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Programs & Awards  
2010 SPS National Interns
2010 Interns | Past Interns | About the Program

  • Introduction
  • Online Journal
  • Final Presentation
Amy Ferguson Amy Ferguson
Brigham Young University - Idaho (ID)
Internship: National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
NIST
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Hello,

I am a senior majoring in physics at Brigham Young University - Idaho. I was born and raised in Burtonsville, Maryland. So I have been to DC a lot but not really familiar with the area. I enjoy all sports and love outdoor activities. I love to watch tv and hang with friends, when I have time. I love food, my favorite is steak. My goal with my physics degree is to go into medical physics with cancer treatment research.

~Amy

Amy Ferguson Amy Ferguson
Brigham Young University - Idaho (ID)
Internship: National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
NIST
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Friday, July 30th Friday, July 9th Friday, June 18th  
Friday, July 23rd Friday, July 2nd Friday, June 11th  
Friday, July 16th Friday, June 25th Friday, June 4th  


Friday, July 30th

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Friday, July 23rd

Wow another week down. This is crazy that the end of the summer is just weeks away. This past week a lot was accomplished. I was able to collect more data than ever about the samples of Iron I am working with. To refresh people’s memory I am working with a thin film of iron on a silicon wafer. I etch it to make the thin film smaller and smaller. This week we made a 1% solution of the phosphoric acid to etch our samples. The 1% solution etched a lot slower and smoother than the 2 and 5 percent solution I had previously used. This made for cleaner data and the ability to see a trend easier. We determined that the etching had made the surface rough when we used the other concentrations that it gave us unusable data. On Tuesday I had to make graphs of the data to present to the person from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab who is collaborating with Dr. Nguyen on this project. At that same time he gave us a sample of meteorite for us to find the optical constants using the ellipsometer.  That was cool to actually touch (with gloves on) a meteorite. I have collected all the data that I will collect. I am leaving on vacation today and so my next weeks work is to finish the presentation. I am excited for the presentations and look forward to seeing the accomplishments of the other interns as well as presenting what I have done.

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Friday, July 16th

This week was full of collecting data. I was able to get the data, understand exactly what it means, and analyze it. Some of the data was good and able to be used and the bad data can’t be used. The bad data is when there is a combination of iron and silicon shown on the data it can’t really be used. This shows us though when the iron has been etched off too much of the silicon surface. By seeing this we can determine how fast the iron comes off. The problem we are facing is that the iron is coming off too quickly and so we had to lower the concentration of the phosphoric acid solution to make it not etch as fast. This week Dr. Nguyen presented the data to his collaborator from John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. Everything is going well. We need more data to figure out what is happening to the iron specifically. The process of etching is what is causing a problem it causes the iron surface to become rough which isn’t good for us. We will see where we can get in another week.

The most exciting news of the week is I survived my first earthquake. Born and raised in Maryland I have never experienced an earthquake before. It was a little weird to feel my house shaking. I was staying at my house in Maryland and sleeping in the basement and above me I hear walking and then all of the sudden the house shakes and feels like vibrating at a resonance frequency (yes I did think that).  Well on to next week.

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Friday, July 9th

So this week was a short one well I guess by one day because it was Independence Day!! I do love the 4th of July. It was a great experience to see the fireworks in DC. I have seen the fireworks down there twice before but for some reason I liked them better this year. For anyone who lives in Maryland and close to the city of Laurel should go every year to their fireworks show. It is on the Saturday closest to the 4th every year and it is an amazing show as well. I have been every year since I can remember. That is pretty much all the extra fun I had this week besides work of course.

Work was very productive this week. I was just taking data with the ellipsometer. Just a little background if I have never mentioned it before. Every week at NIST there is a group meeting and the interns who work in the group present a little bit about their project and get more help from all the advisors and people in the group. It is really helpful because two brains are smarter than one. This week I presented some of my data that I had collected and analyzed and was excited about. Dr. Cheung one of the other advisors noticed in my data that something was wrong. I am trying to measure the index of refraction for this thin film of iron on silicon and I was measuring the index of refraction as less than1 which it should never be. The interesting thing is that I took the numbers off the ellipsometer and didn’t have to do any calculation so we think that we need to recalibrate the machine. I am grateful that the people here are wanting to help us with our work. I am learning a lot on how to think when analyzing data and where to look to see if my data make sense. My personal advisor Dr. Nguyen got back today from being out of town and we are working on fixing the problem. It wouldn’t be a physics problem if it worked on the first time. It is getting more exciting for me when I come to work because I am understanding more and more everyday and learning a lot in this experience. I am making good progress and excited to see what comes next.

Tonight I am eager to go to the Giants vs. Nationals game. I don’t really like either team but I love baseball. It will be a fun night with the other interns and SPS staff.

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Friday, July 2nd

This week one of my childhood dreams came true. Also, I made good progress on my project. My childhood dream was to work in a place where I had to wear a lot of different things to prevent me as a person contaminating anything around. I needed to go into a clean room to make a new sample. My advisor was out of town and so another man in my division Oleg who does a lot of work in the clean room took me over and showed me the place. It was the highlight of my week to see all the different things that go on in there and to see the process of how my samples are made. I had heard about sputtering but I didn’t really know how it all worked. My samples have a 200nm thick thin film of iron on silicon and so we use e-beam sputtering to put that thin of a layer on the silicon wafer. For those who don’t know what sputtering is it is a process where a metal or other substance being deposited on a target. In my case the iron is being deposited on the silicon target. The electron beam is shot at the iron and then the iron is excited and sputters onto the silicon. With the samples I use phosphoric acid to etch off a little bit of the iron. Earlier this week I found out that I cannot leave my sample in for longer than 30s or the whole layer of iron is off. This is good to know because then I can know what increments of time I etch the sample. I hope this week to make a lot more scans and try to find another acid to etch with to see if it will not etch it off so fast. This will allow us to get more scans because we can change the thickness of the sample at a smaller rate than we currently are. I am excited for what is coming and I can see good progress every week.

As far as me doing anything exciting this week, there were a couple of things. The barbeque at the Dylla’s was full of good food and good conversation. I was able to spend more time with the interns and meet more people that work at AIP. On Friday the other interns came to NIST and it was fun to see what else happens there besides the projects in my division. Also, it was nice to be able to show the interns where I work. I have high hopes for a good week ahead and will be waiting to fill everyone in on my progress.

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Friday, June 25th

This week wasn’t filled with much. I really didn’t do a lot of work if anything. For the first few days I was trying to figure out how to solve for the optical reflection coefficient (R). That took a little bit of time searching different websites. I found multiple equations that were all derivatives of the each other. I kept getting wrong answers. It wasn’t until Thursday that we figured out that Microsoft Excel uses radians and not degrees and I had entered the angles in degrees and not in radians. I felt pretty blonde at that point but don’t we all at one point or another in our lives. Now back to earlier in the week, on Tuesday I was told that I was done working on the solar cell project because I had accomplished with what I needed to do by finding out the External Quantum Efficiency. Well it wasn’t until I got R correct that I was completely done.  My advisor has been given money from NASA to work on a project. That is the new project that I am a part of. The new project is trying to optimize the index of refraction of a thin film of iron on top of silicon. I am going to change the thickness of the thin film by etching the pieces with phosphoric acid. The longer I leave the sample in the acid the thinner it will be. I have learned how to etch and use all the safety precautions. For the first time I have to wear a lab coat, protective eye wear, and protective gloves because I am dealing with an acid. To measure the thickness of the film I use an ellipsometer. I am excited for this project because I will have work to do that I can do by myself. I do not have to wait for my advisor to tell me everything to do. It will be a great experience and I am excited to be able to update everyone every week. That was this week at work.

As far as life in DC goes. I didn’t do much this week except go and see some memorials. I thought I had been to everything in DC as far as museums, monuments, and memorials. But, I hadn’t ever seen the FDR memorial. I think that is my favorite one now. Well he is my favorite president. It was fun to see and hang out with some of the other interns. I hope to do more next week to have a better update.

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Friday, June 18th

This was an interesting week, I have to say. It started out pretty good. Dr. Nugyen and I looked like we were making progress with the project. We also thought we were going to become rich. So, my main goal of the project is to find the efficiency of the solar cell. The experiment was already to run our first scan of the cell and so we did. The data that was taken was very surprising. It was telling us that we had a solar cell that was 1000% efficient. Yay!!! I have solved cold fusion. Also, the energy crisis and people won’t care that BP spilled tons and tons and still counting amounts of oil. Well as you can see that getting something 1000% efficient is not able to be done just like the things mentioned above. So of course we did something wrong. Dr. Nugyen started looking at my calculations thinking that those were the cause but of course those are correct. I already knew what the problem was because I had figured out that the way we were measuring intensity was wrong. The logic was correct but he just put numbers in the code that were wrong and made it off by a factor of 100. He didn’t know that because he didn’t understand what I had told him before. Well we figured out the problem, I guess he figured out the problem. It wasn’t a big deal and just a few things needed fixing on the program and those were taken care of in one day. Now we are able to take new measurements and hopefully this time the data will be good data. I will be working with it this afternoon. A scan is going on now and so I will get the data later. I learned that things will never go right the first time. I hope that by next week I can update about the good data and find the real efficiency of the solar cell.

I also learned this week, to make sure I have money before I go somewhere to eat and to look above me before I stand up on the bus. You are probably wondering why I learned this. Well on Monday a few of the interns were going to go see a Star Trek movie in Crystal City. We decided to go to dinner beforehand and we found a Louisiana style barbeque called the Kings Street Blues. I had the ribs and they were fantastic I recommend it to anyone. But, as we got the check I reach into my purse to get my wallet and there wasn’t one. Luckily, Raina was able to cover my check and I paid her back the next day with cash from my second story about money. So Zack and I both work at NIST and since we are the only people we really know at NIST we sometimes eat lunch together. Zack came to my office and pulled out his bread it was moldy and so we decided to go to the cafeteria. I got there just to buy some fruit but only had my debit card and then I got to the cashier and it was cash only. So I was embarrassed and I had to go to the ATM to get some cash and the change I got was enough to pay Raina back. On Thursday I was getting off the shuttle bus in the morning and as I stood up my head hit a television screen it hurt and it got worse when I hit my head again when getting off a different bus in the afternoon. So I learned a few things this week that are helpful for life and my job. Overall it is going well. I am ready to work harder and get the things done that I need to do.

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Friday, June 11th

Well it is the end of the second week. This was the week I adjusted to not getting any sleep and have a long commute to work. Though I also got to know specifically what I will be working on for the rest of the summer. That meant I had to read a lot this week to learn about semiconductors. I am learning a lot about the research world and how slow or fast things go. One day you do a lot of productive things and another you spend the whole trying to fix mistakes but by doing that you are just making more and then you look back and you weren’t at all productive. This was the theme of my week.
Monday was a productive day. I was able to run a few scans that collected data that matched the data my advisor had.  This means I set up the experiment correctly. That made me happy because I was doing things right. Tuesday was not that productive as far as the experiment goes. All I did was read different power points explaining semiconductors. I also had to prepare a few power point slides to present in our division meeting on Wednesday. That brings me to Wednesday. In the morning each intern in our division had to give a 3-5 min presentation on the research so far. I was able to answer most of the questions I was asked so I felt happy. There are some interesting projects going on that I am excited to hear about every week. That afternoon Dr. Nguyen asked me to make a few scans. I tried for an hour to put the detector in the optical system. The detector was too big to be able to be placed where it needed to be. I was so frustrated that I wasn’t able to do what I was asked but the nice thing was that Dr. Nguyen is very patient and that he wasn’t able to do it either. This was when the week got really slow. Because we weren’t able to place the detector in the system Dr. Nguyen decided to just set-up the rest of the set-up for the experiment. This made it that I couldn’t really do much until Dr. Nguyen so yesterday and today were full of reading more and more.

This week I was able to venture out and see more of DC. Tuesday I went with Linda swing dancing at the Jam Cellar. It was sooo cool to be dancing in an old mansion that had the old hardwood floors. I definitely want to go back.  Wednesday I didn’t see more of DC but I did get to spend more time with the other interns. A few of us got together and played Settlers of Catan. It is one of my favorite board games. Yesterday most of us went to dinner at The Red Lion. I had an amazing burger and will go back to try a different burger some other time. What was funny was watching 8 physics majors trying to split up the bill. One would think that people that can do calculus in their heads can do simple addition and subtraction.  I am excited to see the monuments tonight. I have seen them multiple times in my life but it will be fun to see them at night with the other interns. Well until next week. 

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Friday, June 4th

So, this was the first week, meaning it was very disorganized. I moved into the apartment and am trying to adjust to life in Washington D.C. The metro is an easy system to use and so it wasn’t hard finding my route to work. Over the summer I will be working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Though that is not where I started my week. On Tuesday, June 1st all interns reported to ACP for orientation in the morning. After meeting people who work in different places in the building and being told what a great opportunity I have as an Intern, I was taken to NIST. That afternoon, I met John Suehle who is the group leader and the management who I blame things on. He gave Zach, the other SPS intern, and I a little knowledge of what we will be working on. After the brief introduction I met my supervisor for the summer, Dr. Nhan V. Nguyen. I talked to him about the basics of my project but not a lot. I was assigned to a desk but had computer difficulties and am currently at a computer in the lab that I am going to be working in. The people at NIST are very nice and helped me out when I asked questions about where I needed to go at the end of the day to catch the shuttle for the Metro.

Day 2 started out waiting to be trained in safety so that I can actually work in a lab. The training wasn’t going to happen until 1:30pm so I had time to kill. I sat around and had an early lunch at the cafeteria which is way too expensive that I will be bringing a lunch with me from now on. The training went on forever but there are lots of safety hazards when working in a laboratory that we need to know about. I am done with training now and am able to start actually working on the project.

So when I came in yesterday I was actually able to learn more about the project. My project is to find external quantum efficiency (EQE) of a photovoltaic device. Currently, I am trying to calibrate a silicon diode detector so that I can use that to measure the intensity of the light at certain parts in the experiment set-up. Pictures of the set-up will be up next week. So I was able to run one scan yesterday to measure the intensity but haven’t been able to run anymore or do any data analysis. After my first scan was complete another person need the cord we are using to power our light source.

As far as doing anything in DC besides work, I haven’t adventured out yet. I am from Maryland and my younger sister graduated from High School on Wednesday and we had family in town and so I have gone home to visit every night. I am excited for the weekend and next week to learn more about DC and see what is available.

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Amy Ferguson Amy Ferguson
Brigham Young University - Idaho (ID)
Internship: National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
NIST
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Final Presentation

My Summer at NIST

Abstract
The first project I did at NIST was with a solar cell. The purpose was to find the External Quantum Efficiency (EQE) by measuring the current across the solar cell and by finding the intensity of light at the solar cell. I then started working on measuring the index of refraction (n) and dielectric constant (k) of a thin film of iron on silicon. I etched pieces of the sample for different amounts of time in phosphoric acid and then measured n and k. I graphed the data to find trends. Research is continuing on both of these projects by my advisor, Dr. Nhan Nguyen.
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