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2011 SPS National Interns
2011 Interns | Past Interns | About the Program

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Name Fidele Bingwa
Hendrix College, AR
Internship: AIP History Center
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I’m from Kigali, Rwanda a small country in east Africa. I was raised in a Christian family where I was taught from an early age that nothing great is achieved without hard work and that my needs and desires don’t come before everything else. I try to live according to those values. I grew up speaking three languages: French, Kinyarwanda, and Swahili and I learned English at school and here in the US. I am a big movie fan, I love reading, watching basketball, and since being in the US chocolate cookies have gotten the better of me.

It’s in Rwanda that I completed my high school education with distinction. Because of my performance in mathematics and science I received a Rwandan Presidential Scholarship for my college education. I am now a rising senior at Hendrix College where I am majoring in physics and have earned two awards in mathematics and physics. During my college experience I have been able to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, and spend a summer as a lab assistant at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.


Name Fidele Bingwa
Hendrix College
Internship: AIP History Center
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Review of the Summer Friday, July 22nd Friday, July 1st Friday, June 10th
Friday, August 5th Friday, July 15th Friday, June 24th Friday, June 3rd
Friday, July 29th Friday, July 8th Friday, June 17th

Review of the Summer

When I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my summer, I wanted to prove to myself that I can handle a traditional 9 to 5 job, so I looked for a summer internship that fit the criteria. Being an intern at the Center for History of Physics was the perfect opportunity for me because it was a 9 to 5 job and I would be doing something completely new. I had a hard time explaining to my friends what I was going to do in my internship because, like me, they didn’t grasp the importance of science history.

When I started I didn’t know much about the field, and I thought science history was all about the important dates in science. This changed after I talked to Dr. Good, my internship supervisor. After he explained to me what science history was all about, and after I started read the books he had asked me to read, the way I viewed science and scientists changed. I never thought I would enjoy science history, but now I’m glad I tried it and I just love it!

My internship required reading books and other sources of information, and frankly I thought the bulk of what I would learn from the internship would come from my reading. Surprisingly, I learned more from the people I met, the places I visited, and the people I worked with. SPS did a good job of broadening our experience by organizing visits to various institutions. I was able to meet a lot of people and they all, in one way or another, contributed to my growth during the summer. I will always be grateful to SPS for enriching my internship.

The other part of my internship was my relationship with the other interns. At the beginning we were ten strangers from different parts of the US and the world, but we got to know each other, live and work together. We were a diverse group and I feel like we learned a lot from each other. If I had a great experience in DC it was mainly due to the other interns who I’m now proud to call friends.
The 2011 SPS Internship was AWESOME!!

Friday, August 5th

I spent my last weekend in DC with my best friends from school; we had a good time and I enjoyed having them around. On Monday I continued my work on the exhibit. By the end of the day I had the bulk of the work done and I only needed to proof read my work. While I was doing the last fact checking I started sending a friend some random facts I learned from the books I was reading. One of them was that the first person to get a speeding ticket was in 1896, driving at a speed of 3.2 km/h which is about 5 miles/h. On Tuesday, I finished double checking my work and started adding some pictures that I thought would be good to have in the exhibit. At the end of the day I cleaned up my desk and that’s when it hit me, it’s my last day of work at AIP. On Wednesday we had our last breakfast and meeting, we talked about how the summer went and we gave our farewells to the staff. On Thursday it was sad to say goodbye to all my friends, but we had a great time and they definitely made this summer one of the best I’ve had. You all have a special place in my heart.

Friday, July 29th

This was the last full week of work left and I still had a lot to do for my project. Last week I started doing research on the early life of Rutherford and my plan was to continue working on it this week. I realized that I had more to do than I originally expected. I didn’t like what I had finished writing earlier in the summer so I went back and started making changes here and there. I have a clearer idea of what Dr. Good wants the web exhibit to be like, so I made changes accordingly. By the end of the week I completed most of the writing and research I had to do. Compared to the other weeks this one was more stressful since we were all trying to finish up our projects. This Thursday, the Center for the History of Physics hosted a conference for graduate students and early-career scholars. I attended some of the talks and I was particularly interested in the research one of the students did on the history of the Atomic Clock. What is time? What’s a second? What’s a clock? These are the main questions that she had to ask and try to answer in her research. At first I thought there were clear answers to these questions, but the more I thought about them the more difficult it was to find good answers. Before this summer I didn’t know people studied science history in school, and now I’ve come to enjoy and admire what science historians do. Dr. Good, my supervisor, is always passionate when he talks about science history; you can tell right away that he is doing something he loves. I don’t remember where I heard this, but someone once told me that the trick in life is to find a way to be paid for doing something you love and enjoy doing in the first place. Seeing how passionate my supervisor is, I have decided to keep working hard until I find my passion in life. Going back to Science History, I will say it was easier to understand a scientific concept after I had read the history behind it. I’m glad I had the opportunity to explore this side of science!

Friday, July 22nd

It’s the 8th week of work; I can't believe it’s almost the end of the internship. We did our project presentations this Friday, so I worked on my presentation for most of the week. Doing a presentation on my summer work was another opportunity for me to assess what I had finished working on and what I still needed to work on for the rest of the summer. I have just enough time to finish the segment about Rutherford’s life.

On Monday, Erin and Amanda worked on their chain reaction demo and we helped them set up the 270 mousetraps and ping-pong balls need for the demo. The demo itself went well and they made a great video for it ( I believe this new demo added to the others they finished earlier this summer will make great outreach activities and teaching tools for the SPS chapters. On Wednesday, I met with my supervisor to talk about the project and to look at what we needed to work on. He explained the direction he wanted to take the exhibit and talked about some of the things I had to change or add to what I had done so far. It was a good meeting and it felt good to know that the project could be finished soon. Thursday was a big day for Anish; he hosted his first science café. He spent the whole summer organizing the event, looking for a venue, a speaker, etc. It all went really well.  Dr. Jim Gates, the speaker, gave a great talk about string theory, andikras, super symmetry, and all the cool stuff about his research. He had the audience engaged and gave satisfying answers during the Q&A session. I’m glad I attended the event and it’s officially the best science café I’ve attended!

Friday we gave our presentations. My presentation was the second to last of the day so as my colleagues gave their presentations I got more and more nervous about my presentation. I’m glad it went well. For me the presentations were very instructive, as I got a better understanding of what the other interns worked on. I thought we all did a good job on our presentations and I hope the attendees enjoyed it as well. At the end of the day it was good to see we were all relaxed and happy as if a heavy load had been taken off our shoulders; now that’s how weekends should start!

Friday, July 15th

On Monday my advisor was ready to read what I had done so far, so I checked my work and made some last minute corrections. While I was waiting for my advisor's feedback I started reading other web exhibits that I hadn't had the chance to read before. I noticed that most of the major scientists of the twentieth century had at least one parent who was an educator. Is it possible that they became great scientists because they were taught science at an early age? It is definitely a possibility. They all remember someone in their lives who sparked their interest in science or academics in general. It reminded me of a saying in Kinyarwanda “Igiti kigororwa kikiri gito,” meaning a tree is straightened when it’s still small. There are definitely advantages to sparking scientific and mathematical interests in young children and one might prove it  by using the lives and education of different scientists. It’s another way history can help us improve our lives.
I wanted to work on another part of the exhibit so I started reading about the early life of Rutherford and my advisor allowed me to start working on it for the exhibit. It’s important for every web exhibit to start with the upbringing and youth of a scientist because understanding his/her upbringing gives us a better understanding of their working methods and interests in life. For my research I focused on the book Rutherford: Scientist Supreme by John Campbell. The author is a New Zealander, like Rutherford, and he worked closely with the Rutherford family for his research. I was impressed by what he was able to find out about Rutherford’s life; his book is very detailed.

On Friday we had a tour of the National Science Foundation (NSF) where we were told how the NSF works - basically how they select the researches that are going to receive funding from the government. What’s good about the process is that the projects are selected by scientists who can easily judge the importance of the different research proposed. It insures that the projects funded are the ones that are worth it. After the visit we went to a bakery near the metro and I bought one of the best cakes I have eaten so far. Since most of the interns are big Harry Porter fans, they were excited we were going to see the new movie later that night. Well, I guess a little bit of “Harrymania” is part of the internship experience.

Friday, July 8th

It’s the first time I've spent the whole summer in the US, so this was the first time I got to see the famous Independence Day fireworks. We went at the Lincoln memorial to see them, I was impressed by the number of people who came to watch them and by the amount of time they waited for them. The fireworks show lasted 17 minutes during which I took the time to think about Rwanda since the 4th of July is liberation day in Rwanda. I miss home. It was hard to get back to work after the extended weekend. I continued working on the web exhibit. After reading so much about Rutherford I knew I didn’t want to be stating facts about his work at the lab; I wanted to go beyond the scientist and look at the person, his way of life, his inspiration, and his goals. It took many drafts, taking different approaches on the story, until finally I was able to write something that I liked and that I could keep working on later. The main challenge during the whole process was to keep myself from putting so many details about Rutherford’s life, since they is no way it could be done for the main exhibit. I wanted the readers to know everything I knew about Rutherford.

On Thursday I met Dr. Romain Murenzi who used to be the Rwandan minister of education and is now the Executive Director of The Academy of Science for the Developing World. His organization has great plans for science education in developing countries and it was a privilege to meet him. We visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on Friday, and it was a mind blowing experience. Saying that the research being done there was impressive would be an understatement, and the labs and equipments they use left me speechless. I had no idea humans had the technology to do some of the things they do at the institute. We visited their nanotechnology lab, andas we were being told what is done in the lab and the role of each machine, I thought of Rwanda. I wondered when we would get to such technology or even why we didn’t have it. It was sad to realize how far behind our country is, and how far we have to go in order to get anywhere in scientific research. I’m proud of my country and I always want to believe we are more developed than we really are, but what I saw at NIST made me face the reality of things. Other than the labs we got to see replicas on the different standard units of measurement as well as a descendant of the original apple tree that inspired Newton. The most surprising exhibits I saw were the standards for moles of different elements, and the atomic clock. We also had a tour of the NIST library and what caught my attention the most was the way our guide explained the purpose of NIST and the importance of having standards. Just imagine what would happen if we didn’t keep a standard measure of time!

Friday, July 1st

We had a couple of tours at the end of the week so I had to work hard to make up for the days I wouldn't be working. I continued my research on the Cambridge days of Lord Rutherford; I believe I now have a good grasp of the way he ran the lab and the work that was done there. I was very happy when Amanda asked me for a book on Rutherford's life for her SOCK project; for me it meant that people will sometimes use the web exhibits and the other resources in the library. I spent most of the week trying to find the best way I could tell Rutherford's story. For that I had to read the other web exhibits, pick the things I liked in them, and try to implement them in my work.
On Thursday all the interns had a tour of the American Center for Physics (ACP), took Dr. Richard Berg's Physics IQ test (FUN!!), and had a great barbecue at Dr. Fred Dylla's house. To sum it all up - it was an amazing day.
Cabot and Courtney organized a beautiful Capitol Hill tour for us on Friday. I learned lots of things about American history and politics, and couldn’t stop admiring the magnificence of the Capitol. It was a good way to start the extended weekend.

Friday, June 24th

I had a very productive week at work; I’ve started writing down bits and pieces of the web exhibit. As part of my research I read a book on the Cavendish Lab by J.G. Crowther and it’s one of the best books I've read so far! I’m excited I got to read it. Crowther is a science history writer and he does a great job with his story telling, his writing is just captivating. On Monday we attended the Einstein Fellowship Poster session on Capitol Hill. Being in the Kennedy caucus room, having an awesome catering service and learning about the teachers’ projects made my experience there simply wonderful. On Tuesday we attended a science café on nanotechnology, and the speaker did a good job of explaining what nanotechnology is; I was glad to learn something new. Wednesday afternoon we went to Farragut Park as usual, the music was good and the frozen yogurt was great as always! The last two days at work were tough; I was a little behind on my work so I had to put in some extra effort to get back on track. I’m glad I did. Friday afternoon all the interns went to the sculpture garden jazz concert. I didn’t hear much of the music but I know I had a great time relaxing, chatting and watching Anish, Heather, Courtney, and Erin trying to swing dance without any music. It was a nice evening and a good way to start my weekend.

Friday, June 17th

Monday we went to teach 3rd graders about the science of collisions and the gold foil experiment. Amanda and Erin had prepared the lesson and I have to say they did an amazing job. The kids enjoyed their lesson, I enjoyed teaching them, and nothing was more rewarding than the way they shouted “thank you for coming” when we left. In the afternoon we went to a science café and I have to say it was an awesome experience, I loved the discussion!
Tuesday I was back to my research on the discovery of the neutron for the Rutherford’s nuclear world web exhibit. I found good books on the subject in the library and I spent the whole day reading, taking notes and doing more research.
Work on Wednesday was highlighted by the picnic, the egg relay race and the open mic event; after a day like that all I could say is that working at the ACP rocks! After work we went to a Farragut square concert; there is nothing better than good music and frozen yogurt for the evening!
Thursday I got all the files my advisor will be using for the web exhibit, amongst them were transcripts of oral interviews of different scientists. I read Chadwick’s interview and I was shocked to see how much he had forgotten about his early work/life; he was 77 at the time of the interview.
It’s Friday, it’s not easy to focus on work when the weekend is so close. I now have good outline for my piece on the discovery of the neutron; it’s been a fun and productive week.

Friday, June 10th

When I woke up on Monday morning for my first week of work at the History Center for Physics I had no idea this would be an amazing week. At work I got my first assignment; I have to write a brief history of the discovery of the neutron for the “Rutherford’s nuclear world” exhibit my advisor is working on. I had already started reading about Rutherford when I got the assignment and I was amazed by his character, his leadership and the scientific insight. He was very good at delegating work to his assistants that he pretty much ended up not having a lot to do. Reading his biography and what his students and colleagues wrote about him made me realize that there is more to know about the history of physics beyond dates, names of scientists, their formulas and theories. I’m excited my internship will allow me to dig even more in the lives of great scientists. I used microfilms for the first time; I was looking at Rutherford and Bohr’s correspondences trying to find mentions of the neutron. It’s amazing to be able to read letters by different scientists even though some of them had awful hand writings.
Outside of work we attended a science café on Tuesday, it was not as good as I expected it to be but I enjoyed my time there. Anish’s navigation skills were the highlight of the day! Wednesday I had my best afternoon so far; I experience the wonders of FrozenYo for the first time thanks to Amanda and Erin and nothing felt better than hearing/dancing salsa music at Farragut Square. Thursday night was all about getting ready for the Rwandan Conference in Chicago.

Friday, June 3rd

I have always had a hard time adapting to changes and while I was excited to come to DC for the internship I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. While I did get my share of cultural shock being with the other interns helped me a lot. Right after I arrived in my room I got to meet all the other interns they all have different personalities but they are very nice and easy to talk to. Our first night we went to a pub, visited two war memorials, the Lincoln memorial, and Einstein’s statue all of which were beautiful experiences. The next day was the shopping day and we also got to check out the metro which made it easier for us the next day when we were heading to the AIP building for our orientation.
Orientation was great; everybody was nice and genuinely happy to have us there. I met a Noble Prize winner; needless to say it gave me bragging rights amongst my friends. I also met my internship supervisor, Dr Good, who immediately gave me two of the many books I will read for the summer.
I had to work at home for the first week because I didn’t have all my paperwork that allows me to work; I’m glad I got out of the way. I started reading the books I was assigned to read and so far I am learning that there is more to physics’ history than the date a formula or theory was penned. I’m happy I will start working again on Monday, and I’m excited for this summer!!

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Name Fidele Bingwa
Hendrix College, AR
Internship: AIP History Center
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share

Final Presentation

Rutherford’s Nuclear World

It has been a hundred years since the discovery of the neutron and it’s only fitted that a web exhibit on Rutherford be added to the existing web exhibits featured on AIP’s website. This summer I helped Dr. Greg Good develop the ‘Rutherford Nuclear World’ web exhibit. I learned a lot about the science history field, scientists, physics, and of course Rutherford. It was a great experience!

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