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2005 SPS National Interns
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Mika McKinnon
Mika McKinnon
University of California-Santa Barbara, CA

Internship: SPS Outreach/2005 World
Year of Physics
Online Journal
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
August 2 , 2005
Extra paper has been recycled, files have been transfered, and Kendra now cares for Adopt a Scientist. I'm done, and it's time to go.

Bye, folks! The further adventures of Mika (no longer Misplaced in DC as of Thursday afternoon) can be tracked at SpaceMika.com.

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Week of July 29, 2005
Final presentations are done, but work isn't. This feels very weird, and makes the day drag out to infinite lengths. I know there's still so much to do to prepare Adopt a Scientist for handoff to Kendra so I need to be at work working, but it's also really hard to be motivated when the presentations are over. It was a final presentation. That means it's the final event and after that everything is done. At least, that's how it should be. Sigh.

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Week of July 22, 2005
In an effort to discourage people leaving their papers on the train, the metro has a sign reading, "In a city like this, you don't want to leave a paper trail." I think the message has worn off on me, because the longer I stay here the more inclined I am to read and listen than I am to talk or write. It's a good thing I leave DC in a few more weeks or I'd never volunteer information again!

Adopt a Scientist merrily continues to swamp me with email. As of Friday afternoon, there are 550 scientists enrolled from at least 292 organizations and willing to engage in more than 1,833 interviews. Those are some pretty big numbers for a program that didn't exist two weeks ago! Next week I start inviting teachers to participate I'm confident we can handle at least 50 schools, and I'm hoping we can stretch our scientists to cover 100 schools. It'll be sad to leave the project while it's still in-progress, but it'll be in good hands as Kendra in APS will take over from me.

This week has been jammed with non-work activities. Matt, Rebecca, and I went to a constituent breakfast for Senator Harkin of Iowa. This breakfast was very small, with people standing around snacking while the staff and the Senator talked to every person in the room. I was touched by the personal attention, and think it must be fun to be a Senator for a state with a relatively small population because you can give that much attention to your constituents. That's simply impossible for the Senators from California with 300+ people showing up!

On Wednesday we went on a group outing with John Layman, a professor emeritus who joins us for lunch regularly. We went to a Mediterranean restaurant, and then to see "Crowns", a musical exploration of the culture of hats. It was fantastic, and made me keenly aware that I can't call my mother as she's in Turkey. She would have loved the whole evening.

One of my high school buddies dropped in to visit, and we went to a Nationals game last night. I'm not much of a sports observer and I've only been to a baseball game once before (As, in Candlestick park), but I really enjoyed it. The people are friendly, and in classic DC-style, the fans with large signs had political motives at heart. It's an experience I would strongly recommend.

Tonight we're both taking off for New York to visit yet another high school friend. I've never been to New York before, so I'm very excited. So excited that I just might leave work early.

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Week of July 15, 2005

Tuesday, July 12Friday, July 15

Friday, July 15
By Friday, it's hard to remember that events on Monday took place in the same week.

I answered several hundred emails about Adopt a Scientist, and have over 450 scientists volunteering for the program. I am rejoicing at the strong support the project is receiving, although it no longer seems like borrowing trouble to speculate about the difficulties of scaling.

I escaped the email-in box for a Tuesday lunch with a scientist from the Phoenix lander team. It was really fun and extremely educational. With everything I've done and everyone I've met in the internship, chatting over lunch was the most rewarding to me personally in providing me with context about some of the careers I'd been contemplating for after grad school.

I finally received new contacts on Wednesday, holding at the same prescription for the third year running. I have upgraded to the new AcuVue Advanced lenses, a new silicone-lens that leaves the traditional polymer-lens feeling dry and plasticy in comparison. If you wear contacts, try them.

Thursday, Gary, Morgan, Rebecca, and I went to the GSI exhibit. It was a pilot program, so I had a lot of empathy for the organizers making last-minute changes. They fed the exhibitors a most excellent free lunch, and for that alone the event receives high praise.

I have built a focus group of high school science teachers to help with the role of the teacher in the Adopt a Scientist program. In the upcoming week I need to finalize that role, finish enrolling scientists, and finalize the list of questions. After that, things will start to get really busy.

Tuesday, July 12: 300 Scientists?
Adopt a Scientist now has a web presence. 298 scientists have volunteered so far.

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Week of July 8, 2005
The inertia was high, but my project finally got rolling late this week. Hopefully I'll have a link to feed you sometime soon about the project, but for now a brief synopsis will have to do:

The project is called Adopt a Scientist. The idea is to have high school physics students across the country engage in email-interviews with real scientists so they can understand what it means to actually work in science. Right now we're in the recruiting-scientist stages. So, dear reader, if you happen to be a scientist or know someone who is, email education@aip.org to find out more! Since we're scripting the questions in advance, it should take the scientists only a few hours to participate but the impact on students could be really significant.

Outside of work, the rain has come. This makes me unbelievably happy, and led to dancing in an empty metro train during the commute. My love of rain (at least in comparison to stifling humidity) bodes well for my transition to Vancouver!

On the day of the London bombings, local metro security was increased but I saw no sign of it as I passed through every single transfer point in Maryland or DC (but none in Virginia). It reminds me once again: even dozens of people disappear in the city, swallowed up by the mass of humanity.

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Week of July 1, 2005: Week Four-Canada Day!

This has been a Good Week.

Matt & I both finally received packages from our mums. It turns out that GW doesn't actually let summer students know they have a package; you've got to go marching down to their package depot and tell them you have a package. Very strange.

Wednesday I watched the markup on the NASA budget (it was very fast) and then stumbled upon an exhibition for congressmen explaining the various programs searching for exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). I had a lot of fun, and met a lot of people. It occurred to me that despite the huge number of interns at these events, and the large probability that at least some of the interns are underage, the staff does not card when serving alcoholic beverages. It led me to wondering at the average number of minors in possession of alcohol there are in the capital buildings every day.

Thursday we visited NIST (where Bridger & Lindsay work). It was fun to talk to one of the guys who worked on re-designing and building the cases that protect the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the other documents of freedom . I particularly liked how many choices were made by the artists (although the details of how to engineer the appropriate environment were also neat). I also appreciated visiting the room where they measure the US meter. It s a temperature-controlled, vibration-isolated chamber 15 meters underground. Two details I really loved: the room is separated from the rest of the building (to help with minimizing vibration) and the lights are external to the room and fed in through fiber optics (to help with temperature control).

I'm looking forward to the long weekend, although I haven t a clue what I'm doing for most of it. And although this won t be posted in time, since I'm writing on July 1st: Happy Canada Day! I'd say find yourself some Molsons, but since they've been bought out by Coors that doesn't really work as a celebration of Canadian independence anymore.

A friend from home managed to fix some technical bugs on my blog so it's now possible to actually use the categories/commenting/etc. If you want more details on this week, hit up the daily section.

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Week of June 24, 2005

June 22 | June 24 | Photos from CNSF Reception

June 22
Last night was CNSF, the conference Morgan and I have been prepping for. It went smoothly, and was a total blast.

I'll let photos do most of the talking:

Mika M cKinnon and Congressman Dan Lipinkski (D-IL)

Congressman Dan Lipinkski (D-IL) chatted with me for a long time.

It was very, very hot (I was "glowing" like crazy), very loud, and very busy. There were a few hundred people that came through, and I ambushed a couple dozen of them as they tried to sneak to the drinks table (directly adjacent to my booth). I caught the head of the Science Committee for an elevator-pitch, and gabbed with more congressional staff than I could possibly keep track of. I ran into some profs from Ohio where one of my buddies is starting as a new grad student so I instructed the profs to track my friend down and embarrass her. I've received reports that they've succeeded admirably. Perhaps the most amusing moment was turning to find a UCSB physics prof directly behind me (she was there representing NSF) -- no matter how far you go from home, part of it comes with you!

June 24
CNSF went really well. I love being in a place to tell people why something is totally awesome and cool. I wonder if it's possible to make a living out of giving presentations for other people.

I'm working on a new project for the rest of the summer. An intern before me set up the outline so I'm currently working through what they did to understand where the project stands now. I think the biggest challenge would be setting things up to carry on without me so that everything doesn't fall apart when my internship ends.

Friday was the picnic. As a word of obvious advice: don't use sharpies to make a large quantity of signs. I did that, and was dizzy for the rest of the day. Whoops! I also helped out with face painting and did everything from hearts on ticklish baby-feet to Spongebob Squarepants shoulder tattoos. The clowns collected my number for possible free-lance face painting while I'm in DC.

This week was about finishing up short-term projects and starting in on long-term projects. It was also about going to bed very, very early so mornings weren't so painful. I feel weird knowing my grandmother stays up later than I do!

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Week of June 17, 2005

Week 2 — Alphabet Soup

This week was mostly about sorting out the alphabet soup that is the presentation for CNSF on Tuesday of next week. DBIS, PhysTEC, PTEC, ComPADRE, SPIN-UP TYC, NSF, AIP, APS, and don't forget about CNSF—this is a world of acronyms. However, the alternative is much, much worse. Jack told us the original name for SPIN-UP, and I had to blink twice to make sure he hadn't just cussed at us. The lesson? If it has a name, it needs an acronym, and if it has an acronym, it'd better be good.

We also got to get a taste of Capital Hill, going to a constituents breakfast followed by a hearing on nuclear reprocessing. Although it was fun to go, the really intense and interesting part came in talking it over afterwards with those who actually know what's going on and know what to look for. I think I've found my quest: to see and do as much as possible on Capital Hill so that by the end of summer I might have the first inklings of intuition about what's going on. I want to be able to read between the lines, but first I need to become literate.

The weather has improved, a mere low-80s with gusting winds. I'll welcome the rain when it returns, but until then I'm grateful to not be baked within an inch of crispy.

This weekend has plans centered around music. There's live ballroom music at the Kennedy Center tonight, a folklore festival all weekend, the Red Cross fundraising festival, and a Motown Revival release in a local club. Sleep? Nah, don't really need that.

As before, if you want the nitty-gritty go to SpaceMika, my personal blog.

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Week of June 10, 2005

DC is a land of temperature extremes. Outside it’s hot and humid, rich with the smell of water evaporating directly from the individual blades of grass. Inside, over-enthusiastic air conditioning leaves me wishing for gloves so my fingers don’t go numb as I type.

I’ve developed a coffee habit of the course of the last week. Prior to Monday, I’d consumed perhaps three cups of coffee in my entire life, and then only if you count blended mochas. Now the nights of goodbye parties last week, the abrupt flight to DC after graduation on Sunday, and starting work first thing on Monday morning have caught up with me and left me shy of my required rest. Trying to stay up late enough to make calls back home (my nighttime cell minutes start 9pm PST, which means midnight local time!) only compounds the problem. I’ve tried to cheat by taking less time to get ready in the morning, but “dressy-casual” requires a certain amount of time just to get the wrinkles out and the buttons all done up properly. So, I’ve developed a coffee habit. I won’t drink it after 2pm since I do need what sleep I can find, but I’m on an average of two cups every morning (one to get me started, and one to remind me that I’m still awake). It isn’t nearly as unpalatable as I’d thought.

It’s hard to get to know the other interns. By the time we get home, we’re tired from work and from the long commutes on the metro. We’re slowly finding time (or forcing time, propping our eyelids open), and I think the upcoming weekend will be a lot of fun. I’m slowly finding some locals to show us around – I’m next door to a trio of recent GW grads, my mother found a co-worker’s son going to law school here holding down a summer internship on Capital Hill, and my brother thinks he might have a few classmates around here somewhere. This is so full of life and activity and excitement that it’s overwhelming to try and find a place to start, so I’m hoping that the locals will be able to do that for me!

Work has been interesting. I may be tired, it may be hard to switch from graduating senior slacker to dedicated employee, and I may be lost, confused, and befuddled, but the internship was a good choice. I’m meeting new and interesting people every day, and I’m certain I’ll find all sorts of connections to help me figure out what I want to do next. I write way too much as a habit, but if you’re itching to know who I’ve met you can check out my personal blog.

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