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Jose Rodrigo Avila

King College, AIP Career Pathways Intern

Jose is working on the AIP Career Pathways Project, a project funded by the National Science Foundation. The goal of the project are to identify diverse physics departments graduating students that enter the STEM workforce and are intentional about career preparation, discern effective practices through site visits of 8 departments, and compile and synthesize data to determine trends and common practices. In addition, to explore how alumni can help physics departments meet local industry needs by piloting alumni boards at two institutions and disseminate findings through reports and regional workshops.

View Ro's Final Presentation

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Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Final Reflections | Final Presentation

Final Reflections

Until this summer, I could not imagine what a summer internship would look like. Especially a summer internship in the capital of the United States working along with the American Institute of Physics and the Society of Physics Students (SPS). I was new to all the processes required to get to my summer place of work and live in a city I had only visited a couple times. But I am the type of person for who there’s no going back once I accept to live a new experience. You made a decision like this because something in you wants to live that adventure, and so I believe you must follow the decision with all the consequences and learning experiences it brings. Of course I was anxious about this internship, and I knew I was going to meet a lot of people, I knew I would need to catch on to a new rhythm of work, to get accustomed to my boss’s expectations, and I knew I was going to be very busy. However, the best part of the “not knowing” aspect of it was that I, for sure, did not know was how much fun I would have, how many great people I would be working and living with, how important and useful the resources I would help develop would be for physics undergraduates and other students, and what a great experience I would take away from this opportunity.

Through this internship, I learned how to apply my physics skills and knowledge to develop resources that I was not very familiar with, but which I knew were important for students going into the workforce. I had heard about some of career preparation topics in school, but never went into as much detail as I did this summer; I researched these topics, I talked to people about them, I heard and analyzed ideas, I rewrote resources several times, and finally I got them reviewed by my mentors and bosses. I think the overall contribution I provided will be very helpful first of all and primarily to students looking for a job; to undergraduate students that are undecided on their major; and to career services centers in universities that can use these resources as recruiting tools to draw more students towards the fields of Physics and STEM.

There was so much I took away from this summer internship with SPS. The friends and contacts I made will be so important for my future plans, since we share the same interests, we shared some of the same experiences, we worked, lived, and learned about each other, and of course we have the basic thing that brought us together: PHYSICS.

Thanks for reading!

Week 10: A lot of emotions!
August 5-9, 2013

And just as I expected, this last week totally flew by. On Sunday my brother came to town to spend the last 4 days of my internship with me, and so he had to see our final presentations. I showed him Georgetown, we walked down M street along with some other interns, and we got to Georgetown University, which I must say is a beautiful campus. And then, the week started…

On Monday, we went with the other interns to ACP, and we practiced our presentations with some SPS Staff. We received feedback and some constructive critic from the SPS Staff and the other interns as well. They gave us advice on how to improve our presentations – how to make them look clearer, more understandable, and more appealing. The next day, it was show time. We got to ACP early in the morning, and the conference room started filling up with mentors, bosses, representatives, family, and friends. I was the third one to go, and even though I was a bit nervous, I wasn’t as much as I thought I would be. The presentations were quite remarkable; everybody did a great job and enthusiastically presented their summer project. A lot of questions were asked, and I believe the audience was very interested in all the topics presented. We then had a tasty lunch, but it ended quickly, because a State Department tour was waiting on us. At the State Department, Dr. Jim Borgardt showed us around. He took us to a conference room where three people were waiting on us to talk to us about what they do, having a physics background. It was very interesting hearing these people talk.

On Wednesday, we had the closing breakfast and evaluations. It was very nice, but sad at the same time, since we had to say our farewells. We wrote thank-you cards, had some laughs, and cleaned our workplace, which has been there for us these last 10 weeks. And so it ended, a beautiful internship, which gave me so many experiences, made me meet so many people and friends, and helped me use my physics background in a very interesting area.

The next day my brother and I took a bus to NYC, where my uncle and cousin were waiting for us. We are spending some couple days here, and we have gotten to see so many great things. We saw the Phantom of the Opera, we visited the Statue of Liberty in a boat, we went to the Museum of Modern Art, and much more. Today I claim it will be a good day, and I think it already started very well, since it’s my birthday, and even though we don’t have any plans yet, you know, this city… never sleeps…

Thanks for reading!

Week 9: Exciting Days
July 29-August 2, 2013

It is very striking to see the dome of the capitol building for the first time. It is full of great art: sculptures, paintings, murals. The tour lasted about 40 minutes, and the tour guide shared some of her own shocking experiences by the end of it. On Saturday, we went to a Peruvian place to eat, and I had stewed goat, which was pretty tasty. In the evening, we went to a dance festival happening at the Kennedy Center. Two people taught some salsa lessons for about an hour, and a Latino band played for another hour. It was a lot of fun, and we learned some nice moves. The next day, we went to Georgetown to have breakfast with some friends; after that we went to a famous cupcake store, and then I went running in the afternoon.

And just like that, our last full week in D.C. started… It has been a very busy week. I did an informational interview to a civil engineer working at Alvi Associates. I learned about his job, company, and learned some useful advices. I also met with Roman three times this week, so far. We discussed the resume – organization and layout document, and I also started and finished the document on resume – self assessing your knowledge and skills. Another accomplishment for this week was the completeness of the document on the common job titles – initial employment for physics bachelors. This is a very useful document that will help physics bachelors find a job more easily, since the job titles listed on the document can be used as search terms when exploring in job databases.

I worked as well on my final presentation, and Kendra is reviewing it with me this afternoon to give some advice on it. Kendra also gave me some suggested changes for the networking tips document I worked on, and also on some other documents such as the common job titles document and the online job postings in physics and STEM.

Anyways, it’s been a long but very productive week you could say. I am anxious for the end of the internship and very excited as well, because this has been a great summer experience. I made some very good friends, met some very nice people, ate some great food, spent a great time here with the SPS/AIP staff, and I am very grateful I had this opportunity. This is my second to last journal, so be ready for the details of our last days in Washington D.C.!!

Week 8: No breaks this time
July 22-26, 2013

This week has been full of activities. As the internship comes to a close, we have to start thinking and working on our final presentation, finish documents, and organize things, such as tours. On Friday, we went to the NIST tour, which was very interesting. We saw the nanolab, pictures of atoms, latest-in-technology machines, microscopes, etc. It was thrilling to see the advancement of technology in all different areas of science. That afternoon I went with Dayton to the event called Jazz in the Garden, which is right next to the National Gallery of Art; there’s a big pond, a jazz band, and a restaurant inside. It was very nice to spend some time there listening to music. Then, we went to a food truck festival, where we ate some sandwiches, and spent couple hours walking around. The next day some of us went to the Spy Museum, which was a good experience, since I learned quite a bit about some old artifacts used to spy, as well as information on spying, and its origin couple thousand years ago. On Sunday, I went to the National Gallery of Art, and went with couple interns to have lunch at the bottom of the Native American Museum. Although really amazing, the National Gallery of Art is so big that I may have to go back for a second visit.

And so, our eighth week started… It was a productive week. I finished the documents on online job postings for physics and STEM, and also the documents on physics and STEM career information. Then, I started working on a document on resumes, and their organization and layout. This is a very difficult but useful document, since it is an important resource for physics students when searching and applying for a job. I had a meeting as well with Elizabeth and Kendra, where we talked about the CUP page and the new format for the website, and information that we will include. Hopefully we can see some changes before the summer is over! I have been trying to set up a couple of informational interviews; with some luck, next week I’ll be able to perform some. Today we have the Capitol Hill tour, and I am very excited to see what they have to show us. Learn more about it in my next journal!

Week 7: Slow week, fast week
July 15-19, 2013

The landscapes one can see on the trip to Charlottesville, Virginia are beautiful. There are a lot of fields, crops, and little valleys. Even though the bus left from Union Station in DC one hour late, I really enjoyed the trip and the view. I got to Charlottesville around 4pm, and went to the hotel where I stayed with my uncle. We talked for nearly 10 hours, had a late lunch and dinner, and came back to DC the next day around 11am.

This week has been somewhat slow at work, since two of my bosses were out of town on a business trip. Therefore, I wasn’t able to do much progress on the documents I was working on. However, I had a meeting with Kendra, who reviewed my work, and suggested new projects to do.  Now I am trying to set up a couple of informational interviews (in-face and by telephone) before the summer is over. I have been researching and trying to contact some civil engineers, since that’s my interest for my master’s education. Hopefully next week I can organize an informational interview with someone, and then write a report and see how accurate the document I created on informational interviews is.

I am organizing a State Department tour for the last Tuesday we will be here. Unfortunately the 7th floor fine arts tour of the diplomatic rooms will be closed for restorations during that time, but we might be able to see everything else.

Yesterday, we went to a Greek place to eat lunch that had different types of food, and it was really good. We visited the University of Maryland as well, since a friend needed to pick up some ILL books. Today, we will be attending the NIST tour Alexandra organized for us, and I am very excited to see all sorts of interesting stuff. You’ll hear more about it on my next journal.

P.S. The heat is unbearable, we’re looking forward for next week, since ‘they’ claim it will be less warm.

Week 6: NASA Tour
July 8-12, 2013

This has been a short week, and just like the previous ones, it has flown by. However, on Tuesday, we had our first workplace tour – at NASA!

First, we saw “science in a sphere,” where the person controlling the simulation showed us the plane traffic, weather, how the water will rise in 20 years from now, and some other interesting things. We spent quite some part of the tour with Dr. Mather and Dr. Ted Gull. They took us to where the centrifuge is, which can rotate at an acceleration of 30g, or 30 times the speed of gravity. The tour ended with Alec and Darren showing us their workplaces, what they have done, and what their goal for the summer is. We then went to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a famous place on U. Street, and we had some delicious burgers, French fries, and hot dogs.

On the other hand, I have been working on ideas for the Careers Using Physics (CUP) website. I am finding information on the SPS website, and other websites, to include in the CUP page. Elizabeth gave me the HTML version of the website, so I could move, edit, delete, or add information to the website, with the goal of making the website more useful, attractive, engaging, and resourceful.

I have been going over the common job titles document with Roman, and working as well on two other documents. These two other documents refer to the job postings in Physics and STEM careers, and the other one is about Physics and STEM career information, which include links to websites full of useful resources.

I am looking forward to this Saturday, since I will be going to Charlottesville, VA, for one day to meet my uncle that I haven’t seen in a long time. He’s leaving at 5am on Sunday, so I’ll spend a short time with him. However, I’m sure it will be totally worth the trip.

Come back next week for the next journal! Thanks for reading!

Week 5: 4th of July!
July 1-5, 2013

So, we had a great time on Friday, sharing dinner with the SPS/Sigma Pi Sigma Executive Committee, and went to the Ronald Reagan Building to watch the Capitol Steps performance, which was the one chosen to be broadcasted for the 4th of July. The next day, we went to the folklife festival at the National Mall. There were a lot of things going on, such as music, dance, food, and information about different cultures, among others. Although it was really hot, it was interesting and fun, since we had Hungarian food and walked on stilts. On Sunday, we visited the zoo. It wasn’t the greatest idea to go at 2pm, since most animals are kept inside at those hours. However, we got to see a lot of different animals, including the flamingos and some of the mammals were quite fascinating.

And just like that, week 5 started. Six of the documents I was working on were completed on this week, and are now ready for publishing. One of the documents talks about informational interviews and the process of getting and doing one. I  learned a lot from these documents, since there were a lot of terms and themes I was not very familiar with, but now I have a clearer understanding of how to write, for instance, a cover letter. Roman and I have been working very closely on these resources, and I have a positive feeling that these will be very useful for high school and college students.

avila-4th of july
The 4th of July fireworks in D.C. were fantastic.

On Thursday July 4th, a friend invited us to her house to celebrate. We played chess, pool, had barbeque, swam in the pool, chatted, and enjoyed an early afternoon. That evening we traveled to the Mall to see the fireworks. We were anxious, since we were told that there would be a plethora of people, however, when we got to the Washington Monument we realized that our expectations were worse than what it really was. We found a place on the grass between the WWII Memorial and the Washington Monument, and waited until it got dark. It was around 9:10pm when the sky was illuminated by those colorful explosions. The background music playing made the fireworks look so much better, and we used our diffraction grating glasses to see the colors the fireworks were made of, and took some pictures and video of them… It was awesome.

The rest of the weekend went by pretty calm. We went to Board Room on Saturday, and played some chess, Cards Against Humanity, and UNO. The next day I went to a restaurant in Union Station to see the Wimbledon 2013 finals, where Andy Murray (Scottish) won the championship against Novak Djokovic (Serbian). This was a big deal, since it has been 77 years since someone from Scotland won.

This is how week 6 starts, with one month to go, and so many activities to do.

Cheers, and come back for the next journal.

Week 4: Eventful Days
June 24-28, 2013

So, I got a seat in front of the piano at this Kennedy Center concert! It was incredible, and I met a jazz pianist and vocalist from Oregon, who was sitting next to me, with whom I shared the awe of this concert. The next day I went for an 8-mile run in the morning with Katherine, while seeing some of the monuments. That afternoon I went with some of the interns to a billiards place to play pool, and watch a soccer match. Later that day, we went to the movies in Chinatown. On Sunday, I went to the Hirshhorn Museum – Smithsonian, and saw some very original sculptures focused on contemporary and modern art.

And just like that, week 4 started. I worked on some other documents, such as networking skills and informational interviews. I am learning a lot developing these documents, and it will be very helpful for me as well, since I am planning on going into the workforce for a year once I graduate. It is also very fulfilling to know that high school and college students across the country will benefit with these documents, and will find these resources useful in their future careers.

On Tuesday some of the interns and I went to a boat trip at the Potomac River. It was a nice experience, and I met Nick Green, a Physics PhD, and his wife, with whom I had an interesting talk about future plans and past experiences.

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of meeting with the AIP Development Board at the American Center for Physics. We had a delightful cocktail and met the people who are making the intern’s D.C. experience possible. They are great and very interesting people and we were really glad that we get to talk to them and shared part of the evening with them.

Today, we are meeting with the SPS/Sigma Pi Sigma Executive Committee and we’ll go to the Capitol Steps Performance downtown. I have heard positive things about this event, so I am looking forward for this evening.

Come back next week for week 5 and to read about our first 4th of July experience in Washington D.C.!

Week 3: Music
June 17-21, 2013

That concert was good! However, I like faster pieces… Week 3 has passed, and I would say this was the music week, since I had the opportunity to attend several concerts-presentations.

The last two interns finally arrived (Katherine and Fiona), and we started getting along very well. We have a nice group, and I’m glad we all hang out very often. On Saturday, we went to the Newseum, and saw several interesting things, such as parts of the Berlin Wall brought by the U.S. to this museum about news. The building is huge, and I really liked seeing the photographs which have won a Pulitzer award. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to play the piano at Friendship Heights, and it was nice to remember some of the pieces I learned in the past.

The beginning of this week was quite active. I started and finished the document about how to write a cover letter. I found about 40 common job titles Physics BS obtain when they graduate from college and I am working on a brief description for each job title, so that students can learn about it on the website. I am about to start working on how to do a phone interview, as well as how to prepare for an interview.

On Tuesday, we went to Tuckahoe Elementary School to do a Physics demonstration in front of 100 kids for an hour. We showed them the importance of having a standard way of measuring things, and we explained to them why light is an excellent way to measure things. We also shone a laser connected to an mp3 player across the room towards a solar panel connected to some speakers, and we played some music that way. Finally, we explained to them the difference between a laser and an LED with the use of diffraction glasses. It was a great experience, since we got good feedback and responses from the kids, and I believe we made their last day of school very interesting and informative.

The next day I went with Caleb to see the 6pm free performance at the Kennedy Center. The presenting group was called “Mother Falcon” and I really enjoyed the music, since it was composed of violins, cellos, trumpets, guitars, among others. On Thursday, at the Kennedy Center as well, they celebrated the UNHCR World Refugee Day, and Cheick Hamala Diabate presented this time. The event closed with some deep words from the international bestseller author Khaled Hosseini, who was doing a book signing. I have been reading the “Kite Runner” throughout the summer, and luckily I had the book in my bag and got him to sign it. I also bought the next novel he wrote, called “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” and got him to sign that too. I am very pleased with his books and words, so I strongly recommend reading his great novels.

Today, Friday, Jean-Yves Thibaudet is playing a piano concert, and I am looking forward for this event, since I am familiar with some of the pieces he is playing, such as Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 Op. 46 by Edvard Grieg. So, I’ll talk more about it in my next journal.

Keep reading to know how it went!


Week 2: International Food
June 10-14, 2013

One more week went by, and we were only able to smell it pass through. Last Friday we had the opportunity to try something new. We took the metro to Union Station and went to an Ethiopian restaurant. It was a nice experience, since they bring your food, along with what two of your other friends asked for, in one big plate with some sort of tortilla base. The next day, we gathered in the morning in a friend’s dorm and we cooked scrambled eggs for everybody. Later that day, we went to a Mediterranean grill, which also was pretty tasty.

On Sunday, we went to a STEM festival in Maryland, where we helped by showing what our SOCK intern friends put together during the week. Then I was taken to an engineering panel, where I met very interesting people such as Carole Carey, the Area Chair (South) for the IEEE; Mithun Banerjee, the Program/Project Manager at American Unit; and Walid Halboni, a civil engineer and Project Manager at Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). In this panel, we talked to future college students, and encouraged and told them about the importance of studying physics and why it is a great option. This festival was a great experience, and I believe it was helpful especially for high school students.

During this week, I made substantial progress in some of the projects I am working on. I found, with the aid of a survey document: the most common job titles physics bachelors have when they graduate from college. I also edited a document addressing the interview process, and tips for succeeding in a job interview. The brochure I am working on had several modifications as well, in information, pictures, and curious facts.

We had a picnic at work on Wednesday, and there was a barbecue and some people that work here performed in an open mic event. I had a good time, and laughed quite a bit. Yesterday, I was asked to give my opinion for a website Patrick Mulvey, Mark, and Jenny are working on. Later tonight, the other interns and I are going to a cello concert at the Kennedy Center! I claim it will be awesome, but you’ll hear more about it next week with my next journal.

Be good.

Week 1: The Elephant Team
June 3-7, 2013

I remember the day I received the email from SPS offering me the Career Pathways internship for this summer. I was really excited, but at the same time I had no idea of what it actually meant, or what to expect from it. However, a continuous set of experiences during my first week in Washington DC have evaporated all my doubts and wonderings.

My first contact with my roommate Darren happened through a text message asking him if we should bring linens or not for the beds. Having always lived off campus at my university, I had no idea of how empty our room was going to be. Nevertheless, my communication with Darren was not that “empty;” we even agreed to meet at the airport the day we arrived, so we could go together to the check-in at George Washington University Campus. After that first encounter, things flew by quite frictionlessly. I met Jamie, Alec, and Caleb (some of the other interns), and we went and had dinner around midnight, making my first day very remarkable, especially since a couple hours earlier I did not know the people with which I was sharing words, experiences, laughs, and even a cake.

Throughout Sunday I met Nikki, Nicole, Christine, and Alexandra, who became part of the group very quickly. I was really glad to meet them, and they especially provided personality to the group. Most of us got to meet Toni Sauncy, the Director of the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma, that evening and had dinner at her house, where we met other people we are now working with, such as Elizabeth, Daniel, Tracy, and Amy, and I think I could say I had some of my first interesting conversations with real physicists.

Orientation took place the next day, where we heard a lot of acronyms we are still getting familiarized with, met a lot of people, and had lunch with Dr. Mather. As the next few days went by, I shared dinner with my new friends, met one of my bosses – Roman Czujko, Director of the Statistical Research Center of the American Institute of Physics, and I initiated several projects. On Wednesday I had two meetings, one with Roman, and one with Patrick Mulvey, who conducts the Higher Education Surveys, and I was informed of the great data he collects from students all across the country. Work started getting a little tiring at the end of the day, but somehow I found energy to go running with Darren and walk through downtown with the other interns looking for a place where we could have dinner.

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to attend the Einstein Fellows Poster Session, which is part of the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education, at the Russell Senate Office Building. We had conversations with Einstein fellows, such as Denise Thompson, on their contribution and work during their ‘sabbatical’ year. Later that day, Toni took us out for dinner at a delicious restaurant at Union Station where I had some of the best salmon with chimichurri I have ever tried.


Jose Avila

Hello, my name is Jose Rodrigo Avila, and I am 21 years old. I was born in Mexico City, and lived in Cuernavaca the first 18 years of my life. After finishing high school at ITESM Campus Cuernavaca, I was talked into the possibility to study my college education in the U.S. with a tennis scholarship. I seized this opportunity, and enrolled at King College in August 2010. I am currently pursuing my double major in Physics and Mathematics, with a minor in Business Administration. I am playing on the number one seed in the tennis team at King College, and I am about to embark in a great summer experience with the SPS.

I consider piano one of my greatest hobbies, and even though I enjoy modern music, I prefer the study and performance of classical music. Quantum physics has also attracted my attention since I stumbled upon it, and I will like to explore more on this topic, since I believe it is very relevant to our existence. Visiting places I have never been to, learning languages, discovering traditions, and knowing about other cultures is something that I find intriguing and I am also very interested in. After I graduate, I would like to get my masters in Civil Engineering, possibly somewhere in Europe, focusing on the design and construction of bridges.

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