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2009 SPS National Interns
2009 Interns | Past Interns | About the Program

  • Introduction
  • Online Journal
  • Final Presentation
  • Where Are They Now?
Erin Balsamo Erin Balsamo
McDaniel College (Westminster, MD)
Internship: NASA-Goddard Spaceflight Center
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HELLO EVERYBODY!!!

I am Erin Balsamo and I just graduated from McDaniel College (previously known as Western Maryland College), which is located in Westminster Maryland. I have a minor in Math and have taken a few class in computer science and philosophy. I interned at NASA Goddard last year (2008) with a different program. I worked with Goddard and the University of Maryland on research about the conversion efficiencies of neutral atoms to negative ions on select surfaces. In the fall I am starting a PhD program in physics at UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County). I do not know what I want to do yet when I finish but Goddard is at the top of my list. I always like to keep my options open though.

Other than my classes, I run track and enjoy being outdoors and working out. My other activities in school are KME (math honors society), SPS (president) / Sigma Pi Sigma, and Gamma Sigma Sigma (service sorority). I also like to cook, snow board, scuba dive and love spending time at the beach. Since I am a Baltimore native, my favorite sports teams are of course the O's and the Ravens!

~Erin

Erin Balsamo Erin Balsamo
McDaniel College (Westminster, MD)
Internship: NASA-Goddard Spaceflight Center
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Final Reflections Friday, July 31st Friday, July 10th Friday, June 19th
Photo Album Friday, July 24th Friday, July 3rd Friday, June 12th
Friday, August 7th Friday, July 17th Friday, June 26th Friday, June 5th

Final Reflections

Over all, this internship was a good experience for me.  I got to experience living in a city, particularly Washington DC.  I have realized really fast that I never want to live in a city again.  By all means, it’s not bad; I just really like being away from everything more than being in the middle of it all.  I like having a yard and having my own space.  Living there this summer made me realize what I really like.  However, I liked living with a whole bunch of people at one time.  It is convenient to see everyone everyday and go out after work or just hang out.  Everyone was really nice and I got along with everyone.  Also living with people who did different things at work was fun because I could find out how their work life was and basically “shop around” for job option in the future.  There was also a group of political science students down the hall from us who we hung out with a lot.  I even saw one of them on the front page of their school’s website with Bill Clinton.  Living in DC is awesome in that you are near the biggest news in the country every day.  I saw hearing about science and could visit the capitol any time I wanted to.  The city is the perfect place for the people into everyday politics and policy.  With public transportation so easily accessible, it is very easy to get around within the city limits, but not outside of the metropolitan area with out paying a lot of money.

I also learned a lot more about Goddard and how the people work there.  I learned about the opportunities of jobs when I graduate with a PhD.  I am still indecisive of what exactly I want to do when I finally get out of school, but I don’t really need to know yet either.  I am also getting a published paper out of this experience which will be my second paper.  All I got to do now is finish the paper.  This was not one of those internships where I would go in for the summer, do a project, and be done.  It was supposed to be like that, but it was not at all.  Science is something that never stops.  A project is never complete.  It is close to impossible to complete one project in a summer, especially a, experimental project.  When working a lab, in particular a government lab, you need to wait for other people to do a part of the project you are working on for you to actually do anything else to the project.  A project in a lab is rarely a one person thing and everyone at Goddard is working on multiple projects so no one person has the time to just work on one project the entire day.  Therefore, it takes a long time to finish one thing.  This is the reason I was not able to do much in the one project I was supposed to do.  I was not able to take any results because someone else would do it, or I was not available at the time of day.  Scientist are basically their own bosses so they do everything on their own.  Being a scientist is no regular job.  This is what I took from working at Goddard.

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Friday, August 7th

This last week was a week.  I was not here during the weekend because I had to go to a wedding.  On Monday, we had the tour at NIST which went quite well.  We saw the neutron laboratory where people can apply to use the equipment there to do their experiments.  There was also this room with silicon walls on the inside that the guys showing us around designed.  At the end of this room, they were showing us how they took pictures of fuel cells.  I really like this idea because I like cars and any way I can find to relate physics to automotives is great!  We then saw the museum with the original instruments used to make measurements; the original meter and the original kilogram.  They then decided to use constants of nature to formalize the units of measurements.  Light is a constant used for most of them.  The coolest part about the tour was literally cool.  Laser Cooling.  They could even stop a little plasma of light but trapping it and it was at a very low temperature of 100 micro Kelvin.

On Tuesday was my last day at Goddard.  My mentor was not there because he had to leave for this week but I went in and worked on my paper all day and then emailed Fred about the parts that I completed so far.

On Wednesday we all went to ACP for our final gathering.  We filled out a few surveys about the entire internship and talked a lot about the things we did.  We took some pictures and got some more free T-shirts!  I also took some colored putty because I already have the glow in the dark putty from the beginning.

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Friday, July 31st

Being our last full week here at Goddard, this week has been kind of full.  I have realized what I need to continue with when I leave and what I really accomplished this summer.

On Monday, Brian and I were taken to a pizza party lunch and presentation for the interns in the Instrument Systems and Technology Division.  The Detector Systems Branch is a branch of this division which is a division of the Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate.  It was nice to get a free lunch that I forgot about!  Ross Henry of Code 551, the Optics Branch, gave a presentation about cameras he made to put on Hubble.  He was telling us how awesome it is to work at NASA and that he went down to Kennedy when his cameras went up and then flew directly to Johnson to do some programs and analysis with this instruments when they reached space.  He said that he could see the instruments in the craft to make sure noting fell apart and that everything survived the takeoff.

Thursday was the tour here at NASA, which I believe went really well.  Some people may have thought it was a little long but I think it was worth it because we got to see a lot.  We started by visiting the visualization lab.  Horace Mitchell showed us some of his work there, which was pretty cool.  I really like computer graphics and found this interesting.  One thing we saw is the orbit path of LRO as it leaves earth and is sent to the moon.  In that lab they use data that scientists have collected to make their graphics accurate and conceptual.  We then went to lunch at Ruby Tuesdays and after lunch we let Mary Li of Code 553 show us around the Detector Development Lab (DDL).  All of us put on clean suits and went in the clean room.  We has to go through the air bath as well.  In the DDL they are constructing shutters which will be used in the James Webb as cameras.  They can decide what shutters to open and which ones to close.  After that we went over to the MEMS project.  They also put some shutters together over there as well.  This building was connected with building 29.  This building houses the largest cross air clean room in the world!  We also saw the big centrifuge which is basically used as a storage room.  The room that has LRO in it last year now has the parts of the Hubble that SM4 brought back.  Brian and I noticed the cameras on MULE (one piece of it) that Ross Henry created and talked about to us on Monday.

I am now working on a paper that I am going to get published.  There is the paper about the star camera.  I went over a brief outline with Fred today and I am hopefully gong to get this finished before I have to start school in September.  I will remain in communication with him to get this done and probably come back to Goddard at least once to work on this.

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Friday, July 24th

This week has been a very slow week.  I have been looking up some more information about the CCDs.  I have read about the signal to noise ratio and I have realized that it is very difficult to find all the specifications of a CCD.  For example, I cannot find the quantum efficiency along with the dark noise and read noise count under the specifications of a particular CCD fro ma camera.  What I want to do is get a cheap camera and make a pinhole digital camera out of it and let it sit for about ten minutes in the night sky and see what happens.  With the amount of time left here, I do not think this well happen.  After all, Fred has not been here all week so I have not been able to talk with him.  I have been trying to work with Ish this week as well.  On Monday I tried to do some measurements but that did not work out.  The low noise amplifier was out of the room so I believe that it was broken.  In fact, it was.  Ish and Rusty were here until 4 am on Thursday night trying to see if the system worked.  Brian and I realized that this was why they were not able to make it to the presentations last week.  So all this week we have been trying to get the MgB2 into the cooling vacuum chamber but this has not been happening.  We need to wait for these other girls to get the device ready.  They need to wire a few things back together.  This has been taking days so we have not been able to do anything with it.  I am hoping that I will be able to do some measurements before I leave here so that I can get a paper out of this.

On Tuesday, a few of us went to one of the hearings down on capital hill.  It was about getting female students into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.  I found this very interesting, but being a member of the audience, I could not say anything.  They were saying things like “we do now know why girls are turned away” and I did know why.  I have a few theories because I am a female student in STEM fields.  I know how I think and I can see it happening to others.  However, I am a unique case.  I grew up with mostly females in my science classes by luck.  However, I have witnessed discrimination.  This discrimination is coming from the male peers in the classes.  Not all males do this but the ones who think they are smarter than the female no matter what do.  They are disrespectful and believe they can do no wrong.  Therefore, it is not society and teachers as much as other student that turn girls away from science.  I also have a few other theories that include society.  This is how girls are taught at a young age that attractiveness is more important and science is not an attractive field.  I can't really explain this theory to well but I know that it is a factor in some girls.  I was always interested in science as a kid as well as many other things.  I've always like doing experiments and solving math problems.  I was told that it is mainly a male field but that did not bother me at all.  It only made me more interested.  I have always been trying to go against the norm.  Another thing that I believe is the problem with getting females into science is the role model aspect, which was brought up at the hearing.  There are so many role models in other careers for women, which out weigh the role models in science.  However, this right here is the chicken or egg story all over.  In order to get more role models, we need more female scientist but in order to get more female scientist we need more role models.  So in the end, there was a lot I had to say but I couldn't.  After that, I went back to work.

On Thursday, Brian and I went to meet the astronauts from Hubble Service Mission 4.  They were here at Goddard!  We got a picture of them and had each one of them autograph it.  It was great.  We also picked up these glow in the dark wrist bands for everyone else in the internship.  I still have yet to pass them all out.

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Friday, July 17th

Last weekend a few of us (me, Leslie, Laurie, Scott, and Jisoon) went to Delaware with the SERF interns at NIST.  It was the perfect beach weekend and we had a lot of fun hanging out with the other interns in the area.  I finally got some crabs at this crab shack off of coastal highway and they were so good!  Now I still want to make some.

Tuesday night, at midnight, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came out at midnight!  Five of us went to go see it.  It was insane, with the line around the door and it was sold out.  Luckily Mary bought tickets for us in advance.

This week has been presentation week for me.  I put it together on Monday and still revising it though Thursday.  On Wednesday we all went to ACP to practice the presentations.  It went better than I expected.  We also got some free stuff, like a stick, a t-shirt, a Galileoscope....  The normal.  I still haven't put the telescope together but I plan to real soon.

So next week I will be able to start the magnesium diboride measurements.  This is going to be exciting.  On Monday Rusty will not be here so I have to figure out how to do it myself.  Hopefully all goes well.

So the presentations.  They went very well I believe.  Brad announced everyone in his movie narrator voice.  We had a nice lunch and doughnuts for breakfast!!

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Friday, July 10th

Wow. Another week. It's Friday so that means another journal entry.  My back hurts from sitting all day looking at the computers and programming, but I have been productive.  I am anxious to go to the beach this weekend too.  We are going with the SERF kids from NIST that Laurie knows.

Well anyway... This week....  I would like to say that on Monday I was quite successful at pool.  I played 8-ball against Laurie and Scott and could have won if I decided that I didn't feel like scratching on the 8-ball.  I did this because If I were to win then I promised I would buy a pool table.  Since I cannot afford a pool table, I decided to lose.  As I said, it was 1 vs 2.  Pool has seemed like the hobby of the week.  We are going to challenge the SERF kids this weekend and we are going to crush them!!

On Monday we also decided to not go to Rumors fro the first time and go to 51st State and partake in the trivia contest.  There was this one question that asked what the 4 Cs of diamond are.  Since diamond is make out of carbon, C must stand for carbon.  Then we were thinking it might be a tetrahedron, which means there are 4 carbons.  Sadly, this was not the answer.  It was clarity, colors, cut and carat. But we did get it right that Uranus was the first planet discovered by a telescope!  That would have been embarrassing to miss.

OK. Well at work this week.  I have been working on my two projects and made significant progress.  With the star camera project, I have been modeling error measurements.  I want to know how close to the center of a saturated area of photons on a CCD I am able to know.  It depends on the number of photons incident on each pixel.  I first stared off doing pure mathematical calculations on MathCad.  I have used this program before but not much.  It is basically brand new to me.  Today I brought in my own computer so that I can use Mathematica.  This was much better.  I was able to make a graphical representation in 2D and 3D.

With my other project, we have been working on the calibrations in the shield room to determine how much gain the transformer is giving us.  Since taking measurements are really slow, I have also been working on understanding all the details about the electronics of the system.  I really enjoy doing this because I want to know as much as I can about the electrical systems.  Rusty has a paper about noise measurements he is walking me through.

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Friday, July 3rd

Last Saturday, a few of us went to the Caribbean Carnival Parade out at Georgia Ave.  It was really fun and we all got different bandana flags.  I got Trinidad for myself.  They had good music going down the streets and a lot of people in costumes.  There were these guys going around throwing mud at people but we luckily avoided that.  Some people were on stilts too.  Somehow we ended up in the parade for a little bit.

This week at work I have been working a little bit on both projects, the Johnson's noise project and the star camera project.  Ish came back this week so I was able to talk to him about some things on my project.  I was able to fix the capacitors that blew and I mad a conducting cover for the box as well.  I added some finishing touches to a couple other instruments as well.  I also tried to install Mathematica 4 on my computer but that did not work out.  I really need to get a graphing program so that I can do some modeling for the star camera project.  I need to figure out what fraction of a pixel we can know for the center of a star on the CCD.  In order to do this I need a random number generator and a program that can find the curve to a plot.  Brian and I also got new badges this week so that they last for the rest of the summer. 

This week, Laurie and I decided to go for a little run.  We only planned to go about three miles but some of our course was closed off for the forth of July, which I will gladly not be celebrating in the craziness of DC.  We were just going to go down Independent Avenue but we saw this bridge and said “hey lets go to Virginia.”  So we did.  We were going to run down the park there for about 10 minutes and turn around but then I saw the next bridge.  So guess what our brilliant idea was.  We took that bridge across back to DC.  Along the way we saw the Navy and Marine Memorial and we saw some paddle boats (I that that is what they are called.  The ones you sit in and ride like a bike.)  So now I want to go do that one day.  By the time we got back, we have gone about six miles.  Now this isn't too bad but I have bad hips and knees from competitive running for the past eight years.  The constant pounding on the concrete was not good for me.  And to add to all this fun, it was raining, luckily, or else it would have been very hot.

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Friday, June 26th

This week has started out very well at work.  Rusty is back in and I made some changes to the voltage regulator.  I also worked on putting all the objects into the mini faraday shield box so that I can get this experiment on the road.  On Tuesday, Fred took us to the Navel Research Lab for a meeting about CubeSat.  They are putting devices into a small box to fly in the upper atmosphere to measure things such as the wind and temperature.  It is very complicated trying to fit everything in the box because it is so small.  Well, since I could not get a hold of anyone for a while, I decided to follow the drawing in my book, which I happened to miss read.  A few things blew up and now I'm set even further back on the project because I have to replace some parts, which we do not have.  However, Fred has some other projects going on.  I am looking at the star camera project and see how a pin hole camera will work with a CCD.  The DISC, the star camera on CubeSat, is quite large and we thing that we can make it a lot smaller.  On Thursday, I went to the Science Jamboree in mall of Goddard.  The different departments were all there showing their work.  I talked to a few of them to see what is going on.  Today (Friday) I am connecting the new voltage regulator to the circuit I have been working on and them I'm going to install some diodes so that the current only runs in one direction.  This will prevent things from blowing up again.  This new regulator works a lot better then the old one.  I will also hook up diodes to a secondary output so that I can get an even lower voltage.

This week has been a week of tragedies. First there was the metro accident on Monday.  This slowed things down for us a lot.  We had to start leaving even earlier to get to work.  Today, some of the guys missed the bus.  Then, on Thursday, Michael Jackson died.  All the news on the internet about the metro immediately disappeared to talk about him instead.  In memory of Michael Jackson, we tried to have a MJ party.  But we had no music, so we just watched South Park.

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Friday, June 19th

I believe that I can change the world.  All it takes is a smile!  I started off by smiling because everyone on the metro looks so gloomy and that makes me tired.  So I started smiling, so that I feel better.  Since smiles are contagious, other people will begin smiling.  Smiling makes one happier and happy people are more productive at work.  Working in a place where most of the people work for the US government, the government employees will become more productive.  When the government puts out new and important research, the tax payers become happier.  Happy people are not as uptight as unhappy people.  This means that they will be less uptight about their wallet even though we are in a recession.  This means that people will begin to spend more money and we know that spending money helps the economy.  Then the economy will get better and unemployment rates will go down and in the end that is changing the world with just one smile!

We went out to Half price burgers at Rumors again on Monday!  I had a Hickory Burger again and some awesome lemonade.  I added lemon to it too and it was so sweet.  Definitely go there and get some.  They are on the corner of 19th and M St.  After that, Scott, Mary, Raina, and I took the metro down to the capitol and watched the Navy Jazz band play.  There were these two little girls dancing an it was cute.  On the way to the metro, however, there were a couple people taking pictures of smiling faces.  It was sketchy but we did it anyway.  After the concert, we decided to walk back.  On our way back we found the Canadian Embassy.  We also ran into this guy who was collecting money for the homeless.  He said that there is a homeless newspaper that the homeless people write for.  They also have them hand out the newspapers every morning by the metro.  It is better then begging for money in a cup, which does happen all the time.  It took an hour to walk back but we were working out our thighs!  On Tuesday night, a few of us decided to watch Harry Potter on the TV in the basement.  I also discovered another half price burger place that does it on Tuesdays!  I forget where it is but it is somewhere on the way to Georgetown.

At work, I just worked on SIMION all day on Monday.  This is because Ish is in England for two weeks and Rusty is sick.  I finally figured out how to use the program for the most part but I realized it is quite difficult to get a field of view of 120 degrees with a calbick lens. I figured out how to get a nice calbick lens to work for all the input angles on Tuesday morning.  I am using more than one plate in the lens but if I had too, I can take some away, the focus will not be a focuses though.  Even though this has been a very slow week, I feel like Brian and I have gotten a lot done on SIMION, enough that we could pull together a presentation about it if we had to. 

GO AWAY CLOUDS!!

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Friday, June 12th

Last Saturday we went to the zoo during the day.  I think we missed most of the zoo because I feel like there was a lot that we did not see.  I bought a rattle snake too.  It is blue and very comfy.  It is about six feet long.  For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant with the executive board of SPS.  It was a very good dinner and I love Italian food.  Monday, a few of us found this place in DC for dinner.  It has half price burgers so I think this is a very good place to go for now on!  The host was really funny, like a lot of the people who work in restaurant around this area.  It is always a good time to go out and eat.  Tuesday, after work, Jack took us all to see the play "Legacy of Light," which is about a female physics from the 1700's.  I enjoyed the play and was cracking up throughout the entire thing.  However, my program they gave me was USED!  Besides the fact that it was bent, I found and old ticket to another viewing of the show inside of the booklet.  There was a piece of used gum inside of that ticket stub.... so disgusting!  So on Monday, after we ate at Rumor's, we saw this place called Science Club.  We wanted to eat there on Wednesday, but they didn't have much to chose from so we went to Chipolte.  That night, a few of use hung out on the roof in the thurnder storm.  Once it started raining we went in to watch a movie.  Thursday was a tired day for us.  I ate in, but then, Mary, Laurie, and I met up with Scott, Ian, and Jose at Fridays where I got a huge ice cream sundae.  I didn't think I could finish it but I did.  Our waiter there was really awesome as well.

This week at work has been a lot more productive.  I finished the circuit for the voltage regulator and it actually works!!  It is super exciting.  Today I am going to try to alter it somewhat so that the range of potential available starts at 1 V instead of 4.5 V.  I spent a lot of time in building 22 working on that circuit and soldering everything together.  I also helped Ish do some data with Niobium's turning temperature.  This is when the substance goes from being normal, to being a superconductor.  Nb was first put in liquid nitrogen to get it as cold as possible.  Liquid nitrogen has a boiling point of 77 K, which is about -320 degrees F.  We got it down to 90 K using two jars of liquid nitrogen.  Then it was placed in liquid helium, which has a boiling point of 4 K.  The turning point for Nb is 10.24 K.  I also finally got a computer this week!  I am not online and everything.  This computer does not have microsoft office on it which is inconvenient.  I put SIMION on it yesterday so now I can use that program to do some work.

Have I mentioned how awesome our mentor is?  Fred took us out for Cuban food yesterday and it was amazing.  On Monday, he taught us some physics which I already knew but I was a good review, especially for starting grad school in the fall.  This week it was thermo.  Brian and I are also working on this star camera project and we think that we would be able to get a couple papers out of it if we work on it enough.  The star camera is to take a picture of the stars while on a satellite for orientation purposes.


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Friday, June 5th

Our first week here at Goddard has been chaotic yet awesome!  We were exposed to different projects to do the first day and they told us more about them.  On Wednesday, Brian and I decided who was going to take which project.  We each decided to do one officially but we both will help each other when our research is in a down time.  We are working in the Detector Systems Branch at NASA so our projects test new technologies we could use for more efficient and lower energy detectors.  Right now, we are waiting to set the experiment up that I am doing.  I am researching Johnson noise on an MgB­­2 surface.  The detector is like a resistor in the system and it produced excess noise that we do not need.  The MgB2 will be hooked up to an amplifier and a transformer to produce a 106 gain.  However, this project must be free of outside noise so that we can extract exactly what we need to see.  Therefore, the system must be in a shield box which works like a faraday cage.  The 60 Hz signal we receive in the air right now from the US electrical system will be blocked out as well as any other noise in general.  None of the system is together yet though.  I put a non-polarized capacitor together, with 4 polarized capacitors, which should be at 4.7 F.  I tried to measure it with a meter but we could not find one large enough.  I kept getting overload.  In addition to this, Fred Herrero, my mentor, gave me some homework to do.  I’m trying to refresh my mind with some physics and math this summer in preparation for graduate school this fall.  I will also try to track down some people from UMBC who work at Goddard this summer, since that is where I am going.

We still need to get our computers in our office up and running.  They work but they are not yet on the network.  I have my username already because I used it last year, but it is expired and I am waiting for it to work again.  We also still are waiting on a phone for our office.  Brian and I share this office with another intern who is in graduate school at Colorado. 

So the metro system is very useful.  I am getting use to it and so far, so good.  Getting the bus from either New Carrollton or Greenbelt to Goddard is quite annoying and they only run a few times, so we cannot be a second late, or else we won’t get to work for another hour.  On Thursday actually, Brian and I missed the Foggy Bottom stop coming home.  We got off at the next station once we realized it and it said “Welcome to Virginia.”  This week, we also got to suit up and go into a clean room.  Nate, the other intern in out office, is working in that this summer and they let us in to see it.  On Thursday we also went to an event at the visitor center.  It had some of the top NASA people there and they were giving out some awards.  We got some free stuff too!  The event was about spin offs of NASA technology.  NASA develops things and other people use it to make things we use everyday.  This year Goddard is 50 years-old. Last year, NASA was 50 years-old.  Later today, Friday, Herrero is taking me and Brian to a Greek Festival to get lunch.  It’s just right around the corner from Goddard.

So far everyone gets along well and it is very fun living with all the other interns.  We try to do things everyday of the week.  So far we have “take out (or eat out) Tuesday,” “watch things Wednesday,” and “pancake Thursday.”

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Erin Balsamo Erin Balsamo
McDaniel College (Westminster, MD)
Internship: NASA-Goddard Spaceflight Center
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Final Presentation

Johnson Noise Analysis of MgB2 Detector AND Star Camera Development

Abstract
I have been working on two different projects this summer. The first on is the noise analysis of a magnesium diboride detector. The goal of this project is to determine the baseline noise, or Johnson noise, produced by the material in order to under the properties better. We do this by blocking all the noise in the room first. We have been applying the signal to parts of the set up to test the instruments and will finally add the MgB2 cooled down to 39 K by liquid helium. The next project is a theory project on the creation of a star camera using a common charged coupled device (CCD) from a regular point-and-shoot camera. A star camera is used on space instruments so that the scientists know which direction the instrument is traveling. So far I have done research on the error in measuring the location of a particular star and I plan on using this model to model specific star magnitudes using specific CCDs. I am also looking at the energy needed per pixel in order to produce a readable signal, the field of view for different devices, and the hardness required for the CCD to survive in space conditions.
Erin Balsamo Erin Balsamo
McDaniel College (Westminster, MD)
Internship: NASA-Goddard Spaceflight Center
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share

July 28 2010

I have finished my first year of graduate school at UMBC in the spring and soon I will be starting the second year. Right now I am at NASA Goddard exploring thesis options with the XACT.

This summer I am building a large collimator that will be used to align the instruments on the payload. In the spring I hopefully will come back to the group and start working on detectors. XACT is a rocket payload that will have two launches. The first launch will look at Crab Nebula and the second will observe Her X-1. This payload is a testbed for instruments to measure X-ray polarization from these sources.

As the summer ends I am studying for the qualifiers at my school. These are a series of three tests I must past before before the beginning of my third year in order to qualify for PhD candidacy.

~Erin

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