me directly to the people from whom they bought the ruler, but it did somehow get me to some companies that sell rulers with "scanimation," as I learned the technique is called. I also found that most places can't do custom scanimation. You have to use stock designs, but you can still get your logo printed on there too, just not animated. Then I found another technique (lenticular) that does make custom animation possible, and I began searching for someplace that could do that on a 75 cm ruler. No one wanted to make a ruler that met all of our specifications, at least not without a huge minimum order and a big price per ruler. We decided to abandon the long ruler and just do an animated ruler. Some samples just arrived, but they are not very promising. It looks like we are going to abandon the ruler completely, which of course means that all my searching will have gone to waste (at least for now-we may come back to the rulers later). This is pretty disappointing, but I have learned a lot through the process, and that is what's most important. I didn't know anything about the promotional product industry before this search.

Recently I have also been doing some work on another of my projects, which is to create about 60 physics trivia questions to be asked, about once a week from November through the end of next year for the anniversary. I spent most of a day figuring out how to set up a slick MS Access database to store the questions. I think it is now functioning properly. I've already learned a bunch about using this program by trial and error, and now I get to learn lots of other interesting things while creating these trivia questions. I'm excited about that.

This was chronological for a while, but it is becoming more chaotic. I suppose that's okay. Being here early offered me several great opportunities. I had time to wander around by myself so that I would know where some things are by the time others arrived. Also, I had the chance to meet the SPS Executive Committee (Society of Physics Students) and to join them for a tasty meal and hilarious comedy show by the Capitol Steps. Most of the other interns were scheduled to arrive last Saturday. In order to make their transition to DC a bit easier than mine was, I decided to meet them outside when they arrived so that they could store their stuff in my apartment while walking all the way over to check in. Things went pretty smoothly, except that one person didn't show up. We were a bit worried, especially when we didn't see him the next day either. Monday, when we went for orientation, we learned that he would not be coming because he had taken a full-time job somewhere else.

It is nice to have other people that I know nearby. I still have no roommate because the person who is not here was going to be. Orientation was partly review for me, but I learned some new stuff too, and I got to go on a more complete building tour and meet more new people, both of which were good. ACP is an impressive facility. I hope to visit the Niels Bohr Library soon.

We ride the metro to get to and from work every day. When the other interns arrived, I had been riding it by myself for a week without any major difficulties-I hadn't gotten on the wrong train or missed my stop, though I was close a few times. Tuesday things were different. We made about every mistake we could, starting with running to catch the wrong train and then getting on that train and going a few stops before realizing our mistake. We laughed and switched to the right train. When we got back to the place where we normally transfer from one line to another (where we had gotten on the wrong train), I forgot that we were already on the right train and convinced everyone to get off of the train. About the time the doors closed and the train started moving, I realized what had just happened. We laughed some more and got on the next train in the right direction. At this point we were running a bit behind schedule, so we decided to try to catch the shuttle bus that runs between the metro and ACP. We got on the wrong bus and instead got a nice little tour of the U of Maryland-College Park campus and returned to the metro stop. We decided not to take our chances with another bus and walked to work, laughing at ourselves and anticipating the laughter of others that would come when we told our story.

Wednesday brought a fun opportunity. A few of us got to go to a third grade class to teach a lesson/do an experiment. Basically we got to play with some kids while having them learn, which they may not have realized. It was great. It reminded me of my Cub Scout camp counselor days, which I loved (I did that for the 5 summers before coming to college). This was also a chance to get kids excited about science, and I think that is certainly a good thing.

One of my personal goals for the summer is to run about 400 miles to get ready for the fall cross country season. I've had injury trouble throughout my seasons in college, but I haven't had any major difficulties so far. I've put in about 70 miles already. Running here is awesome because you almost can't help but run past important and/or beautiful buildings. One night I ran up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Earlier this week I went on a run to investigate the Georgetown area. I was going to run about 4 or 5 miles, but things didn't go according to plan. I found a neat trail and decided to follow it. I kept following it, and it kept going and going and going. I suppose I should have just turned around, but I figured eventually it had to go in the direction I needed it to. Well, after over an hour of running, it did. Once I figured out where I was, I had another 35 minutes or so of running home. I think it was my longest run ever. So that is good. A couple nights later I ran by the capitol and found the Army band playing a free public concert. I stopped for a while to listen. There are so many things like that going on in the city. It's just a matter of finding them.

Next week should bring further excitement. It sounds like we are going to be able to see a hearing on science policies on Capitol Hill. I'm sure there will also be plenty of other things going on to enjoy and keep us on our toes.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. The pi count is 675.

< back to top


 [an error occurred while processing this directive]