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2006 SPS National Interns
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Alex Brown
Alex Brown
Wittenberg University, OH

Internship: NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology)
Online Journal
Week of August 4, 2006 Week of July 14, 2006 Week of June 23, 2006
Week of July 28, 2006 Week of July 7, 2006 Week of June 16, 2006
Week of July 21, 2006 Week of June 30, 2006 Week of June 9, 2006
Week of August 4, 2006
On Friday morning, I rolled my suitcases onto the Metro, and made my way down the blue line to Ronald Reagan Airport to catch a plane to Columbus, OH for the National Mortar Board Conference. (Mortar Board is an honor society made up of undergraduate seniors that emphasizes scholarship, leadership, and service.) I made my way through security, and I boarded my plane. A young man sat down next to me, and he asked me what my business in Columbus was. I told him about the convention, and it turns out that he was the president of his chapter (Cornell College), and there were about 10 people on the plane who were also going to that conference. Well, since this is not a Mortar Board Scholarship, i'll skip back to D.C. after the conference, but it was a blast.

Back in D.C. on Sunday, we had our family dinner and ran through our presentations with each other for most of the evening. On Monday morning, we interns invaded the Metro on the way to ACP. Ann climbed on the poles as usual, and we made it there happy and ready to present our summers' research. There were donuts and orange juice, and milk for us; SPS takes care of us. The presentations went superbly, and we could have all given our final presentations right then, but we had great comments from each other and from the ACP people present, that allowed us to really make top-notch presentations the next day.

The presentations the next day were stellar. I was thrown by Gary reading my bio right before I presented, but I did acceptably, and when I got the 8 minute warning from Liz, I fumbled some more. I did alright, however, and everybody else was really fantastic. My group leader, John Seuhle, was there, and he helped me field the toughest question. During lunch, I was asked by a man at my table what field of physics most interests me, and I said that I really liked what I had done this summer, but I was interested in looking into astrophysics, because I've never taken a course on it, and I wanted to see what it's all about. The man then handed me his card, and it was Kevin Marvel, the Executive Officer of American Astronomical Society! So that turned out well. The pressure was off, after that afternoon, and I made one last trip to NIST to turn everything in and pick up my sunglasses that I had left in my desk.

Packing presented a problem for a few people, and I was certainly one of them. I had too many things to fit in my suitcases, so there was some clever packing of carry on items, and a lot of things that stayed around for next summer's interns.

Taking a bus to BWI was way cheaper than the cab ($3 versus $80), and it got me there in time for my flight, which was subsequently delayed an hour and a half on the ground due to weather in Detroit (my connection). Then my flight in Detroit was delayed, and I met my dad in Akron, OH late in the afternoon. I was still able to make it home for dinner in my favorite eatery, Tampicos, for some Queso Flamedo.

Now I just have to make sure the rest of my department knows how amazing this internship is.

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Week of July 28, 2006

Friday evening was spent in a state of excitement because of the plans I had for Saturday afternoon. When that came around, I took the red line up to the zoo stop, and I met some friends of mine with whom I studied at Oxford. We saw Superman Returns, which was visually good, but had some really rubbish physics in it. I'm not even talking about Superman himself; he is exempt from the laws of physics, but people inside an airplane in free fall would not be pinned to the ceiling. That was an amazing experience, getting to spend time with those friends, and we had dinner at Cosi afterwards. (You can get a make your own s'more kit at your table for desert. I rode the train with my friends back to their stops, and then went home to bed.

For my last Sunday in D.C., I did church shopping online, and I found one that looked good at Falls Church on the Metro. The cool thing about this was that the pastor who gave the sermon Sunday morning happened to be a graduate of Wittenberg about six years ago (for those of you just joining us, that's my University). That was really great, since I could tell her how some of her favorite professors were doing, and I suddenly became an object of attention to the other worshipers, since the pastor and I were laughing together.

At work, I re-measured one of my samples, in hopes that better results would develop, but they didn't, so I finished up my analyzes of IPE data, and got my presentation together. On Wednesday, I gave a 2 minute overview of the presentation to my whole group at NIST, and on Thursday, I gave the full-length version to the senior members of the division who could help me hone it.

Friday morning, I fly out of D.C. for Columbus Ohio for the national Mortar Board meeting, and I'll be back in the district on Sunday to finish up my experience.

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Week of July 21, 2006

On Friday night, Pat, Kacey and I watched Stargate: Atlantis and ate ice cream (what do you expect us to do on a Friday night? We're physics majors). Saturday morning, Pat and I made our own unofficial Catholic tour of the district. We visited the Franciscan Monastery, and then a Poor Claires cloister. We then proceeded to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Catholic University of America. Afterwards, we spent a few hours at the Pope John Paul II Institute.

From JP2I, Pat and I caught a metro train to Gary's for a fantastic evening of free food and fun games. The food selection included, but was not limited to: Dry rub ribs, barbeque ribs, barbequed pulled pork, barbecued pulled chicken, cole slaw, baked beans, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, melon, tortilla chips, guacamole Doritos, salsa con queso, brownies, ice cream, and all forms of soft drink. Gary's children played Dance Dance Revolution 2 with us, and most of us realized that we are not John Travolta, and we should stick to calculating the transition amplitudes between the unperturbed eigenstates due to the presence of the perturbation in order to determine transition probabilities in time-dependent quantum phenomena. Gary and Kacey were among the best dancers in the group, and I was one of the first to be kicked off by the game.

On Sunday, we had our traditional family dinner, to which Andy, Bill, and I brought tacos. This week we had our big NIST tour on Monday, and Tuesday was spent preparing my group presentation of my summer s work. Wednesday I gave my presentation to the group (it was received well) and Thursday we went on a tour of the Senate. Friday, and the time not spent on tours was spent finishing a bit of analysis of SE and IPE data, and working on putting together my final presentation for ACP.

The tour of the Senate was fantastic. We met Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and he spoke to us of his entry into politics as well as his position on stem-cell research. One of his wonderful Interns then gave us a tour of the capital building, lasting almost 3 hours, and we saw everyplace civilians are allowed to see. We also sat in on a hearing in the Senate where the biggest civil rights bill in history was being discussed. After the tour, I had lunch at Capital City Brewing Company (good root beer and excellent Cuban tacos) and returned to my work.

I've had my ipod earbuds replaced again and the new ones are working well. The noise canceling headphones from Sony have been returned, so I will no longer have to put up with periodic buzzing resulting from poor circuitry.

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Week of July 14, 2006
For those of you who have been wondering, my sunglasses have been working out brilliantly. The polarization of the lenses makes for a great toy around lcds, car windshields, and lasers.

My parents came on Friday, while we were at Liz's party! There was great food, badminton, small children, and hammocks. After I had introduced my mom and dad to the interns and our bosses, and we had eaten lots of jambalaya, we drove to my apartment through the big city.

Saturday morning, Ann made pancakes for all of us, and we headed off for a day at the National Zoo. We saw the pandas, snakes, turtles, fish, elephants, birds, and some Canadians (no, really. There was a display of Canadian culture, displayed by authentic Canadians). There was a particular bird that was about the size of a buzzard, but made the sound of a shrieking child. Although deafening, it was pretty impressive.

The day was hot, so after a few hours we left to go to my apartment and have lunch. I made my parents a Mexican pizza and some saimin; they were quite impressed with my cooking skills. Refreshed by a good lunch, we traveled to the Pentagon City Fashion Centre for a day of window shopping complete with a stop at the Starbucks. After the Mall, I enjoyed a dinner at Friday's where my order of a steak was mixed up with an order of ribs, so I got a rack of barbeque ribs at the price of a steak (saved about $5). That was pretty awesome. Some games back at the dorm, then bedtime for me and my parents.

We awoke on Sunday morning, and made the trip to Luther Place (a Lutheran Church in the middle of the city with a statue of Martin Luther in the courtyard). After that service, I received a call on my mobile phone from a friend of our family's that moved away about 17 years ago, who is living in D.C. and invited my parents and I to see him, so we met him uptown and had lunch at his apartment.

After lunch, my parents got back on the road (it's about a 6 hour drive home), and I made my way to an apple store to have my ipod earbuds replaced. It was a low-stress, hassle-free visit, and I can listen to Snoop Dogg free from crackles and pops. The family dinner that evening was excellent, with nearly all of us eating too much.

At work, I've been analyzing my SE data and preparing my end-of-summer presentations for the group and for ACP. My data is fitting the models, and the numbers are reasonable! The Dogfishhead has half-price burgers on Mondays, so a bunch of the interns in my office went there. I enjoyed a half pound of ground beef with two slices of cheddar cheese, thick-sliced bacon, barbeque sauce, alehouse sauce, and beer-battered onion rings on a grilled bun with a side of onion rings and an ice-cold root beer. The NIST interns have been preparing to give a tour of the campus to the rest of the ACP interns along with Liz, Gary, and Jack, so we've been making calls, sending emails, and writing schedules. On Wednesday, I presented my progress to the group (CMOS and Novel Devices), and they seem to be pleased.

In the evenings, we've been reading children s books to each other in our respective languages of training (Ann got the books from a library). Kacey, Pat, and I have begun watching episodes of Stargate: Atlantis together, and critiquing the bad physics in the episodes, as well as just enjoying them for their entertainment value (my favorite bad physics moment is when the Ancients' technology doesn't have electrons in it).

I'm scheduled to present most of my summer work at a group meeting next Wednesday, so I hope the analysis keeps going well.

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Week of July 7, 2006

For lunch on friday, Pat, Kacey, some of our coworkers and I went to the Dogfishhead across the street to have lunch and watch the world cup game (Germany/Argentina). The food was amazing, and it was fun to spend some time with the people from work in a less official setting.

I got some noise-canceling headphones so I can listen to podcasts and music on the 140 minutes of commuting each day without the ambient noises of the metro and bus. Every few minutes, the headphones would buzz for about a second, so I exchanged them on Saturday morning for a new pair. The new pair did the same thing, but being a physicist, I had to find out what it was. After various trials, I determined that it's interference from my cell phone. Whenever my phone receives a call or message, or enters or exits a coverage area, the headphones buzz. It's kind of helpful now, because with the noise canceling on, I wouldn't be able to hear the phone ring, but since it buzzes, I know when I'm getting a call.

After the exchange, we went to the Air and Space museum, where we attempted to watch the shuttle launch, but clouds necessitated its cancellation. After work on the 3rd, a few of us went to the Capital Lawn to watch the dress rehearsal of A Capital Fourth, the concert put on for the 4th of July. Jason Alexander was the host, and the guests included Stevie Wonder, Michael Bolton, Elmo, Vanessa Williams, and some others. It was great fun, as was the 20 block walk home. On the 4th, there was much celebration in the Nation's Capital. Many of us went to the Elephant and Castle, a British Pub downtown, to watch the Germany football match. That evening, Kristen, Ann, Erin and I went to the Mall to watch the fireworks, and they were brilliant.

It was then back to work on Wednesday, with my instrument working well, and my data analysis in top form. I did more SE measurements and analysis, and began organizing a tour for the other SPS Interns to see NIST. This weekend should be exciting, with Liz's party, and my parents visit, so stay tuned for more next week.

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Week of June 30, 2006

This week, my supervisor was at a conference presenting a paper, so I was kind of on my own at work. I continued to analyze the SE data, and tried some more to take data on the IPE instrument, but it appears to need repairs. I gave a presentation on the progress of my project to the group during our weekly meeting, and the full-time researchers were pleased with the analysis I had done. On friday, our division chief gave a presentation for all the summer students during which he gave an introduction to all the types of work people in the division are doing, and as an added incentive, he brought pastries, popcorn, Oreos, Cheetos, and candybars. When Dr. Nguyen comes back on monday, i'll be able to take more measurements.

I invited some missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints to talk about their Church, so Pat and I spent friday evening with them discussing theology. During my other evenings this week, I was using an online tutorial on programming html, and I bought a domain, thereby entering the internet era. I tend to make a lot of stir-fry for dinner, so I set the smoke alarm in my room off nearly every day this week, and spent a good bit of time fanning out my room. Andy had a few friends come down from Wisconsin, so we've had some fun visitors to keep us up late.

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Week of June 23, 2006

Hiking at Shenandoah
What an eventful Saturday! We woke up at around 7am to eat breakfast together before heading out to hike and camp at the National Park in Shenandoah. We had a beautiful drive to the park, and began our hike just before 11am. It was a difficult hike, with a net displacement orthogonal to Earth's surface of over half a mile, and a total distance covered of 6 miles each way. About two miles into the hike, we stopped at a beautiful set of high waterfalls and cliffs. After resting our feet in the pool at the bottom, I joked to Bill that I would race him to the top of the cliff. He suggested I climb it alone and just tell him how it goes. I decided it wasn't such a bad idea, and I began my climb barefoot (better grip that way). Upon my arrival at the top, Bill photographed the accomplishment and I began the decent. Climbing down proved to be more difficult than climbing up, and about 30 or 40 feet from the bottom, my hand slipped, and I fell about 15 feet to a small ledge sticking out from the face. Bruised and scraped, though unbroken, I finished the decent to tell the other interns of the adventure.

We made the rest of the hike up the mountain with no major events, and stopped to eat some food. Soon after we had begun hiking down the mountain, however, it began to rain. This was the kind of "big fat rain" Forrest Gump talks about hiking through in Vietnam. The rain was tolerable, as it cooled us down considerably, but it did increase the facility of slipping on the rocks, and it caused some trees to fall. I had the privilege to be a part of one such tree falling incident. As we came around a turn in the path, I heard the cracking of wood nearby me (I was in front of the rest of the group by 15 feet or so), and so I dove for a nearby boulder to keep me safe from the falling tree, but it fell directly on top of the boulder, missing my head by inches. Since the tree was around 60 feet tall and 18 inches across, we had to just climb over it. There was a good bit more thunder and lightning during the remainder of the trip, but it was uneventful. We decided to foreg o the camping and drove back to D.C. for some hot showers and soft beds.

Week of June 23, 2006
The sunglasses have served well to guard me from the day star. When I was returning from a lovely visit to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, made too sudden a movement, and the sunglasses, which were perched neatly on my head, fell into a chasm between the platform and the wall of the metro station. I was ready to leave them there, as our train was arriving, but Ann noticed a custodian mopping the escalator, and she asked him if it would be possible to recover the displaced eyewear. Minutes later, the chivalrous employee returned with an instrument to retrieve my shades. They were in good shape, save for a small scratch on the left lens, so we continued our journey in good spirits. At the ACP picnic on Monday, I used my double-hinged, uv-protectant spectacles as safety glasses while making ice-cream with liquid nitrogen and the high temperature differential experienced at my nose caused one of the bridge welds to break. It was the smaller of the two braces, so I needed only to re-weld or super glue the offending piece back to its proper place. However, on Tuesday evening, while walking back from a visit to the Korean War Memorial, FDR Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial, I bent down to pick up a quarter, and the glasses fell, shattering the remaining bridge brace, leaving my precious sunglasses useless. That ended those glasses' reign as the coolest in D.C., and re-commences my search for the perfect optical aid.

Research has been going well. I've analyzed nearly all the ellipsometry data, and my results have been forwarded to the sample manufacturer. My photoemission work is slow going, as the instrument is not cooperating right now. I've spend a good bit of my time this week reading a few of my supervisor's many published works, and working my way through a semiconductor devices textbook. I attended NIST's Hall of Standards Dedication on Thursday, during which I heard a lecture about the beginnings of standards in the U.S., got free food, and met some important people at NIST. On Wednesday, we had a CMOS and NOVEL devices group meeting during which we listened to the presentations of three group members who were speaking at an upcoming conference. My supervisor was one of the people, and since he was presenting IPE data, I knew what he was talking about better than quite a few people in the room.

The ACP picnic on Monday was fantastic. The food was amazing, and the physics demonstrations were a blast. There were various door prizes, but since most of the interns were doing demonstrations for kids, we weren't around to hear the drawings, so no lcd televisions, dvd recorders, or $100 gas cards for us.

Pat and I spent Saturday afternoon visiting St. Michael's Cathedral, and on the walk home, we had two minor adventures. First was our stop in the Burberry shop, where Pat asked the salesperson the history of the special Burberry pattern. The sales person told us that over 150 years ago, during the World War, the man who started Burberry was commissioned by Britain to make coats for the soldiers. That pattern was what he designed for the inner lining of the coats, and it has become his trademark. Either the date, or the war cited is wrong, but it's a good story, and I would venture to guess that most shoppers don't ask about the history of the pattern. After we left Burberry, we met a man soliciting funds on the street. When we passed him, he asked if we could help him out. I asked if he was hungry, and after an affirmative reply, we took him to eat at McDonalds (his choice). Pat and I discussed theology with him during our walk to and from the golden arches. Once he had his dinner, he walked (well, we walked, he rode in his electric wheelchair) us to the nearest metro, and we headed back for our building for the weekend potluck.

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Week of June 16, 2006

So I didn't find the guy on the street selling sunglasses, but I decided to go to Georgetown and buy some. When I got off the Metro at Rosslyn, I saw a girl I went to college with. She graduated and lives in D.C. now. After talking to her for a while, I continued my trek across the bridge to Georgetown, and at about the midpoint, I passed a girl I went to high school with. She is going to American University, and she was taking her mother shopping in Georgetown. So it's a small world in the big city. As I walked along M street admiring the little shops and restaurants, trying to find someplace that would have bargain sunglasses, I acclimated myself to what I'm told is the posh D.C. scene. After finding some $10.00 shades with 100% UV protection and double-spring hinges (yeah, geeks are suckers for lots of functions even when buying sunglasses), I found my way back to the bridge and home to GWU.

At work, I've continued to do ellipsometry measurements on some samples, and using some really advanced software my supervisor wrote, I'm analyzing the data to determine the sample films optical properties (thickness and dielectric function). I continue to do IPE measurements, and once my supervisor, Dr. Nguyen, writes a program for the analysis of that data, I'll be working on the analysis of that. I'm also attending meetings and safety training sessions and doing everything else I can to get a feel for what a career in this field would be like.

A big part of a research physicist's life appears to be lunch. People gather in the cafeteria or outside under a big tree to discuss their research, philosophy, religion, politics, or anything in which a couple of them have interest. I join in on those discussions and groups when I stay on NIST's campus for lunch, but the best midday meals are when Dr. Nguyen invites me out to lunch with him. We have gone to a great Chinese restaurant a few times so far, and yesterday, he took me to a Vietnamese soup place. The food I've been having is amazing, but rather spicy. I think he likes taking me to these places because while I'm turning red and wiping my forehead, he's pouring more chili sauce on his soup and smiling with a calm, dry face. It's a great life, being an SPS Intern, and there's no better lab to be an intern in than at NIST.

Riding to and from work has become an art. We've shaved the time down to about 55-60 minutes by catching the right trains and picking the right stations. On the way home, Pat and I sometimes get off a few stations early to walk the rest of the way, because we live in such a beautiful city, and it seems foolish to spend so much of our time underground. Playing Frisbee in the hall, eating Swedish Fish, having potlucks, cutting each others hair, and playing with dry ice keep us pretty busy at night, and it's a testament to the quality of our jobs that many of us spend at least a little bit of time each night on our research projects. My cousin boards and trains horses in Waldorf, MD, and I spent last Sunday afternoon repairing a fence there and helping out at the barn. Even though my project is so cool, it was nice to get to do some good 'ol manual labor. This weekend, a bunch of us are planning on seeing the panda at the zoo, and having another of our now-weekly community dinners, and some of the other residents of our building are going to join us.

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Week of June 9, 2006

I've begun my work for SED(1) at NIST(2) through AIP(3) and SPS(4) doing SE(5) and IPE(6). Last night, we spent the evening in downtown DC(7) at a CNSF(8) event, and I spoke with Dr. Arden Bement, Director of NSF(9) and former director of NIST(2). We're staying in GWU(10) rooms, and on tuesday night, one of the residents decided to pull the fire alarm, so adjusting to not being at school is a little easier.

Today, I fell asleep on the metro on the way home, and I missed my stop by a few, but it was a gorgeous day, so I decided to walk past the White House back to my building. With a seventy minute metro commute to and from work each day, i've got to take every chance I can to get to see the city from above ground. The day star seems exceptionally bright these days, and I neglected to bring sunglasses with me. In a city this big, there's got to be that guy on the street with the black garbage bag selling fake Oakleys for $10 and running every time a siren is heard in the distance, but I've yet to find him. Well, this feels rather unorganized, but it's a journal, so...artistic license and such.

1. Semiconductor Electronics Division
2. National Institute of Standards and Technology
3. American Institute of Physics
4. Society of Physics Students
5. Spectroscopic Ellipsometry
6. Internal Photoemission
7. District of Columbia
8. Coalition for National Science Funding
9. National Science Foundation
10. George Washington University (aka "Gee-Triple-You")

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