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2006 SPS National Interns
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Kristen Greenholt
Kristen Greenholt
Univeristy of Richmond, VA

Internship: American Astronomical Society
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

And with a dramatic sigh, this internship concludes. This past week has been a crazy conglomeration of rushing around to finish up our presentations, doing our final DC touring, and spending quality time with all the friends that we have made throughout the past eight weeks.

Saturday we took a brief tour of the White House. The only slot that we could get was at 8:30 in the morning, so we rose early, stumbled out of our dorm, and arrived bleary eyed and half-asleep for a very thorough security check, and a very brief White House tour. While we did not get to see the President, we did see his bicycle and the secret service men who were escorting him on his bike trip. I wonder what would happen if a president ever wanted to run a marathon? I suppose his secret service men would have to be in very good shape! The tour was brief, but I found it very interesting. We learned a good deal more by asking questions of the secret service. They were generally very well-informed and eager to talk, except for the one who told us that he supposed there had to be a couple bedrooms in the house, but he did not know that for sure.

The rest of the weekend was relatively calm, primarily occupied by our attempts to prepare for our final presentations. Sunday was our final intern family dinner, which was quite sad, but a lot of fun too. While stress levels were high, we still had a good time preparing a photo slide show, listening to crazy music, and hanging out on the roof with one another! Finally, after dry runs on Monday, the big day came.

Tuesday morning we arrived up at ACP, dressed to a professional P, and very nervous. We had an audience of roughly 50 to 60 people, comprised of individuals who worked for our sponsor agencies, our co-workers, our bosses, program affiliates, and our friends. All in all, everyone did an amazing job! I heard nothing but positive comments afterwards from the audience. It was really cool to see the comradery, the encouragement, and the enthusiasm which had developed over the summer, between my co-interns, among ourselves, as well as with our bosses, and co-workers. It was a lot of fun to talk to people after the presentations were over. Most of them were very helpful and offered a lot of good career and research advice.

Finally, after a last de-briefing on Wednesday with Liz, we packed up and left on Thursday morning. After eight and a half weeks, our internships were over. Looking back now, I have learned so much, and grown so much in the past few weeks. The internship was a wonderful experience, yielding many priceless connections, lessons, and opportunities. The friendships and the relationships that I made were of priceless worth to me.

As everyone else has said, thank you ever so much to all especially to Liz, Gary, and Susana, who encouraged me, and challenged me, and were not willing to let me settle for second best. Thanks to my co-interns, who laughed with me, cooked with me, cried with me, and loved DC with me! Every experience is yet another step along my path, and each stone laid has its own individual worth, as well as a collective worth in the end result. Thank you all, for being part of my life, my experience, and my adventures.

And so, I bid you adieu and good-day. Hopefully, we shall meet again soon. Until then, signing off and checking out, this has been a summer in the life of Kristen.

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Week of July 28, 2006

Final week! Our internships here in Washington, DC are almost finished, and in exactly one week, we will all be heading back to our respective schools, lives, and homes. It is kind of sad, because I have really enjoyed getting to know my co-interns, and I do not know when I will next get the opportunity to see them.

This week has been crazy with final analysis, data, and presentation practicing. As I mentioned last week, a lot of my time has been spent learning the IRAF program, not doing the actual calculations. As a result, I have actually generated most of the data for my presentation this past week, which has made for a very busy and sometimes stressful week. Thankfully now, with only the final presentation ahead of me, I think I have finished all of my necessary tasks, and am nearly, if not all the way, ready to present on Tuesday.

A couple highlights from this week include:

  1. Discussing politics with Andy, Bill, Katherine and Kacey.
  2. Ann coming home from the AAPT meeting!
  3. Baking brownies and making smoothies for the hot summer days.
  4. Lunch out with my co-workers and bosses.

Seeing as it is the final week, I thought perhaps it would be wise for me to take a minute to reflect back over my summer as a whole. Starting out the summer, I had several very specific goals which I hoped to achieve, and I have been able to accomplish some of them, but not all of them. I have made many networking connections which I will maintain when I leave DC, and I definitely saw every monument that I wanted to see and more! I also learned a ton about astronomy, and science and technology policy. Unfortunately, I did not get to meet Condoleezza Rice or my senators, and wikipedia is still rejecting me, but I have high hopes that at least one of my many acronyms will live on after I leave. I also still have hope that maybe we will be able to get all the interns together in one room before we leave. All in all, I would say I learned a lot, both about my field of study, as well as about myself. A couple of those lessons include:

  • Astronomy and Physics are related fields, but not the same thing. My background is in physics, and as a result, I had a lot to learn this summer about astronomy. Even the vocabulary is completely different.
  • In DC, everyone honks their car horn. However, all honks are not equal; different honks mean different things. For example, there is the you are about to do something stupid honk, and the wow, you just did something stupid honk. There is the hurry up honk, the wow you're gorgeous honk, the I am having a bad day honk and the the motorcade is coming honk. Occasionally, honks even extend to the I am a taxicab and I can honk just because honk.
  • I am not a patient person by nature and I get frustrated when I do not understand a concept or a part of my project. This happened quite often this summer, because I was completely out of my field. I had to learn a lot of patience. With that, I also had to learn how to ask the questions which I would ordinarily consider silly or dumb. I think this is one of the most valuable lessons that I learned this summer, because I will most certainly be faced with many things I do not understand in my coming years. I really am appreciative that I have had the opportunity to be a fish-out-of-water. While not pleasant at times, the reward of finally understanding definitely makes it worth while!
  • Moments of serenity are necessary for sanity. It is very easy to get sucked into the notion that life, especially in DC, has to be constantly moving at the speed of light. I have found, at least for myself, that it is necessary to have down-time, either relaxing and hanging out with my co-interns, or sitting on the roof and watching the sunset. Things get busy quickly, and that is a good thing, but it is important to never lose sight of yourself or others in that rush.
  • A five-minute elevator talk is a lot harder than it sounds.
  • There is an acronym for everything, and if there is not yet, I will come up with one!

Just as a final reminder of all those lovely acronyms, here are all the ones I have invented so far (minus the ones that I borrowed), so that you can decide on your favorite, and attempt to maintain it until its untimely demise!

  1. It is important to dress BC & P: business casual and professional
  2. I am NAUCT: not awake until coffee time
  3. There is NSTDQ: no such thing as a dumb question
  4. There are TMA: too many acronyms!
  5. Wow! That was OTB: Obvious Tourist Behavior
  6. On all escalators, please observe SPOTR standards: Slow People On The Right
  7. There is nothing worse than an ECP: Empty Coffee Pot
  8. Wednesday is normally a FCD: Five Cup Day
  9. The metro was clogged with lots of BOT: Blobs of Tourists
  10. Stay tuned for updates on the SICB: Summer Intern Cook Book
  11. Mondays seem especially prone to DCRS: DC Rain Storms
  12. Susana's rule of thumb is 30MHB, then ask for help: 30 Minutes of Head-Banging
  13. I love DC, but it is very nice to have some TOC: Time Out of the City.
  14. Everyone in DC is united under the POE: Politics of Everything.
  15. We had only the DECAF variety of coffee at work this week: Dastardly Extracted of Caffeine and Actually Flavor-free.
  16. Everyone is feeling the LMC, as our projects come to a end: Last Minute Crunch
  17. After a long day at work, there s nothing like a good ICBD to help you relax and calm down: Ice Cream Before Dinner
  18. I feel that I am known by everyone for my CDH: Coffee Drinking Habits.

So, until next time, this is Kristen, signing off and checking out. There will be one more journal entry, following our presentations and reflecting on my favorite parts of the summer. Then, next step: world.

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Week of July 21, 2006

One week remaining and oh so much work still left to do! I think all of us are starting to get a little bit nervous about our final presentations, and whether or not we will be done with our projects. Mine is definitely going to come down to the wire, but I think I can at least reach a reasonable stopping place, if not finish my task.

Work Checklist:

  • Position Paper: done
  • Dust mapping
    1. Create ratio images through BVRJHK filters: done
    2. Create contour maps to determine the dusty areas: mostly done
    3. Analyze data for dust concentrations and distribution: not done
  • Presentation: started but needs analyzed data
  • Phone calls to Representatives (new task): not done

The process of creating ratio images took a while longer than expected due to a number of factors, including different sized images that had be rescaled, images that were taken on different nights, which had to be shifted so that the stars would align properly in order to create a ratio image that was accurate, etc. Then, the scales for the contour plots had to be determined from the data, which was simple, but tedious. Everything I have done for the past two weeks can be done with eleven IRAF (Image Reduction Analysis Facility) commands. Now that I know the commands, it is not difficult to execute them, but determining which commands I needed took a long time and lots of trial-and-error. I am hoping to use this last week to analyze my results, completing an effective dust map of this particular galaxy. Several years ago, a man named E.D. Commins published a paper hypothesizing that, similar to our own Milky Way galaxy, the majority of dust in other spiral galaxies would be concentrated in the arms of the galaxy. Hopefully my analysis will enable us to determine whether or not this is true.

In addition, I also will continue working on my final presentation, as well as finish calling every representative in the House whose last name begins with an M or an N. This is Kristen from the American Astronomical Society, and I am calling to inquire whether the Representative will be hosting or attending any town hall meetings during the August recess. We are using this information to create a database for our members in your district. Oh yes, it is fun!

And, in short, other adventures and highlights include:

  • Drive-by-Truckers (DBT) concert on Saturday with college friends
  • Free swimming pool on Sunday, thanks to the heat advisory
  • Family dinner on Sunday, complete with my first experience of Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Tour of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) on Monday: I really enjoyed seeing the Newtonian apple tree!
  • Seeing an old friend from high school on Tuesday
  • Wonderful conversation with Pat on the roof
  • Tour of the Capitol on Thursday: Thanks, Jackie for arranging that!
  • Peach pie (thanks to Ann) at 11pm on Thursday night
  • Spending 24 out of 57 hours this weekend in the car going to and from a friend's wedding (11 hours there, 11 hours back, and 2 hours driving around while there). Concurrently, I re-discovered my inner 5-year old: Are we there yet?

This week is busy with last minute deadlines and crunches, so this journal entry will be short. Finally, a few acronyms for ASIV:

  • Everyone is feeling the LMC, as our projects come to a end: Last Minute Crunch
  • After a long day at work, there s nothing like a good ICBD to help you relax and calm down: Ice Cream Before Dinner
  • I feel that I am known by everyone for my CDH: Coffee Drinking Habits. (Ergo, I cannot let this week go by without a reference to my favorite beverage!)
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Week of July 14, 2006
And the countdown begins. Walking on the beach this past weekend, I was telling a good friend, sometimes it feels more apt to say that my home is on public transportation, rather than trying to describe where I actually live. So much of the past few years has been spent living in varying locations that it really is hard to define home anymore. For me, home is merely where I am at that exact point in time. We are now down to just over two and a half weeks left here, so mentally, I am preparing myself for the move again. It is kind of exciting!

My projects are well under-way now, although not nearly finished. The deadlines are seeming oh so near in the future. My position paper has passed approval in the AAS executive office, and is now being sent on to the Astronomy Education Board (AEB), where it will begin the next stage of review. Hopefully that will conclude before the end of the summer. I am now working on dust mapping a spiral galaxy called IC4402, which is located in the constellation Lupus, at approximate RA 14 hrs, DEC -46 degrees. I spend most of my time doing data manipulation with IRAF, looking at lots of pictures of this very pretty galaxy. Learning IRAF, as well as concurrently learning the astronomy background material, has been challenging and even hard. I feel like I am learning a lot, although occasionally pulling out my hairs in the process. Basically, I am looking at the galaxy through a bunch of different wavelength filters, and looking for the effects caused by dust, by creating comparative images through division, summation, or other manipulations. Ultimately, we will create a dust profile, and hopefully figure out something about its distribution and density in this particular galaxy.

On Wednesday, Susana sent me down to the hill to attend a House Research and Development Caucus on Japanese Science and Technology Policy. Dr. Yukio Sato, the former head of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST) was presenting about the Japanese five-year plan for S&T, and Susana thought it would be interesting for me to attend, considering that Japan is one of the countries that has implemented a highly successful S&T plan, similar to the one that the US is currently trying to enact through the PACE Act and the ACI. I thought it was very interesting to see the parallels between the Japanese policy, and the US proposed policy, in light of the research I had done myself. I also randomly ran into one of my good friends' former roommates, which was highly surprising and fun! Plus, I got to see Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) and meet several other people from the NAS, the Girl Scouts International, and the AAAS!

This past weekend, I packed up and went down to Richmond for the weekend. Upon my arrival, three of my girl friends and I spontaneously decided to take a sunrise beach trip down to Virginia Beach on Saturday. At 3:30am, we rolled out of Richmond and drove the 2 hours east to VA beach, arriving at 5:30am, just in time for the sunrise, which occurred veiled behind cloud cover, unfortunately invisible to us. Regardless, the trip was well worth it, and our twelve hours in the sun were oh so relaxing and restful. There is something to be said about the beach at 6:00am; it is so quiet and untarnished, and all you can hear is the squawks of the seagulls and the crashing of the waves. There is something so serenely peaceful about it all. The crazy fun came later, as four more friends arrived, and we spent the day playing in the surf and sand, kayaking on the waves, and attempting not to get whistled in by the overzealous lifeguard. When we arrived back in Richmond that night, we were exhausted, sun-tinted, and sandy, but had thoroughly enjoyed our trip outside of the busy city atmosphere.

Upon arriving back in DC on Sunday, I went down to the pub to watch the World Cup final, Italy-France, and had a jovial time cheering Italy into victory. The Zidane head-butt, and Buffon's fantastic save for Italy thoroughly made the game, despite having to go into penalty kicks once again. While I still feel that the final would have been better with Germany-Italy, I was quite pleased with the results. Later that evening, a few of us walked down to Borders to check out some new reading material, only to discover that it closed early. Pat and Alex metroed back, but Ann and I decided to walk the 10 blocks. As we were passing Freedom Square, we saw a large group of people doing the tango out in the middle of the square. We (of course) stopped to watch, and one very zealous 60-year old man pulled me out onto the dance floor for a lesson, because he was an instructor. He was very nice, but rather rotund, so doing the tango face-on turned into belly-on in his case. It was rather hilarious actually, and definitely made the night more random. Besides, now I know how to ochento!

The rest of the week has kind of gone by in a slow motion blur. It has seemed to crawl along, broken up by a few exciting moments, like seeing an old high school friend and her husband Thursday night, or talking to a good friend long-distance to Germany, or catching up with my co-interns in the hallway during stretch time. I am really looking forward to the weekend, though. This has been a good week, but very draining in a lot of ways, and I'm really anticipating some good down-time. Hopefully the weekend will be rejuvenating!

Finally, as a wrap-up, a few more acronyms from ASIV:
  • Susana's rule of thumb is 30MHB, then ask for help: 30 Minutes of Head-Banging
  • I love DC, but it is very nice to have some TOC: Time Out of the City.
  • Everyone in DC is united under the POE: Politics of Everything. Not to be confused with TOE (Theory of Everything) or Edgar Allen Poe, etcetera.
  • We had only the DECAF variety of coffee at work this week: Dastardly Extracted of Caffeine and Actually Flavor-free. Yes, this intentionally bears a striking resemblance to the abbreviation for decaffeinated.
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Week of July 7, 2006

Ah! Five weeks into our internships! Where is the time going? Our final presentations are coming up very soon in the future, and that is just a bit scary! Wow, time sure does fly.

At any rate, I have finally finished the first completed draft of my position paper. It has been approved by Susana, and is now making its way through the AAS channels of executive approval and editing. It is really quite a relief to be done with that, as it has occupied nearly 5 weeks of my internship. I am now moving on to dust mapping, and am re-learning the Linux OS and learning how to navigate IRAF. It is kind of exciting to be working on something new! I think this project will be both challenging and fun. All of the astronomy jargon is new to me, so I find myself asking a lot of basic level questions, which is both a lesson in humility, and a great learning experience, although frustrating at times.

I have moved into a new office, and am now in the wide open space belonging to the computer tech guy. Scott is rapidly becoming my best friend, because any time I have problems, if Susana is not around, he gets to field my questions. Most of the time that entails, 'HELP! Scott, what did I just do!?' Most of the Linux is coming back pretty quickly though, so that is helpful. I suppose it is like riding a bike. I am a little rusty at the moment, but hopefully it will not be long until I am up and moving again.

This week progressed with the same rapid pace as the four previous weeks have, except that we had an additional day off! On Monday evening, Alex, Ann, Erin, Katherine, and I went to the Capitol Fourth concert on the capitol lawn, and watched the rehearsal for the official concert to follow the next day. Despite the fact that it was only a rehearsal, evidenced by the fact that they had to repeat a few of the numbers, there were still near 400,000 people present. While the concert was hosted by Jason Alexander, and Jojo and Michael Bolton made appearances, I would say the highlights for me were definitely an appearance by Sesame Street's Elmo, and the guest performance of Stevie Wonder. Afterwards, because the metro was clogged up with lots of Blobs of Tourists (BOT), we walked the 23 blocks home, which was quite refreshing!

On the fourth itself, I went back to Elephant and Castle to watch the semi-final round of the World cup, of Germany versus Italy. Because the UK went out in quarterfinals, I switched my allegiance to Germany, and, like the majority of the pub, was bitterly disappointed in their heartbreaking loss in the last three minutes. The game was absolutely spectacular, and I must say, it was the best game that I saw in the entire cup! Ya Deutschland!

Afterwards, I met up with the rest of the interns, and we watched the fireworks on the mall. The show was brilliantly executed, and quite enjoyable. It was wonderful to celebrate the fourth in DC, but it has made me think a lot about what it means to be American, and moreover, what it means to be proud to be an American. After being abroad for this past semester, I would have to say that my ideas on that have changed quite a bit, and I see America in quite a different light. I have realized more, in many ways, the benefits and privileges that we have here. But in many other ways, I also see the ways that we fail to use those rights for the common good. I am proud to be an American, and I am grateful for the rights we possess. But more than anything, I want to do something worthwhile with those rights. For me, being American entails not only having rights, but using them judiciously, respectfully, and selflessly. Certainly it means more than just the ability to have rights to freedom, and freedom of expression, or the ability to set off fireworks on the fourth of July. But what does it really mean? Perhaps more to follow on this soon. I still need to sort out my thoughts.

Finally, as usual, a couple new acronyms for the pot of soup which is already brewing and stewing quite well:

  • The metro was clogged with lots of BOT: Blobs of Tourists
  • Stay tuned for updates on the SICB: Summer Intern Cook Book
  • Mondays seem especially prone to DCRS: DC Rain Storms
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Week of June 30, 2006

Some days it is quite hard to get your thoughts flowing into coherent patterns, especially early in the mornings. For me, it is always difficult until I've had my obligatory three cups of coffee, but today seems to be an exception, even to that rule. Thankfully, Susana and I share a common dependence on caffeine, so there is always a ready supply of coffee in the office.

At any rate, this week started out quite eventfully with the torrential downpours which left half of DC under water, causing breakdowns in public transport, and basically bringing DC to a standstill for a few days. Luckily, AAS is on the fourth floor of the AGU building and was left quite high and dry; others were not so lucky. The metro was down in several places, Amtrak trains were stopped, and buildings were flooded. I can only wonder where the 15-40,000 homeless DC residents went to escape the many days of rain.

I am now well under-way on the position paper, and am hoping to finish it this coming week. At that point in time, I will hopefully begin working on dust mapping. As a result, the first part of this week was basically consumed with nothing except this paper. On Thursday and Friday, I was up at ACP for the comPADRE editors meeting with Susana, which was actually quite informative and interesting. While my job centers largely on discussing the AAS educational resources and initiatives, I really did not know that much about comPADRE prior to the meeting. It was really interesting to get an inside look at what goes on in a professional board meeting, in order to create a database like those that I search every day. I learned a lot, and felt much more informed that I had previously. It was fun to feel like I could contribute a something as well! My compliments also to the ACP chef or caterer; the food was delicious!

This weekend, we had quite a jolly good time, playing in some fountains, sitting out on the roof, going to a local pool, and catching some sights on the mall. On Saturday morning, Erin and Ann and I went to a traditional British pub to watch the UK versus Portugal quarterfinal World Cup game. I was quite bitterly disappointed in the UK loss, but it was nice to be back in a British setting, surrounded by the red and white, even though briefly. We met a guy who claimed to be the French ambassador to the US's son, which was exciting. We later found out that the French ambassador had two daughters and no sons. I guess that must have been a new form of pick up line?

We have been here long enough now that I do not really feel like a tourist any more. It has been nice to get away from that a little bit, exploring a bit more of the real city. We still go to museums and such, but more of my life is now occupied with hanging out in my now familiar locations. I am actually starting to feel like DC is my city, strange as that sounds.

And, on a final note, here are a couple more acronyms for the never-ending soup. Perhaps these are motivated by the growing crowds; perhaps they are not:

  • Wow! That was OTB: Obvious Tourist Behavior
  • On all escalators, please observe SPOTR standards: Slow People On The Right
  • There is nothing worse than an ECP: Empty Coffee Pot
  • Wednesday is normally a FCD: Five Cup Day

And, on that note, I am going to go fill up my ECP, because I am NAUCT and today is definitely going to be a FCD.

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Week of June 23, 2006

Hiking in Shenandoah
This past weekend, Ann, Alex, Bill, Erin, Kacey, Erin s boyfriend Ryan, and I headed up to the Shenandoah Valley to hike the White Oak Canyon trail, crossing the Appalachian Trail, and finishing at the summit of Hawksbill Peak (see photos here). We met up with four of my friends from Richmond, and began our hike: seven miles to the crest, and seven miles back. While the weather report had been calling for flash flooding, and heavy rain storms, we saw no sign of that on the way up. The weather was actually ideal for hiking, at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and mostly cloudy.

We all made it the five or six miles up to Skyline drive with relatively few incidents; Kacey landed in middle of a pond, Alex fell down the side of a waterfall, and Ann went swimming with her watch on, but nothing horribly worrisome happened. We even met some kind hikers from Texas who allowed us to refill our water bottles, using their water purifying pump and a near-by stream. Bill, Ann, Chris, Elizabeth, Jenny, and I then continued on to the top of Hawksbill, another mile or so ahead, at a good forty-five degree angle. Afterwards, I was painfully aware of several new muscles that I had not previously known existed. The view was amazing, though, and that made it quite worth while! Ann and I made peanut butter sandwiches, and Bill took a nap on the edge of a cliff, and then we headed back down to meet up with the rest of the group. By this time, the clouds had begun to roll in, and were looking rather ominous.

We made it about half a mile, and then the raindrops began to fall. Mind you, these were not small dainty raindrops, like the kind that you find on rose petals; these were big fat, husky raindrops. I felt like I needed windshield wipers for my eyes. Within minutes, we were all soaking wet! However, two deer walked across the trail right in front of us, literally ten feet away. Apparently the torrential rain had dulled their fear of us, because they did not act scared in the slightest, despite the boys talk of having venison for dinner.

Continuing on our way down the mountain, the nearly flooded stream showed evidence that the flash flood warnings were legitimate, but we managed to cross it without incident. By this time, however, the thunder and lightning had begun, and so we began moving a little more quickly. All of a sudden, with a gigantic crash, a huge tree fell right across the trail, effectively splitting our group into two; five people past the tree, five behind, and Alex directly underneath it, saved only by the large boulder which diverted the tree's path of descent. After making sure that he was alright, we all agreed that this definitely made for the story of the weekend! About twenty minutes later, there was a huge bolt of lightning and an instantaneous thunder clap. We literally saw the lightning hit the ground, right nearby; a perfect sky-to-ground bolt. Still slightly shaken from Alex's near death experience, we all had different reactions; some of us hit the ground, others took off running, and some merely stood in shock and wonder. However, despite the trees falling, lightning striking, and rivers flooding, we all made it safely back to the cars alive and whole, although drenched to the skin. We decided against attempting to pitch a tent and camp out, and opted to drive home instead.

All in all, the weekend was quite wet, wild, and absolutely spectacular. In the paraphrased words of one of my co-interns, it was freakin' awesome!

Week of June 23rd
Washington DC is such a fascinating coagulation of people, groups, and interests. It s 100% symmetrical, home to every set of opposites; it plays host to the national, the international, the rich, the poor, the intellectual, the layman, the student, the teacher, the political and the apolitical. It makes the perfect circle, covering all angles of the population. The only asymmetrical trends which I can find are a consistent lack of time, and an across-the-board coffee addiction. Even the man, who begs on the street corner, two blocks from my office, holds out a just-emptied Starbucks cup to gather his change. The contrasts are ironic to me; I work in a professional office, in a nice neighborhood, mere blocks away from embassy row, and less than a mile from the White House, yet next to my door, there sits a man who has no shoes, and wears plastic bags to protect his feet from the hot asphalt. It scarcely seems possible that such opposites can co-exist in such a small place. It does not make sense to me. But at any rate, that is enough of a philosophical ramble for now.

At work, I have continued to do background research on the PACE Act, ACI, and RAGS, and finally today actually will start to put pen-to-paper and begin drafting my position paper for AAS, hopefully finishing early next week. I have also been doing a good deal of reading about Interstellar Dust, and the mathematics of Galactic Dust mapping. Susana also introduced me to the Image Reduction and Analysis Facility (IRAF), the astronomy software package that I will be using to do my analysis, once I finally get up-and-running on that project. It is crazy to think that I have already been here for three weeks. I am nearly halfway done with this internship, and it feels like I just began.

This week has also been full of meetings. On Monday, we all had the annual AIP/ACP picnic, which was a fantastic success, despite the downpour of rain which soaked the latter half of the day. The BBQ, although not quite Lexington quality, was delicious, and the liquid Nitrogen ice cream was a brilliant success. Although we interns did not win any raffle prizes, it was quite worth it to be there, just to see our bosses doing karaoke. Yes, there are pictures!

Wednesday night, I had a meeting with Dr. Ann Carlson, the Senior Policy and Planning Associate at the National Science Foundation (NSF). I had met her at the CNSF event, and had set up a follow-up meeting to talk more about science policy. Dr. Carlson is very down-to-earth, and what I thought would be a 15 minute meeting turned into an exceptionally pleasant hour filled with stories, advice, information, direction and encouragement. I left virtually walking on air!

Thursday night, I had a meeting with two professors from George Washington University (GWU), to talk about a joint master's program in Physics and Science Policy. While they could offer nothing conclusive, it did give me some more ideas to think about, and a bit more direction as to what I would have to do to prepare for a graduate level program. It is so scary to think that I only have one year left of college, and that I am at a point where I have to make decisions about post-college now.

All in all, following the past week of meetings, I feel very professional, very grown-up, and very uncertain how I, at a maturity level of age five, got to this time and place so quickly! Perhaps the weather last night reflected my troubled thoughts, as we had several hours worth of insane lightning and thunder.

This weekend, we interns are heading up to Shenandoah National Park to hike the White Oak Canyon trail with its beautiful waterfalls, and possibly Old Rag as well. We plan on camping out as well, but we will see, depending on the weather. I am really excited! I have not been to the Valley in several months, and am looking forward to its quiet serenity, far away from the city lights. Perhaps we will even be able to see more than fifteen stars!

And now, finally, as promised, a few goals (general first, then specific) for this summer:

  1. Learn more about astronomy; more specifically, to have a greater than basic level of understanding about the night sky.
  2. Experience as much of DC as possible; more specifically, make at least five networking connections that I will maintain after leaving DC, and visit all of the major national monuments.
  3. Have all the SPS interns together in the same room, without it being mandatory, required or strongly suggested.
  4. Meet Condoleezza Rice and my Senators and Representative.
  5. Be featured in a non-deleted Wikipedia article.
  6. Create at least one new acronym that will live on after our stay in DC.

And as an attempt at achieving goal number six, here are a few new suggestions from this week:

  1. It is important to dress BC & P: business casual and professional
  2. I am NAUCT: not awake until coffee time
  3. There is NSTDQ: no such thing as a dumb question
  4. There are TMA: too many acronyms!
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Week of June 16, 2006

This past weekend (15th-18th June), traveling home to North Carolina to be the maid-of-honor in a dear friend s wedding, I had the fortune to sit next to a nice, but very talkative former English major, for the entire seven hour trip. Upon hearing that I had a physics/astronomy internship he remarked, Oh, since you re a scientist, I bet you read a lot of science fiction, don't you? I had to giggle a bit, especially when he attempted to impress me by informing me that he actually knew a lot about physics because he did read a lot of science fiction

At any rate, we have now finished our second week of work here in D.C. Wow! Since every moment has its own excitement, let me merely tell you a bit about my job, and hit a couple highlights (rather than bore you with page after page of stories):

My internship is really two pronged: policy research and astronomy research.

Policy: I'm doing a lot of background reading on the PACE Act (Preserving America s Competitive Edge), the RAGS report (Rising Above the Gathering Storm), and President s ACI (American Competitiveness Initiative) for the policy part of my internship. Ultimately, I'll be writing a position paper on how the AAS (American Astronomical Society) can contribute to this initiative. At the moment, my stack of reading materials is approximately .2032 meters tall, and continuing to grow. I stand at 1.6764 m, so there is no reason to fear yet.

Astronomy: Starting today, I'll be doing a little bit of dust mapping on extra-galactic spiral galaxies. If that sounds foreign or out-of-this-world (no pun intended) to you, never fear, it is to me as well. I was a little worried that I would not have the background for this part of the job, because I don't know a lot about galaxies or dust mapping, but Susanna, my supervisor, has been really patient with me, and is an excellent teacher. In addition to the physics of it all, I also have to learn how to work with the software and programming language, so I'm sure that will be quite a learning experience as well.

In general, the atmosphere around the AAS office is quite pleasant, and my co-workers have all been very welcoming to me. On Thursday the 15th, the entire office went out to an amazing Brazilian restaurant called Fogo de Chao for a retirement luncheon for Dr. Robert Milkey, the Executive Officer of AAS. The food was delicious, and it was a lot of fun to be able to get to know my co-workers a bit more. I was lucky enough to sit next to Dr. Milkey, and really enjoyed carrying on conversation with him. I can't get over how down-to-earth everyone is.

I've also really enjoyed the extra events that AIP plans for us. Friday the 9th of June was the SPS Executive Committee Picnic up at ACP, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Dr. John S. Toll, current President of the University of Maryland, and a long time elementary particle physicist. It was fascinating to talk to him about his current research and his work during WWII. I am still in awe that I was able to serve iced tea to one of the men who worked on the Manhattan Project, and had personally met Dr. Oppenheimer, Dr. Bohr, and Dr. Heisenberg. Wow! It was like physics history coming alive.

In intern news and daily life, we've started the tradition of a weekly dinner, where we all bring a dish, and congregate in someone's room to enjoy a family style meal. I think we all agree; this is one of our favorite nights of the week! My co-interns are a lot of fun, and all superb cooks! Not only do we eat very well (eleven courses!), but we also have a blast catching up, and hanging out. It's hard to believe only two short weeks ago, we didn't know each other at all. And to demonstrate just how wonderful they are: I had told the girls that one of my life goals was to be featured on the wikipedia.org encyclopedia. When I returned to DC last night, exhausted after traveling all day, several of them came rushing into the room carrying Alex's laptop they had written a wikipedia article about me, and posted it, to help me realize my goal! Of course, it was removed within an hour because I did not yet have historical significance or searchable relevance, but it still made my night!

Finally, as promised, here are a few acronyms from ASIV (Alphabet Soup of the Intern Variety). These are real alternative definitions to some of the common acronyms which we encounter every day, working for AIP, demonstrating again how important it is for us pay attention to the alphabet soup game during orientation:

  • NSF: Norges Sjakkforbund (Norwegian Chess Association)
  • AIP: American International Pictures (an American movie company)
  • ACP: Association of Chess Professionals (an organization to protect professional chess players' rights and promote the game of chess)
  • APS: Apostrophe Protection Society
  • SPS: Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement

Imagine what would happen, were we to use these definitions on accident:

  • We're applying for funding from the Norges Sjakkforbund
  • We're attending the Association of Chess Professionals picnic on Monday

That's all for now more next time!

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Week of June 9, 2006

As the end of my first week of interning at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) draws to a close, I can scarcely believe that time has flown by this rapidly. A week ago, I was casually walking around in central London, watching the presentation of the Queen's life guard, having just finished my last exams of study abroad. Now, I am a card-holding, background-checked, fully-oriented, and coffee-addicted Society of Physics Students (SPS) intern. To be fair, the coffee addiction came before I arrived here in DC, but regardless... it scarcely seems possible that things have changed so much in just a week's time.

We began our first week with the craziness that is orientation, starting with alphabet soup pertaining to the infamous DC acronyms, proceeding on to work-place orientation (the indefinable "business-casual"), continuing with the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) event, and concluding with a weeks worth of the general research which is just a small part of my overall experience while here in DC. My boss has been out-of-town at a conference all week, so I can only imagine that things will get even more interesting when she returns! At any rate, here are a few lessons I've learned in my first week on the job:

  1. Comfortable shoes are a must-have item: no amount of pretty can compensate for multiple blisters and aching feet.
  2. In DC, there is an acronym for everything. My list of need-to-know acronyms is rather extensive now, so I have decided to add to that list, creating my own ingenious abbreviations. You may expect reports from ASIV (Alphabet Soup of the Intern Variety) in the near future.
  3. When using an automatic industrial coffee pot, one must realize that the water begins flowing immediately through the mechanisms; therefore, not placing an empty pot in ready position could lead to large amounts of very hot water running freely. Of course, I am not speaking from personal experience
  4. There is a Starbucks on literally every corner in DC.

And a moment for brief reflection on the CNSF event that we attended on Wednesday:

I always enjoy things of this nature, not only because of the supreme awkwardness which they induce, but also because they offer a variety of opportunities to learn and explore new things about which I previously knew very little. Aside from gaining knowledge about which shoes NOT to wear, I had the opportunity to learn about the development of soy beans and soy products, the correlation between mass and aggressiveness in spiders, and the formulation of racial bias in children. Surprisingly, by taking the time to have detailed conversations in subject areas about which I knew very little, I actually found correlations which I would not have expected, e.g. comparing the growing environment of soy beans with the learning environment of elementary school children.

I also had the opportunity to witness a small portion of the political environment which surrounds scientific research. This was both interesting and mildly disturbing to me. Most scientific organizations and professors will tell you that their two primary goals are (1) scientific innovation, discovery and advancement, and (2) education. Unfortunately, there is also a third, which they neglect to mention, but have to deal with, and that is receiving adequate funding. Unfortunately, this third goal tends to limit the realization of the first two. The nature of the CNSF event demonstrated the necessity of the third. At the event, I watched as researchers presenting their work, or discussing it with students, had to place politicking for finances on a higher tier than discussing their work with students. This makes perfectly logical sense: if they don t get adequate funding, they cannot continue their research. Mind you, this is not a critique of either set of individuals, but rather just an observation tinged with sadness. In my simple mind, I believe that innovation and education should always come first. Scientific funding should be secure, so that scientific innovation and education can advance without hindrance. In an ideal world, money should not matter. But that is a rather idealistic perspective At any rate, it was interesting to watch. I am sure that I will have many more opportunities of this nature, in which to expand my horizons and learn new things. For now, this has been a random ramble into the mind of Kristen.

Next up, Kristen s goals for the summer, and an update from ASIV 2006 :-)

P.S. The World Cup starts today! Go USA and UK!

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