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2011 SPS National Interns
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Mahmuda Afrin Badhan Mahmuda Afrin Badhan
Mount Holyoke College
Internship: AIP News Media/Government Relations
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Greeting

Hello everyone! My name is Mahmuda and I recently graduated from Mount Holyoke College, where I was a double major in physics and astronomy.  At the undergraduate level, my favorite physics course was statistical mechanics. I will be enrolling in astronomy PhD program in the upcoming fall and eagerly look forward to the academic challenges that await me there! Presently, my hobbies are writing FAQs for various organizations, photography, digital graphics, video subtitling and talking about science and scientists. I absolutely love sharing witty physics jokes and making science art. I also love to collect pictures and written materials with references about the relevance of cats in physics and vice versa.

Last summer, I had the privilege of working at a summer program with several wonderful fellow undergrads (from various parts of the world too!) Several of us did research (including me) while many of us did public outreach. I had the chance to witness how satisfying outreach work could be. Since then, I have had the greatest desire to involve myself in science outreach at the national level. This summer, I will be working on updating AIP’s Physics Success Stories archive. I am very excited about the work I hope to accomplish at AIP over this summer.

~Mahmuda Afrin Badhan

Mahmuda Badhan Mahmuda Afrin Badhan
Mount Holyoke College
Internship: AIP News Media/Government Relations
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Review of the Summer Friday, August 12th Friday, July 22nd Friday, July 1st
Friday, August 26th Friday, August 5th Friday, July 15th Friday, June 24th
Friday, August 19th Friday, July 29th Friday, July 8th



Review of the Summer

It has been about a week and a half since I finished up with AIP. The summer just seems so distant now that I have started grad school and happen to be already really busy with my T.A. and coursework responsibilities. I cannot believe it flew by so fast and how adventurous it was, despite the very little time I spent "playing" outside of work. After all, we'd had everything from temperatures soaring to110 degrees to natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and even tornado warnings! I am very glad that I had a little extra time with AIP, even though I missed the first several events (such as the SPS outreach tour), as that let me attend Jack Hehn's retirement event and get some advice on teaching in astronomy right before I started my graduate career. I did, however, really miss having my fellow interns around bustling with their SOCK kit construction, as the atmosphere certainly began feeling a bit more serious with them gone!

The SPS internship program was a very unique experience for me, especially as it tested skills and abilities I am usually trying to avoid having to apply in the work I do. For example, having essentially been responsible for teaching myself schoolwork from the time I was in elementary school all the way till the end of high school, I had previously been very used to the idea of working by myself (even in college physics problem sets). I had very little help with the educational aspect for most of my life and when I did, it was only after I had proven to authority figures that I was worthy of that assistance. I had been used to completely relying on myself for judgment/academic decisions and I am usually reluctant to accept other people's opinions and suggestions and changing my views based on that. In the past, as a result, I had mostly been involved in projects where I can decide things by myself and get away with what I decided and implemented for most part. I guess me being an only child and growing up alone sort of catalyzed the development of that type of personality as well. I like being independent and had just gotten used to it and listening to others at every step and making the appropriate changes based on that happened rarely.

My project this summer really brought me out of my comfort zone in that respect as not only was the pace of my project dependent on how well and how often others responded to my efforts to get their assistance, but I also had to get my content approved at every step. Sometimes I was very adamant about sticking to what I had and wasn't exactly happy with the suggestions, and at other times, I was pleasantly surprised by how useful people's opinions could be. I also had to rely on others to be able to use some content, whereas previously, I mostly had the rights to use whatever I felt like using. (America is about the only country in the world where permissions and rights happen to be this sensitive of an issue, and suing happens over the smallest of things. In the countries I have grown up in, namely Japan and Bangladesh, even contracts are somewhat rare, let alone people giving much about copyright issues.)

The other half of the learning experience was getting a rather hardcore experience of managing personal responsibilities such as my house searching, grad school post-admission formalities, and moving from MA to MD for grad school by myself, alongside a full time job. These personal responsibilities almost felt like a second job, which meant the rest of my time was spent sleeping/resting and thus very little time to play! So these restrictions came as quite a bit of a challenge to handle, apart from the obvious difficulties of commuting to work in the morning every day, after years of living on a residential campus! (I still don't think I have mastered the last part, and I am even more glad that I'm going to grad school first before hopefully getting a permanent job after that!)

However, I'll admit that I am a bit of a workaholic so I don't really feel like I've missed out on vacation time. I also got to have some fun while helping out with the SOCK kits, so I always enjoyed the atmosphere in my work environment. I am very glad the SPS internship opportunity came at a time when I needed to be in the area to get the first dibs on available housing in the area and as a result, I was able to have a fairly smooth move and was nicely settled in by the time classes began. I have a beautiful room and unlike undergrad, where I was constantly reluctant to leave academic buildings to go back to my room, I have more of an incentive now to live like a civilized grown-up should live! I am really grateful to Kendra and Bo for being extremely accommodating about my OPT/grad school transfer situation and looking back, I really feel that luck was definitely on my side this summer. Also, since the PSS project is for a good cause, I also felt very useful and productive throughout the summer. I was actually pretty sad when the ten-week period ended, as I wanted to keep working on the project and finish all the PSS (especially as the pace really picked up over the last few weeks, when I began the production work).

Part of what made this project so worthy was the number of physics applications I learned about. Through the research work I did, I was able to have the chance to read numerous articles about materials outside my current field of interest (astrophysics), which definitely broadened my knowledge about science around the world, including congressional issues. I really felt like I learned a LOT outside of just work/collaboration skills, making my experience even more of a privilege. This was indeed a great experience to have right before embarking onto graduate school. I feel more informed about the status of scientific funding now and hopefully this knowledge will help me make better assessments as a researcher in the years to come.

I hope this year's internship program helped my fellow interns get ideas about their prospective careers, apart from making great connections and wonderful memories. We had some great times in the tours and events together and what really made our program one-of-a-kind was the extent of staff development and emphasis on networking and exposure through carefully selected tour locations. Some of my favorite highlights program were a) the Oklahoma show, b) NIST tour, c) NSF tour, d) barbeque events, e) our final presentations and f) Operation Mousetrap.

I would also like to thank key people such as Kendra, Gary, Jack, Tom, Jen, Liz, Tracy, Elizabeth, the IT Department, Donna (Human Resources), Doug, Jen and my adviser, Bo, for everything they did for us! I hope the SPS Internship Program continues to be this strong in the years to come and keeps attracting ambitious young SPS physicists from all over the nation. I will keep following this site to read about them and their adventures and watch the ways the program changes and grows.

With this, I conclude my last entry for the SPS Internship 2011 Interns' Journal. Thanks for taking the time to keep up with my summer through following my somewhat lengthy entries every week!

Friday, August 26th

I am actually writing this entry on a Sunday afternoon, even though it should cover materials only till Friday, to accomodate my Hurricane Irene adventures. And yes, you guessed it, the past week had been the most adventurous week of my entire time here so far. So I apologize in advance if this entry just never seems to end!

On Monday I attended a welcome check-in for international students at UMD, and spent the rest of the day working on the timeline for my PSS. On Tuesday, Bo was back at ACP from his vacation, so I finally got to show him what I had done for the first PSS we wanted to publish. That afternoon, I went over to UMD for a four-hour long international students' orientation, covering things I essentially already knew (since attendance was mandatory with sign-ins, there was no way to sneak out). However, one of the student panelists happened to be a Mount Holyoke grad and I was really ecstatic to meet her! I am keeping my fingers crossed that friends from the Class of 2012 will consider coming to UMD for graduate school; I can't really convey how happy that'd make me.

Around 1:50 pm or so that afternoon at the event, the projectors began swaying suddenly and we all became silent. People were confused.... what just happened? We had just experienced an east-coast wide earthquake (everyone on the east coast was making quake-related status updates on Facebook), which had originated close to Richmond in Virginia. With the epicenter so shallow, the earthquake propagated over a very broad area, encompassing the Carolinas all the way up to the Canadian border. Naturally, we were talking about it for the rest of the day, and some for the remainder of the week. The internet ridiculed east-coasters for never learning the basic rules of responding to an earthquake. While it did not really do much to us, the roof of the National Cathedral in DC incurred structural damage. Of course, little did we know then that this would be the beginning of the most epic week on the east-coast. For that very evening, we found out that Hurricane Irene, one of our major ones of the Atlantic Hurricane Season 2011, had changed its track and was now heading directly for the mid-atlantic and New England states! Oh climate change, you sure continue to amaze me.

The rest of the week was pretty calm till Friday. I was able to get content up for the medical imaging PSS. I was also able to locate some new resources for statistics for my PSS and much of my last pieces of work will be getting all my research organized so that the remaining PSS could be built without much hassle. Since I had spent a significant amount of time over at UMD over the past week, I was utilizing both Thursday and Friday to wrap up things at ACP. On Thursday and Friday, we had full day TA workshops at UMD, which was very informative and overwhelming. I am really happy they arranged that because it seemings UMD undergrads are very different from the undergrads at MHC. At MHC, we are not too competitive with each other and generally try to make sure that we not only do our best but also help our friends achieve their best. We tend to be very enthusiastic about our learning and care a lot about getting good grades. At UMD, it seems like there are people who would be just happy with passing, so it came as a bit of a culture shock. There also seems to be a constant emphasis on ranking students. There was frequent mentioning of phrases like "good students" and "bad students", something I thought I could leave back in Bangladesh, where people are constantly based on their academic abilities. After all, this was a different type of institution (a big state school vs a small liberal arts college) so I guess I should have anticipated it. In was nice to be told in advance what type of problems we could expect in the early days of our teaching assistantship career. I am still hopeful that I'll get students who will love the class and be very interested in learning astronomy, despite my class being one designed for "non-science" majors. I'll see whatever I can do to encourage that from my end.

There was also a lot of talk about plagiarism, which came as a shock too--In Mount Holyoke, we have a honor system that places full faith on everyone's honesty and cheating is usually unheard of. We have self-scheduled exams, very little proctoring, and open collaboration on homework, where people have the common sense to do their own work in their own words. Because we put so much faith in each other, plagiarism was never a big topic of concern there. So this will be a bit of an adjustment too, making my job all the more exciting. On a brighter note, I spent some time talking to Jack Hehn, and got some resources on who to contact about teaching pedagogy in astronomy. I am so thankful for all the pathways that have opened to me as a result of my academic experiences at AIP so far.

I was out very late on Friday night since I had to prepare for the approaching hurricane. I bought so much that I had to take a taxi back home (which was less than half a mile from the grocery)! We didn't really get anything that night so I just did all my cooking, bathroom cleaning, laundry and taped my basement windows. On Saturday, I filled the bathtub with water upon Moriel's suggestion, in case we were to lose water. While we didn't end up encountering water issues, we lost power around dinner time for a couple of hours. But the worst was still to come. Later that night, close to midnight, we lost power again, and didn't get it back. I later learned that approximately 89,000 people in Prince George's County lost power, and even greater numbers in other parts of Maryland and Virginia.

But what really made that night evently was something else serious -- the Carbon Monoxide detector right outside my room started going off around two in the morning. I ignored the weather and opened up the back door and all the windows I had access to in the basement. My phone was not working so I knew I had no way to contact 911 either if a legitimate emergency were to arise. (There was also the possibility that the detector was just malfunctioning. After all, it's probably not used to power outages.) The detector never stopped, even though I had ventilated the whole house! I was on Skype with Moriel till 3 am that night, doing all I could to minimize the possibility of CO poisoning. I am wondering if the alarm had anything to do with the portable burner that was being used earlier, or if it really was just an alarm battery failure. With the invisible and odorless nature of CO, an airtight house at 2 A.M. during a power and phone reception outage, and the inclement weather not allowing me much in the way of adequate ventilation, I was left pretty traumatized for the rest of the night. I pray that we never have to go through anything similar in this house in the future.

Well, the plaza across Starbucks (where I am writing this) just lost power. So, I'll wrap up here before it's too late. I honestly think Sunday is the most inconvenient day of all days to be without power as public places are either not open or close early and busses have the most reduced service. If we don't get it back tonight, I just hope the temperatures will be low enough for me sleep peacefully with the windows open! This past week has been quite an adventure, involving a lot more than I talked about here. It was nostalgic too--I got reminded of the frequent evenings back home I spent without power, soaring winds, flying cables and all the associated excitement, with the only difference being that I was not alone then and had my family by my side. With the climate change, we will probably have more hazards like this in the future, unfortunately. Well, glad to have survived the first of it! I have something to tell my future grandkids now, in the natural disaster survival category. I do think that since Irene caused more than $10 billion dollars in damage across east coast, its name will be retired. I consider myself very lucky, however, for not having been in anything major enough to cause long-term damage and deaths in my vicinity. God has been very nice to me in that respect!

And finally to all my Muslim friends and family, Happy Eid-ul-Fitr! I am not taking part in Eid this year at all, but glad that a few of my friends coming (back) to the East Coast got to celebrate it with their families back home because of the rescheduled flights. Please stay tuned for my final reflections, where I'll be recapping the highlights of this summer and analyzing what I learned as a result of my experiences over the past three months. I realize I talked very little about my project in this entry, but I'll be sure to make up for that. My experiences over this summer may have been foreshadowing the fact that life will bring many new challenges and experiences to me in the days to come. I am no longer living in a bubble, but out in the real world.

Friday, August 19th

This week was split nearly 1:3 between UMD activities and ACP. On Monday, I did a bit more research-type work and finished the back page templates for all ten PSS. On Tuesday, I had the International Teaching Assistant Evaluation at UMD in the morning, did some work at ACP for a couple of hours after that, and then returned for immunizations in the afternoon. It was a nice day outside but it got pretty dramatic as a) the receptionist failed to let me know that I was supposed to wait upstairs and not downstairs for my appointment, b) once I made my way up there, we had a fire alarm, and c) I found out I couldn't get a PPD test or any vaccine till I was off Predisone for at least two weeks, as it's a skin-related immunosuppresant and carry a high risk of interacting with vaccines and giving positive test results for tuberculosis. Eek, that was pretty scary to hear! At any rate, I was able to get temporary clearance till classes started. The immunizations generally happen next week but I wanted to maximize my time in the office after Bo gets back from his vacation, so I figured I should get this sorted when they didn't have huge lines of people waiting outside. So with all the back and forth between UMD and ACP that day, it was a pretty crazy one. I was just glad it wasn't steaming hot outside!

On Wednesday I worked on the front page of my first PSS and began realizing that I really hadn't secured permissions for most of the images I wanted to use, and it was really hard to reach the owners of the ones I liked the best. Most people I contacted really did not get back, and those who did proposed licensing, which comes with a fee per image. So I figured the best idea at this stage was to get as much done in terms of content, use some placeholder images, and explore other resources and wait for Bo to come back to discuss the possibility of paying. I doubt we'd want to do that as each PSS captures many images, but perhaps with AIP being a publishing organization, I can access a database with images I need for which I have the rights already. I'll just have to go around ACP looking for the best person to contact about that. I also had some stuff to do at UMD that morning as the results for our evaluation were posted, which determined who got to proceed to the next stage, and who could be exempt from the rest of the evaluation. I was expecting to be exempt from the rest, and thankfully, that happened to be the case.

On Thursday and Friday I did some more work and sent Bo some samples of what I had by Friday. I sat around a fair amount staring at individual boxes, since it's quite challenging to determine what to include in the minimal amount of text we are trying to put there. Given that this particular PSS did not focus on any specific technology, but the proliferation of the economy in general as a result of R & D investments, I am still unsure as to what type of information would be best for the timeline. With the other ones, I could just summarize the materials in the past corresponding PSS, and add anything new that happened post-2005. I'll have that figured out soon, though, but the biggest challenge is once again the permissions for the images! I've had some trouble getting updated stats for jobs and market figures (i.e. anything post-2007) in a few areas, and as this is something I've been working on off and on over the summer, so I may have to look around for unconventional resources.

Over this week, I also visited a few people who were leaving the area at the end of this week and shopped around a bit for any other necessities I had to acquire for my new home. Next week will be my final days at ACP. On Monday and Tuesday, I'll be juggling between stuff at UMD and finishing off the PSS. I will then have the entirety of Wednesday to finish up other stuff. I hope to get as much done in terms of content as possible and finish the document I am working on, which includes the details of my research for the rest of the PSS. I may want to work on bits and pieces of the PSS as time goes on, but it won't be anything official. This has been a great project, with challenges I haven't encountered before, and I'd love to complete as much as possible for AIP!

Friday, August 12th

With all my fellow interns gone,

this week was very quiet and pretty subdued. With all the excitement and SOCK toys gone, my hours at work make me feel more like a regular employee than an intern. Thankfully, Moriel was still around because of her new position as a product specialist for GradSchoolShopper.com, so I drop by at her new cubicle every now and then. I am so excited for her and can't wait to see the changes.

As far as work is concerned, since Bo was back in town, we finished refining the templates and I fiddled around with Ghostscript until I was able to get reasonably uncompressed images of the PSS template to print. I think the loss of quality due to PDF conversion of my template files (in order for proper printing) was really starting to get to me. Next week, I hope to bring my laptop in so that we can go back and forth as I work on completing the first PSS - the one about industry and economy. Following that, I would like to start on Medical Imaging and perhaps lasers. It should be a busy week!

Since I had spent the weekend unpacking at my new place, I spent the weekday evenings acquiring other necessities for my room and making it look classy and elegant, yet student-friendly. I figured since aesthetics and cleanliness are important attributes in a home for me, I should get as much of the fun stuff done before getting swamped with grad school problem sets. What really killed me was grocery shopping on Tuesday--I ended up purchasing more than I can physically carry even a block down the road. Luckily, though, my new location is pretty close to the Prince George's Plaza metro center and I have everything within walking distance, ranging from all the big stores you can care about to the post office. I do miss the convenience of DC living and the freedom of living in a studio housing situation with the SPS interns, but the proximity to work now is just amazing. I am also a very devoted HGTV viewer, and I guess I learned from there that the no. 1 criteria for people looking to get new places is usually reduced commute to work. So while my current home won't be two minutes from my classes like it was in Mount Holyoke, I am glad it's at least close to stores and a short commute by bus.

On Wednesday, I went to the UMD to get my UM ID and all sorts of paperwork, only to realize that not much is going to happen in terms of processing till I manage to get my I-20 (document from a school proving my legal status). That is not happening until the end of this month as my EAD for my work this summer at ACP must be cancelled before I can get my UMD I-20. So while I will have to attend all the international student orientation programs, I will essentially be leaving a lot of the formalities incomplete until I am officially done with my work at ACP. Such is the life of an international student here! But hey, very few countries give international students the opportunities that the U.S. does, especially financial support, so I'll always be grateful for that. I am also very grateful to the immigration people at UMD and MHC for being so prompt with their e-mail responses and helping me feel at ease about my unusual situation.

On Thursday, I finished going through the latest issue of Physics Today. I left with Gary and Susan that evening as I had to get myself to Falls Church to pick up equipment for a fun project I am about to begin soon. It was an unusually productive day. I managed to get in really early, put in eight hours of work, run errands on Baltimore Avenue, have a lot of free ice cream at Jason's Deli, and shop for an hour at IKEA that evening, and get back to AC to retrieve a pen drive before my access card hours were over. I was ecstatic at how much outside work I could get done now within an hour, apposed to in the Five College area, where anything I needed to go off-campus for was usually at least seven miles away. Every shopping trip involved a total of at least three hours of traveling a day, if I was lucky. Here, I wasn't even in a city, but everywhere was so easy to get to. Anyways, I guess I've spent half of my entry this week talking about travel convenience. I've also had some major inconveniences due to the much lower frequency of buses compared to the metro trains, but I think I've made it pretty obvious that my travel stories never end! I am hoping I can get through next week with the same ease and stay trouble free. Next week, I will be spending a considerable amount of time taking evaluations and immunizations at UMD, and hopefully finish the content for the first PSS and perhaps more!

Friday, August 5th

This week was packed full of different things, most of them not even work-related. Saturday was a full day at my aforementioned convention and I was able to attend some really great panels, ranging from classic detective stories to a mythbusters panel talking about the physics in actions portrayed in modern anime. It was essentially a contextual crash course on intro mechanics, relativity and electromagnetism, hosted by physics graduates. I figured we could possibly include something about levitation in future panels of this nature as some nifty things were definitely not covered. I spent most of the day doing things with fellow fansub staffers and attending industry and thematic panels, ending the evening with a Name That Tune game (highly amusing anime edition) panel, Saturday Night Parodies, and late night video session about the most gruesome "deaths" in Japanese animation---something I really shouldn't have watched. As it is, my gory-tolerance just never seems to improve.

On Sunday I attended some absolutely fabulous panels--starting with a pretty hilarious video collection featuring the worst music videos ever made, followed by a gathering of famous directors from Japan talking about their experiences working as creators in the Japanese anime industry (covering topics from digital vs analog animation ethics to sales pitches), and the third (and best) one about about the Japanese Intellectual Property (IP) problem, hosted by Mr. Ronald Kelts, the author of the acclaimed book "Japanamerica." I haven't read the book yet, but after his absolutely marvelous talk, it has definitely made on my list of things to-do. I was sitting in the front row along with the industry folks and so was happy it didn't turn into a mass complaining session about distributive rights. After that, we watched an Otakon classic two-episode show, concluding the convention with the closing ceremony and and the previously mentioned feedback session. It was a great convention that just seemed to last too short this year, despite my sheer level of tiredness at the end. That evening, we went to an absolutely fabulous Japanese buffet restaurant, where I was able to spend some final quality time with my friends Marcus, Adam, Cynthia and David. Then Marcus drove me to their Megabus stop and I came back to DC.

On Monday, I pulled a half day at work as I had to move my stuff on Tuesday evening, meaning I only had that day to pack. At work, I worked on refining the design template from the previous week and helping Erin and Amanda with finishing the SOCK kits, which went on till Tuesday -- the last day for all of my other fellow interns. I am still confused about the best layout for the different member society logos, but I think I'll have that figured out once my advisor is back in town the following week and we can sit and choose. In the meantime, I've been showing them to different staff and fellow interns at ACP and getting their opinions. That evening, I left earlier than usual as one of my fellow future classmates, Mark, was helping me move my suitcases and furniture from ACP and the dorm to my new place. Thanks to DC traffic and my hopeless inability to get my left and right directions correct (even after all these years of trying...), we ended up taking an hour longer than I thought we needed. I am so lucky that the network of upperclassmen in our department happen to be so committed to helping out incoming first-years.

On Wednesday, we had a farewell breakfast, followed by our exit interview. We got nice goodies from AIP and hung out till a little past 2 pm on the second floor helping each other clear things out and talking. The other interns left then and I went back to my area to make progress on my project. It began feeling really quiet and sad so I decided to invest some time decorating my office area with past PSS and the goodies I've received in my time here so far. On Thursday, I couldn't come in to ACP at all due to a suspected infection and a major hive breakout. I spent most of the day in bed, packing and calling up places to secure an appointment with a physician as early as I could, and contacting individuals from my UMD graduate department to see if I could get a ride to my new place in the UMD area as I had to move in that day. Thankfully, Kendra was able to get my lease extended by an extra day on a very short notice, so I didn't have to worry about late check-out fines. I was blessed with a ride and a good night of sleep at my new place. That seemed to really help as I made it to ACP bright and early on Friday and could get back to work. Kendra also drove me to my appointment that afternoon and it really felt like life was back in control, finally. I have to admit that it also felt incredible to be so close to work as my commute time was reduced by almost an hour. Despite that, I am totally going to miss the convenience of being in such a wonderful location in DC, especially a dorm with a CVS one block down and a Bank of American ATM + metro stop within comfortable walking distance! The SPS program really made some great investments for us this year.

Talk about housing -- I am really liking the feel and cleanliness of the new place I just moved to. It has been giving me an extra incentive to be neat and tidy and keep my room looking nice all the time, which is a great way to motivate someone who likes to be neat and yet is too lazy for the upkeep that it requires. It is an interesting adjustment, however, as I am living in a private residence of a single family with two energetic young boys in pre-school. I bet very few graduate students have had this type of arrangement but I think it would work for me as a) it feels like a home already b) I love walking out of my rooms into a playroom full of toys (hey, I am a physicist, what do you expect...), and c) the kids are super adorable and it just makes me happy looking at them. I've never even babysat before so this experience will hopefully give me a little insight into the dynamics of getting work done in the presence of children in the house -- which may serve me well as a working mother in years to come. As for the year ahead, I can already tell it will be something completely new and different for me on so many different levels. Regardless, any and every experience helps us grow. So grad school life, bring it on!

Friday, July 29th

What a week! Not to mention the week I had been looking forward to since the end of July 2010--the week of the Otakon 2011 Japanese "anime" (animation) convention, held at the Baltimore Convention Center (BCC) in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. I did manage to get off to a bad start by falling off steps on early Sunday morning and twisting my foot, but I tried to be careful about icing the area whenever I could over the next four days as I knew the convention would have me on my feet for quite a bit for three days straight.

The weekend began with the barbecue at Gary's house (a.k.a. the White House!) that we had all been looking forward to. Since temperatures were soaring over 100, we spent it indoors, cozied up in the living room eating absolutely yummilicious food and playing riddles. I was so happy to walk in and see fresh fruit for us on the table! After that, we ate their exceptional supper items, followed by ice cream. I spent the rest of the weekend at home due to my foot incident, although the initial plan was to visit the Smithsonian museums on Sunday. At one point, however, I managed to hop onto Bus 80 from our resident avenue and get myself a table fan from the Farragut metro area. It proved to be one of the best moves I made this week, despite the situation with my foot. Now that I have moving air, I can sleep well again!

To summarize my week at work a little -- I spent Monday doing the final edits on my somewhat colorful final presentation, some more research work, and struggling with Adobe InDesign as it kept freezing on me. That was also the first full work weekday that I was actually able to get back to the dorm before 8 pm, but I spent a fair amount of my evening on moving-related activities (as usual). On Tuesday, it was more research and design work, but the highlight was really the fact that I managed to get myself a nice little 22" flat panel LCD HDTV for a fairly low price off Craigslist. I hope to spend some time next week getting it hooked up to my computer and perhaps using it to get a better look at the design template, amongst other work I need to do that involves visual appeal.

I spent most of Wednesday transferring (a.k.a. re-doing) my design to PowerPoint as I figured it would a) save time, b) would let me produce a template that did not require a person to have a fancy software to edit. After all, softwares like PowerPoint and Keynote can do so many things nowadays that were not possible back in 2005 when the current set of PSS were in production. So we may just stick to this for future edits and upgrades. I had a fairly crazy Wednesday, however, as the force seemed to really not be with me that day. Since I was leaving for Baltimore Thursday evening, I figured I'd pick up the last piece of my furnishing necessities and carry them back on the metro to our dorm. However, despite the fact that it was way after rush hours at the time I was traveling back, I couldn't get on the first two trains due to capacity issues. I managed to get myself lined up in a good position for the third one, but then was met with a door which only half-opened, leaving space for only a person to get through. I did manage to get in and out, but at the expense of getting my fellow commuters rather irritated (injured foot + luggage + full metro train = drama). It was quite a task, I must say.

On Thursday, I completed the first draft of the PSS template and got opinions from my fellow ACP interns, Kendra, Tom and Elizabeth about it. Their feedback was very helpful so I set to making the necessary implementations right away. I was happy I was able to get that done before leaving for Baltimore, especially as my adviser was going to be away the following week. The trip to Baltimore was surprisingly short and smooth; thanks to GPS tracking of WMTA buses and marc trains, I got there in just over an hour. Here I was back in good ol' Baltimore, my abode of summer 2010, to attend my second Otakon in a row. Since I arrived early and didn't have dinner plans with friends until much later, I picked up my convention badge from BCC in advance. People were already cosplaying that day and the atmosphere was just awesome around the convention center and the Hilton (connected, also venue for the convention). All the surrounding restaurants were welcoming us and catering with us in mind. It was simply great to be back to such a fresh and familiar atmosphere of people sharing the same interests and traveling in from all over the nation for a common goal.

Since a hotel room is way out of my budget, I am spending the weekend at a lady's house close to the JHU Homewood campus, which should work out well as this is a very comfortable room with everything I could require for such a short stay. While I will be spending most of the time at the convention, since it runs from 9 AM through 2 AM, I definitely have to get some solid sleep the few hours I get to be tucked under a blanket.

I arrived at the convention close to noon on Friday since it was crucial to get a fair amount of sleep beforehand and I had loads of other stuff to do that morning. A few of my friends had driven down and arrived late and were very exhausted on the first day as a result. Some had rather crappy hotel situations with a single room being shared by more than ten people. While that obviously saved them much more money than it saved me, it was bound to be a recipe for a health disaster regardless. I was able to enjoy some panels for their pure entertainment and intellectual excitement value. The type of crowd that discussion panels attract tend to very intelligent and well-informed, much like us physics geeks! That day, events ranged from world movie premieres and autographs, to the usual workshops, panels and old show viewing. This year they decided to show some of the more recent Case Closed movies, which are some of my absolute all-time favorites. While I was unable to find the time for video sessions, I also got to attend panels about CLAMP -- my most favorite "mangaka" (Japanese comic book author), the Anime News Network, and a panel featuring North American anime voice actors acting out a script from this (clearly) dark American comic I was not familiar with. However, the story was awfully reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe plots. We then had our annual fansubbers' dinner at a nearby restaurant, followed by some more quality time with friends (and colleagues as well) and ending with the all-time favorite (Friday Night) Fan Parodies and another great late night entertainment featuring scenes from various shows that would usually make people go "what in the world did I just watch!". As for the fan parodies, they used to be a single-day classic event but due to the increasing number of fabulous submissions, they expanded it to a two-day event in the biggest video room in the convention facilities.

I don't have much time on my hands tonight so I'll continue in next week's entry. After all, most of the convention is really over this weekend, and I don't have a lot to say at this moment without being overly descriptive (I am probably doing that already as it is...). Thus my next entry will talk about the weekend events, the final week at ACP, and my move to a new abode close to College Park. I can't believe it will be August in two days and only a month away from the starting of graduate school classes. Excited? Perhaps. Time to freak out? Well, I have several important things to accomplish before that so it's still too early to get sidetracked by apprehension!

Friday, July 22nd

This week was a pretty exciting, albeit strenuous, week. On Sunday evening, we all went to see Oklahoma! at Arena Stage, which was the special event for this year's SPS interns. We were joined by other SPS/AIP staff, and had a great time full of entertainment and laughter. There were parts of the story that were a little cheesy, but the acting, singing, production, and dialogs were absolutely fabulous. They also had some amazing young talents in the cast. After this, I am inclined to attend as many musicals as possible in DC in the future, especially if they're comedies.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday working on my resources and research for the PSS content, while spending after hours on acquiring furniture and appliances for my new place. I would get back home after ten as usual, except now that it involved physical labor, it began feeling a little too much. So I decided to give a break to my house hunting activities for Wednesday and Thursday and focus on ACP-related matters only. On Monday, I found myself an office chair that costs only ten bucks at the Chevy Chase area and Tom (Olsen) generously helped me snatch that deal by taking me there and letting the chair camp inside his car for the night. It was a nice compact chair so I got really lucky there. The following day, one of my fellow students from the UMD astronomy department, Erin Grand, helped me get a desk and a lamp from the Columbia Heights area (she has a shiny minivan - though she is not too sure if I should call it shiny).

On Monday, we also had Erin and Amanda's "Operation Mousetra," where Fidele, Courtney, Moriel, Anish and I helped the two of them in their efforts to set up 270 mouse traps and mount ping pong balls on each of them. At the end of the operation, we let the Rutherford simulation happen and it was pretty epic! More about that at the end of this entry...

We were treated to free pizza downstairs both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the earlier one being a complete surprise. One of the unique things about this program is the frequency of pleasant lunch surprises we tend to get! I mean, I've heard of people getting meal treats with prior knowledge at work, but not ones that come as complete surprises! The Wednesday lunch was the Education/Outreach lunch, where we were updated on high school physics stats. I spent half of Wednesday on the PSS research work and acquiring info about recent issues covered in Physics Today that may be of potential interest to me. Dr. Jeremy Matthews, editor to Physics Today, has been really helpful to me throughout this process. I sure hope to finish the research phase soon, but at the same time, it is also the phase that probably takes three times the amount of time and effort as the other three phases (Phase 1: assess "look and feel" and propose new topics, Phase 2: research, Phase 3: fix a template and get started on the first PSS, Phase 4: More PSS as time permits and wrap up--which involves compiling materials to enable future PSS-monkeys to work on the project with the necessary tools already provided).

I also started working on the template, since the deadline for Phase 3 is July 29th, 2011, and I'll be gone that Friday to attend Otakon weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, MD. I remember this time last year I was all hyped up for my first Otakon. While I am much more relaxed this time, it is still the one event my entire summer schedule gets planned around! Unlike last year (when I stayed fifteen minutes down the road from the Convention Center), I will be incurring a fair amount of travel and lodging expenses this time, so I am not spending anything on costumes and praying that I don't end up getting lured into buying all sorts of goodies at the Dealers' Room --which is probably one of my favorite aspects of the convention.

I spent the other half of Wednesday writing down everything I wanted to say at the final presentation that Friday, and broke them down into twelve slides. I ran it through Bo that afternoon, took a little tour of a the Statistical Research Center, and set to work on the slides. I was getting pretty annoyed with the inability of Microsoft Powerpoint 2010 to allow users to manipulate the transparency of image objects (well, without using a roundabout way no working person has time for), and pondered why the Office suite versions were going downhill with every upgrade. Oh well, let's hope MS Office for Mac 2011 (which I still haven't had a chance to play with) is much better, and more compatible with MS Office for Mac 2008. Since I had done my last few slides on my personal macbook pro, the incompatibility issues had me presenting via PDF till the actual presentation morning, when I had redone the last half of the slides on my work PC, with the proposed revisions from Thursday's practice session. I figured that since the color and pixel loss incurred in PDF conversion always made me so unhappy, I wouldn't be doing justice to my high graphic standards (no it's not neuroticism) by presenting in a PDF format. While the practice run actually went pretty well for all of us, the original PowerPoint sure looked much more vivid on the projector on presentation day!

Thursday night we had the long-awaited Cosmic Science Cafe that Anish had been planning all this time for NOVA with Kendra as his mentor. Noted theoretical physicist, Dr. James Gates of UMD Physics Department, spoke to us about string theory. The event was held at RFD Washington. Dr. Gates was very engaging and being a professor, he decided to give us a pop-quiz at the end of the discussion session. Those of us who shouted out answers got prizes. I got a "Baby Universe", who my friend Susan (from MHC) thinks will grow up into a "wonderful Miss Universe." (Susan is always that funny.) Despite the severity of the heat and humidity, the event was a huge success and we had a fair number of attendees. Congrats to Anish for that! We concluded the evening with a dinner with Dr. Gates, where he was inducted as an Honorary Member into Sigma Pi Sigma. Although we got back pretty late that night, I decided to I hit up the library on the way to finish editing my slides and have at least one more practice run before Friday's event.

I got to ACP at eight the following morning to do some final touch-ups before the presentation. I was up first, and thus got my presentation over with in no time. I thought it went fairly well and was glad that I could now truly focus on enjoying the other presentations. The presentations were all amazing and it was probably the first set of physics presentations where I enjoyed every moment of what was being presented. All the demos, videos and images were great and I especially enjoyed the slightly different vibe of the Hilltern presentations and Erin and Amanda's "Operation MouseTrap" video and other demos. That video, especially, was true genius and those of you who missed it should definitely try to watch it (it will be available soon on YouTube). We concluded the presentations with Anish's coverage of Thursday's Science Cafe, after which we had delicious lunch with our guests. While the other interns left after the presentations, I hung out at ACP till my usual time (after all, I still had half of my internship left). However, after such a big event, I was ready to crash. When I finally managed to retire to bed that night, I slept like a dog!

Next week's entry will feature the barbecue event at the (Gary) White House, more moving and work adventures, and the first half of my Otakon 2011 experience. I also have a deadline to meet so I must not get too caught up with weekend anticipations. I will miss the Canoeing/Kayaking event the other interns are planning for that weekend, but it will be a crazy and super-awesome weekend for me regardless. I hope we all have a great time during the final weekend of our stay in DC. Stay tuned for this next entry!

Friday, July 15th

The week kicked off at 11 pm on Sunday night with me letting Courtney's soy sauce bottle fall off the fridge and onto the floor, and shatter into tiny shards all over the place. We called the emergency fix-it folks and they came and vacuumed our entire room. Well, before anyone thinks GWU facility management doesn't know what an "actual" emergency is... let me just say that when you consider the distance from the hallway to the window is some 20 feet, and a glass shard had still managed to make it all the way across on to my laptop keyboard by the window, this was a pretty good scenario for immediate action. Unfortunately we lost Courney's soy sauce, but did get a nice clean room out of it (not intentionally of course). I hear that in the western world there are superstitions that say breaking glass is bad, but where I come from, the belief is that glass breaking is a good thing (well, unless it's a married woman's bangle- that has some dramatic connotation of spouse death). Anyways, I can go on about the implications of broken glass, but the point is, I just thought I'd elaborate on this particular topic since I thought it was pretty amusing. Thank God, however, that neither of us got injured!

On Monday, in addition to learning I am actually quite good at setting mousetraps (for the SOCK kits), I worked on my research for the PSS. The more I am getting into my PSS project, the more I am realizing the sheer magnitude of the amount of work that it takes to construct something of this nature. I naively went to the library and got myself around fifty editions of Physics Today to browse through, with the hopes of getting some nifty material out of it. At the end of this week, I had finished going through very few of them since it's more than just locating materials. So I am still reading and hoping I can get through as much as possible before the end of next week. I am also looking around for images and I have to keep in mind that getting permissions will take a while. So if anyone finds anything neat that they think should be featured in the PSS, please send it along! Thankfully though, I've had some contact from OSA, AAS and the Rheology Society so it's really just the other societies that I have to get in contact with. I was planning on hitting up the societies residing in Dupont Circle on Friday but things just did not work out this week.

A little update on my house hunting: So on Monday, a third-year grad student from the UMD astro department took me to five different places and I finally discovered the place where I can see myself living. It's a basement room in University Park with it's own bathroom. My favorite thing about the place is that being a private single-family house, it is very clean and well-maintained. Being able to keep it that way is also a condition for moving in! I put a deposit on the room on Wednesday and spent some pre-move quality time with the family, which involved playing with LED flashlights and pens I gave to the two adorable little boys in the house. The boys are deaf so I figured it'd be a great gift for them. No harm in trying to get future physicists out of them, either! It was really great to finally have a place to move when I begin school in August. This process sure took a long time and quite a bit of patience. I'm so glad to have it settled as it means I can begin working on furniture and moving arrangements!

This week was our third Field Trip Friday in a row! We went to NSF, which is located in Arlington, VA. We arrived around nine in the morning to collect our badges, after which we were ushered by a former SPS intern--now science assistant for physical oceanography at NSF--to a conference room. There we had a nice relaxed discussion about the different aspects of NSF, ranging from the workings of NSF as a funding agency to undergraduate education. Then we were treated to lunch in Thai place next to the Ballston Commons building. There we got to speak with the other science assistants, most of them with interesting undergraduate double majors. I believe half of these people will be enrolling in graduate school this fall. One of them had even worked for Representative Rush Holt! What are the chances! I think Courtney was pleasantly surprised, if not excited. I was very happy to get the chance to talk to them as I have several friends from MHC who graduated with a double major of physics and history/philosophy. Looks like this may be a valid career option for them! Overall, it was one of the best days of my time here in the program so far.

That night, we went back to Ballston to watch the final Harry Potter movie at the Regal Cinemas. Since the movie was released in 3D this time, I was looking forward to watching it again at the Maryland Science Center IMAX theater - the only IMAX facility in the state. Alas, it turns out they aren't showing Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows, even though they had shown Part 1 last November! So I will be asking around for leads on other IMAX theaters in the area.

Next week, I will be talking to a few people, which should definitely help me with the research phase. It should be interesting trying to get that work done, our final presentation, preparations for a panel the following week, and my housing project (furniture acquirement phase) all done in four days. I still have to figure out where I am going to store some of the furniture I am buying off people in DC, but I won't stress myself too much about it. I wasn't planning on spending too much time on this week's entry, so I'll leave off her . My next entry should cover the final presentations and Amanda and Erin's "Operation Mouse Trap." Quite an eventful week ahead!


Friday, July 8th

This week was less eventful than the last one but we still had a fair amount going on. We kicked off the week with Fourth of July celebrations at the Lincoln Memorial/National Monument area. Although we arrived five hours prior to the fireworks so we could secure a good seating area, there wasn't much of a crowd till it started getting dark. We sat ourselves close to some gigantic stadium-like speakers at the Lincoln Memorial bathroom area (our landmark for directing others)! Heather disappeared for a couple of hours to attend the Hare Krishna festival on the National Mall (with free food). Fidele and Amanda, who had been out at Six Flags America and Dupont Circle respectively, joined us later. It was drizzling on and off but we had gone all prepared with snacks, real food, many water bottles in an insulated bag (thanks to Cabot), towels, umbrellas, ponchos and polybags! The fireworks were amazing and I got a videotape on my Android, despite the low lighting. Both Courtney and Paul (Erin's boyfriend) had their pro cameras with them, while the rest snapped away with their point and shoots. We got some great pictures, including portraits of everyone in front of the monument. We had little trouble getting back and when we arrived home, there was only one thing on our minds--a shower!

Tuesday and Wednesday mostly went along smoothly - working on my project and the usual housing search activities. I still haven't managed to find something that works to meet my needs. If the room was good, the bathroom was unimpressive and vice versa. I also started to look for furniture leads as it occurred to me that I also had to make my future room livable by the beginning of August. A funny thing happened around noon at lunch on Wednesday: I had just realized that I did not have my lunch with me and was feeling highly unmotivated to order from the Chinese Place, when, all of a sudden, Erin showed up and asked if I wanted to join Doug and the others for a lunch at Chipotle, and that Doug and Elizabeth were driving us. What perfect timing! I basically stood up right away with a big smile on my face. It was a great lunch, despite my sheer dislike for Cilantro (I am one of those who can't taste both genes).

As for my project, after discussing my assessment of the current PSS (last updated 2005) with Bo (Dr. Hammer) last Wednesday, I got onto brainstorming ideas for the list of topics I think should be featured on the latest version. I won't be too specific in these journal entries but basically, I have been going over the websites of the AIP member societies to see what their current buzz was all about. As it is, these PSS must not only communicate to Congress, but also needs to cater to our member societies. For example, the laser story is something OAS has always used while the astrophysics one is something that addresses the needs of AAS. This is going to be pretty challenging considering my current idea is to make the topics less product-focused and more big picture/purpose focused. Over the week, I basically worked on coming with sub-topics and areas of research that we may want to capture in the new PSS. At the same time, I tried to work on finding good images and I learned from Jen that getting permissions for these images can be quite a time-consuming process. I hope to have this part done as soon as possible as there is still a lot to get done before July 22, when our final presentations are taking place at ACP.

On Thursday evening, I checked out another home. Originally, my plan was to see a few friends from Mount Holyoke that evening but this place seemed like it wouldn’t last long (and it didn’t). On Friday, we had the NIST tour. I had never been to NIST before so I was already pretty pumped to begin with.... It was the first place I visited in a while that completely blew my mind. We first got a tour of the different “standards” and the corresponding physical standards artifacts in the visitors’ area. I started getting the “we set standards every day” impression once we began touring the labs in John Suehle’s group (the group in which Heather and Binayak have been working). We even got to visit the world’s most vibration-controlled facility! John Suehle was super-engaging and easy to follow, and all the other scientists we met were extremely passionate about their work. Reminded me so much of my professors from the Mount Holyoke Physics department! I really enjoyed the atmosphere.

In the middle of the tour, we also had a chance to see the launch of Atlantis, which brought tears to my eyes. We finished the tour an hour later than we had anticipated but it was so worth it. A few stayed to get a tour of Heather’s work, while the rest of us walked out and into the worst downpour I’d seen in DC in a while! Cabot, Moriel and I hadn’t taken our umbrellas so it was quite a crazy trip back to GWU! (Note: I usually go prepared, but tend to have days where I am just too stubborn to drag an umbrella along.)

Since I had to postpone my plans to go to Baltimore, I plan on spending the weekend doing a fair amount of house hunting. I would really like to settle on something (and not lose it to someone else!) by mid-week. Without a car, this process has proven to be like a full time job on its own, taking up time I need to be spending at the gym, grad school paperwork, etc. It will probably be one of the first big decisions I’ve had to take in my life thus far—especially one involving money. Please wish me good luck with that!

Friday, July 1st

Wow, this is only my second week and there is already so much to write! To start off, I spent the weekend at my aunt's in upstate NY attending Nazifa's high school graduation (as I mentioned in my first/previous entry). I got back to DC late Sunday night after my aforementioned Greyhound madness and it turned out that both Moriel and I were on the same bus from NYC! She had been trying to facebook/call me for two hours and I had no clue!

On Monday we had a lot going on. I was feeling pretty tired that morning since I had broken into a coughing fit/breathing difficulties during the night and thus was feeling very sleep-deprived. The ice cream event that afternoon came as a blessing! The event was held to encourage employees to submit names of people who had been helpful to them and they were to be awarded a rather fancy-looking certificate and a pin. So cute! After that we got together with Kendra to discuss the ACP Tour on Thursday. Since there were so many of us, it was more about getting people to talk about different things that goes on at ACP than us giving individual overviews about our areas. That evening, I continued with my house hunting activities.

The following day I got some more PSS assessment work done before spending the afternoon talking with Jen, meeting others on the third floor and looking into logistics for the Govt. Relations/News and Media hour for Thursday's ACP tour. They were having another Science Cafe (NASA scientist weather/climate talk) at last week's Rockville place but we all decided not to go for the sake of time. Half of this week was going to be spent at other events anyway so we figured we'd rather get some work done! That being said, I learned from Erin that the event taking place downstairs (namely the New Physics and Astronomy Faculty Workshop 2011) was going to have a community dinner at 6pm downstairs followed by a "Physics IQ test". Although I had been staying late to get some of my own work done, I just had to give in to the temptation. It was totally worth it (videos on Facebook) with the great food, conversations at the dinner table and finally this IQ test.

Basically, this is something Dr. Richard E. Berg of UMD Physics has been known to do for years. He had a room set up full of basic physics experiments and the idea was that he would propose different answers to each scenario and we had to raise our hands to show which one we considered to be the correct answer. "No guts, no glory!" For example, if a ball is released from rest, does it go up, down or stays there? (Of course, it wasn't as simple as that for most part...) Most people got somewhere between 50-65% of answers correct (and he seemed to know that already from experience). Us SPS interns (namely, Erin, Moriel and myself) actually did quite well... Upon our request, Dr. Berg agreed to spare some of his time to perform the IQ test with our tour group on Thursday evening. So glad we went!

Wednesday was mostly a work day. That afternoon, we were treated to a pizza lunch over a discussion on how to improve AIP's GradSchoolShopper.com site (it is the website that lists graduate programs in physics and related fields, the book has been around for some thirty-six years). We had a pretty good discussion covering topics from the content to the layout, ending with a pretty funny psychoanalysis of the home page's background image of Drexel students. (Going off on a tangent? Maybe...) It was quite fun and I thought we were able to give some really good ideas. I am really excited to see how the site turns out.

That evening I went to UMD to talk to my grad school department's Chair regarding course registration and then continued onto House Search Evening 3. The places I saw that evening were somewhat better than the ones I had checked out previously. However, I continued to be unimpressed with the neighborhoods and surrounding atmosphere. I guess four years in an absolutely gorgeous and sober college campus in a small suburban town in Western Mass had spoiled me to an extent. My Alma Mater, Mount Holyoke, is just beautiful beyond words. It was a nice way to gain some familiarity with the Shuttle-UM route (which has a pretty impressive coverage) regardless.

On Thursday we had the ACP Tour. Everyone except Binayak (who had this expensive training at NIST that could not be missed) was able to attend it, along with AIP's News and Media interns, Catherine and Jenny, and a couple of significant others. It begin with an orientation of AAPT (the society that hosted Tuesday's workshop), followed by Physics Today, Niels Bohr library tour, APS, a thermodynamics PhysicsQuest demo from Moriel, great Chinese food for lunch, some fun post-lunch science time with Gary (slinkies, PVC tubes, polarizers), SOCK demos from Erin and Amanda, some words from Anish about his Science Cafe work, and finally the Govt. Relations and News and Media hour. I also got my first paycheck! We finished the evening with a barbeque at Dr. Fred Dylla's (Executive Director and CEO of AIP) house, where I finally got to meet Nobel Prize winning Physicist, Dr. John Mather!

On Friday we..... got to sleep in! (I was very grateful--this was after thirteen days of operating on less half the number of hours I needed!) That is to say, we began our Capitol tour later in the morning. Cabot showed us his workplace, which was followed by a visit of the room where they hold the Science, Space and Technology Committee hearings. Both Courtney and Cabot did a fantastic job as tour guides. We got a tour of Courtney's workplace at District 12 (NJ) Representative Rush Holt's office right after we finished our tour of the visitor's center. We also had a pretty expensive (but short) lunch at one of the Capitol building cafeterias. We ended the tour with a visit to the Botanical Gardens, which was a pretty sweet place.

Despite the length of my entry, there is a lot I didn't talk about (e.g. shopping trips). In total, we were fed by ACP about five times I think? Pretty awesome! That night I finally took some time to play around with the features of my new Android phone so that I can maximize its use over the days to come. To be more specific, I had to make sure I got used to the GPS--the main reason behind my sudden investment in a smartphone after all (I'm not on a contract so I pay full price on phones)! I want to make sure I'm all prepared for the crowd that Fourth of July in the nation's capital attracts! Which is an excellent tie-in to my summer project which, once again, is communicating the importance of physics research by demonstrating its relevance to the development of such neat technology products we can't do without!

With this, I conclude my entry for this week. Stay tuned for next week's entry covering fourth of July events! We are pretty lucky to be staying on the GWU campus as we are just about a mile from the White House/National Monument/National Mall area. Happy Birthday America~~~

Friday, June 24th

Hello everyone! This is officially my first entry in the SPS Internship 2011 program journal. Now, I haven’t had a chance to read any of the entries written up by my awesome fellow interns, so I apologize if I seem to go off on a tangent every now and then. As it is, conciseness has never been my forte! This will be a rather long entry in general as I am summarizing ten days’ worth of happenings in one go.

To start off, I guess I should mention that I started my program nearly three weeks behind everyone else due to delays in receiving my Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD) card…which is a form of permission us students here in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa require for post-graduation employment (I just graduated from Mount Holyoke College). It costs $380 to apply (+$20 for expressing in an expedited request in my case) and anywhere between two to three months to get the card in hand (apparently). It was quite an adventure getting that leg of this journey sorted, but I’ll talk about it some other day perhaps.

I arrived late on the night of June 16th (Thursday) after a 12+ hr plus journey via good old Greyhound from upstate NY. I arrived at the International House with two suitcases weighing so much that Cabot (who kindly did the suitcase hauling for me upon arrival) wondered if I had stuffed rocks in them. So my roommate Courtney (who I had been texting prior to arrival) and Cabot helped me get my stuff to our room and then I settled in. Since I arrived after such a strenuous journey with endless delays, we decided it would be the best for me to sleep in on Friday and show up later in the afternoon at ACP.

On Friday afternoon, I finally got to meet Kendra in person and she introduced me to the people whose names I had only heard and seen in e-mails from SPS. Everyone seemed so happy to see me finally arrive---I almost felt like a celebrity! I had a bit of an unofficial orientation and was shown around the building. I was very impressed with everything from the compactness of the fitness room to the aura of professionalism and the color-coding of the different floors. I met my other fellow interns that night and it was really nice seeing the camaraderie amongst them. While I did not do anything exciting that night, I spent the weekend at the house of a friend in Virginia who was preparing to leave for military boot camp the following Monday.

Monday was my first full day at work. I sat with the HR and IT people and got through the usual formalities and paperwork. I got to meet my mentor, Dr. Phillip Hammer, and we began discussing my project – which is to update as well as propose and implement any additions to the current content of the Physics Success Stories (PSS) on the AIP website. The PSS is a series of one-page “leave-behinds” created to communicate the importance of government-funded physics research via illustrating the physics basis behind items we use every day. We discussed the timeline and I was able to meet Jennifer Greenamoyer, AIP’s Senior Government Relations Liaison, who is also one of my supervisors. I also managed to learn that ACP staff had really cute children at lunch!

On Tuesday, upon Jen’s invitation, I went to attend the Coalition for National Security Research monthly meeting at the American Mathematical Society in Dupont Circle. I was amazed to see the diversity in the type of professionals that meeting had attracted and the range of concerns raised by these people. I had only been in research, outreach and educational science talks in the past so this was a first of its kind for me. That evening, I joined the others at Rockville, MD for my first ever Science Café. On Wednesday, I wasn’t feeling too well so we settled for a fun free concert with frozen yogurt at Farragut West that evening (I only wish the frozen yogurt was free as well, oh well…) with Anish, Amanda, Binayak, Erin, Heather, Moriel and Fidele.

Thursday was an interesting day as I was trying to get as much done as possible before leaving for the week. I had to travel back to upstate NY on Friday to attend the high school graduation of my dearest “cousin-sister” Nazifa (Wagner College, '15). I picked up some free SPS goodies (in addition to the generous welcome kit with a mini telescope) and spent the evening checking out housing prospects in the College Park and nearby areas for graduate school in the fall.

To sum up, much of the week went in dealing with the “first week at work” stuff, and the rest was spent productively at times and feeling overwhelmed at other times with commute, travel plans, house hunt and food prices in D.C. I also managed to get lost nearly every other day while looking for the bank or a grocery and often ended up in an expensive restaurant to eat all by myself. It’s always nice to have adventures regardless. So starting this week, I’ll be using my first ever Smartphone in the hopes of not getting lost in the streets of D.C. again. After all, us physicists can never be “too much dependent” on technology, can we? ;)

I am also looking forward to not having to use Greyhound for a multi-stop journey for a while – my troubles with them have ranged from broken AC on a four-hour long ride to getting lost in the middle of nowhere—all within the past ten days! I am really looking forward to the events this week as we will have the ACP tour and more! This may be an even busier week as I plan on pulling late hours and go house hunting nearly every evening. So please stay tuned for my next entry (which will definitely contain more about my actual work over this summer).

Mahmuda Badhan Mahmuda Afrin Badhan
Mount Holyoke College
Internship: AIP News Media/Government Relations
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Final Presentation

Physics Success Stories
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Abstract
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