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Benjamin PerezBenjamin Perez
Coe College
Internship: NIST Research

I am a physics student at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Last year, I studied the glass transition temperature widths of cesium borate and lithium borate glasses at various modifier contents. Although I am just starting my journey in physics, I am very passionate about everything I do. My main interest in physics is material sciences. I am fascinated by the technological progress of the world and I want to aid in the process. After I receive my bachelors, my goal is to earn my doctorate in material sciences and someday be a research scientist inventing the latest technology.

I am originally from Texas but have spent the last few years in St. Louis, Missouri. In my free time, I love playing and watching sports of any kind. I am on the varsity football team at my school and play lacrosse as well. Other than sports and school, I like socializing, being outside, and reading. I am very adventurous and I cannot wait for the summer to start. I am excited to research at a national lab and take advantage of all the opportunities this internship has in store for us.

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  • Week 1
  • Week 2
  • Week 3
  • Week 4
  • Week 5
  • Week 6
  • Week 7
  • Week 8
  • Week 9
  • Final Reflections
Week 1, May 26-June 1, 2014

After my first week, the only thing I can complain about was my flight. I was expecting it to be short and easy, but it quickly turned into a 5-hour ordeal at the airport. The pilots caused the first delay when they forgot they had to fly a plane across the nation and were still lounging at the hotel when the flight was suppose to take off. The weather caused the second delay by hitting Washington with a little bit of rain and lightning that some may describe as monsoon-like. Anyways, I arrived safely in D.C. and was ready to meet the interns.

The first person I meet was Kirsten. I felt a little bad when I first meet her because the previous day I asked her if she wanted to ride to JBKO (our residence) together, but due to my delays I was two hours late to our previous rendezvous time. Even with the delay, she still greeted me with a smile and we both laughed about the situation. As we drove into the city I was in awe of the monuments that we passed. The buildings that I had only seen in pictures came to life in front of my eyes. I think it is amazing that I am surrounded by so much history and the significance each monument means in American culture. I can't wait to explore more of the city and all D.C. has to offer.

Benjamin Perez at NISTFinally, the past couple days we have been at orientation, learning about the summer program and our individual jobs. We have met many people from the SPS organization along with many from others from various AIP umbrella organizations as well. The people at SPS make everyone feel welcome and glad you are here as an intern.

This Friday, Kelby and I went to NIST to meet our supervisor John Suehle. He was very energetic about his work and all the research that goes on in his labs. He talked a little bit about the project we will being doing this summer and introduced us to employees who he works with. I cannot wait to start the research come Monday and learn more about nanopore technology. This summer is off to a good start, and I hope the last nine weeks will be as good as the first one.


Week 2, June 2-8, 2014

Living the life in D.C.

Friday officially marked the end of my first workweek at NIST, and all I can say is I have never worked in a work environment like it. From the employees, to the SURF interns and the giant campus, I was a little overwhelmed at first. But with help from my mentor, Arvind, and John, my boss, I have started to ease into my new work life. Itís a face pace culture and forced me to hit the ground running from day one. I quickly fell into my role in Johnís group while they were in full swing developing their nanosensor to detect biomolecules. My objective for the summer is to model molecules flowing through the transistor to predict what we should see in real life. Itís going to be a tough challenge because I have to learn the software and understand the simulation results, but I am confident I will be able to accomplish that task by the end of July. I am excited to see the progress we will make in one summer, and the possibilities this technology will bring.

World War II Memorial in Washington, DCApart from work, the interns and I had an event filled weekend. Friday, Toni treated us to fancy dinner with the executive board member of SPS and a night of stargazing on the National Mall. We were able to see some great stars that night, especially the stars on the scaffolding cranes in the city. They were amazing. Saturday, I relaxed and hungout with the interns. That night we met kids from Duke in our hallway and instantly kicked it off. This inevitably led to a night out on the town and addition of four more friends. Finally, we rounded out the week volunteering for a public outreach at Howard County Community College. It was a blast performing demos to the children and their families on the wonders of physics. I canít believe it is already week two into the internship, and we are already a fifth way through the summer. These past two weeks have been quite a ride and I canít wait to see what else D.C. has in store for us.


Week 3, June 9-15, 2014

All Men Must Die

This post contains spoilers about Game of Thrones.

Game of thrones has become a big part of our group. We started the routine of watching the show Sunday night together and then Monday gathering around and discussing our theories of last nightís episode. Some of our fellow interns have even converted to Game of Thrones enthusiasts as well. Nick impressed me the most by binging three days on the series to make up three and a half seasons so he could watch GoT with the rest of us. We have talked about it so much that we discovered Toni Sauncy, the head of SPS, is also an avid Game of Thrones fan as well. The show has given us a point to bond and has brought us closer over the summer.

Game of ThronesFor the final episode of the season, Toni was nice enough to invite us over to her house for pizza and a GoT viewing party. Sundayís episode did not disappoint my expectations either. With Aria heading to Bravos, Tierney escaping Kings Landing after killing his father, and Stannis coming out of nowhere to take control of the North beyond the wall there was not a dull moment. The storylines have started to converge, and has everyone developing his or her own theories of how the Game of Thrones will end. The worst part about tonightís episode was knowing Season 5 doesn't start until next spring, and who knows what madness the new season will bring!

The show has a cruel hold on everyone who loves it. They are able to kill off your favorite character yet have such a compelling storyline you can't look away. All I can say for those who don't watch the show is try it out. Make sure you have a lot of time because it is an addicting show, and you will be hooked like the rest of us eagerly waiting to see what happens next.

San Antonio SpursTomorrow, we will undoubtedly fall into our Game of Thrones routine again as we gather around the cubical Monday to discuss the latest episode. Our theories maybe wrong every time we develop them, but thatís half the fun of guessing. Some people may believe that this show is purely for entertainment value, but to us interns this is more than a regular show. It truly has helped us become closer as friends and helped start the friendships that we will carry on for the rest of our lives.

Also Go Spurs Go!!!


Week 4, June 16-22, 2014

From Barbecue to Heartbreak

Week four has come to a wrap, and this week was as fun as the rest. First off, I am getting to the meat of my project at NIST. Everything has been working properly and to make it better, the results COMSOL gave correlates closely to my calculated values the transistor should detect, giving me support for my results.

On Monday, I will continue to add more components to the transistor and simulate the effects an electron has on the device. This will hopefully result in showing that this transistor will work theoretically, but the actual fabrication I will leave to Kelby.

I am enjoying my time at NIST and the science I have been able to accomplish so far. It is an amazing place to work and I encourage anyone who is reading this and wants to apply next year to do so because this is a fantastic opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds in the world and build your resume. Do not be discouraged if you think that a government lab is over your head because I had the same thoughts too. Once you settle in and talk to different people around the office, you will find that everyone is normal and they were once undergraduates like you are now. I am glad I received this opportunity and canít imagine where else I would rather be.

Apart from work, I continued my exploration of D.C. this weekend. I found my new favorite restaurant Friday, called Hill Country BBQ. Being from Texas this restaurant is literally Texas in D.C. Texas style decorations cover the walls from floor to ceiling. They play live country music most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. And donít get me started on the food. From the brisket to the pork, each bite packs so much flavor you can't help but fall in love with the place. I thank Toni and Savannah for recommending the place, and will be back for more soon.

Oscar Meyer WienermobileAs the week drew to a close, our final activities were the National BBQ Battle and World Cup Soccer. Safeway held their 22nd National BBQ Battle on Pennsylvania Ave Sunday. They had teams from all over the country and samples galore at the event. We tasted various BBQ from each vender, stopping at each both in an attempt to get our fifteen dollars' worth of the event. Nick and I even got a picture in front of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.

That night ended with a bitter sweet tie against Portugal. Stephen and I started watching the game in our room, but eventually joined the crowd of onlookers across the street at a restaurant. After conceding an early goal USA played well for the next 90 minutes. The automatic trip to the round of 16 was squandered as Ranoldo had a beautiful cross near the goal which ended in the back of the net with a header from Varela to equalize. It was a heartbreaker in the 95th minute, but I will be in full support come Thursday and our match up against Germany.

From getting my simulations to run to soccer and great BBQ this weekend. I cannot complain about the events. Each week goes by faster than the one before. I can't believe week four is already finished. I am excited to work on Monday and continue modeling the software. I am savoring every moment I am in D.C. This internship wonít last forever, but I will enjoy it while it does and am ready for what Week 5 has in store.


Week 5, June 23-29, 2014

A Day in the Life of Ben

It's interesting how fast 5 weeks will go by when doing research. One minute you are scrambling to take in all this information the project throws at you and the next your advisor is talking about your final presentation. Granted, I have a little work to do before July 25th but that date is coming up fast. I had made progress with the transistor and have started to developed relationships with the scientist here at NIST. I have dedicated this post to explaining an average day in my life at NIST and hopefully it will give you some insight of what I actually do.

My day starts out with the morning commute all the way from Foggy Bottom out to Shady Grove. The trip last about an hour and fifteen minutes with the additional shuttle ride to NIST from the train stop, but it is worth living downtown to make the journey daily. The time frame is just long enough to read the morning paper on the train. I am able to stay educated on current events and know what Capitol Hill is up too. Once at NIST everyone from the shuttle departs for their respective buildings. Mine is named 225 and that is where I have spent the past 4 weeks at work.

After, I walk up the stairs I head to my office where Jason Ryan, an engineer with his PhD in Material Science from Penn State, and Ken, from Rutgers with a PhD in Electrical Engineering, both work. From that point on I sit in front of the computer screen for the next 8 hours of the day and run COMSOL. COMSOL is the simulations software that allows me to operate various forms of physics such as electrical circuits all the way to chemical diffusion. It has a wide range of applications and I am using this software to theoretically test and measure the transistor. Granted, Not all of the eight hours are spent on the computer; I do get up to use the bathroom, and I do walk around and talk to the scientists around the office, but a majority of my time has been spent on the computer running COMSOL and learning the back ground physics to what is happening, why is it happening and what is the significance of the event.

The past two days, I spent my time learning the Fokker-Planck equation along with distributions and trajectories of particles. This will apply to the device when we apply a lump of charge to our transistor and I have to be able to know what effects will happen over time. I am expecting those electrons to disperse across the surface and affect the electrostatic of the device. So far, I have unsuccessfully modeled the diffusion of electrons over a surface. I am having trouble applying the right physics to the system, and running the correct boundary conditions. I will continue to scour the web for tutorials and any resource to help me run the simplest case so I know how to apply it to our own system.

This has been a different summer of research than what I experienced last year. I feel I spend a lot of my time learning about the concepts and the ideas behind the transistor. I have loved that I understand the physics of what I am doing and why I am seeing the results that I am. Arvind, my advisor, constantly quizzes my knowledge so I know the purpose behind what I am simulating. He is a great guy and has helped me out tremendously this summer. I enjoy this academic stimulation at NIST and doing the theoretical work for the project. I am excited to get back to the grind next Monday, and hopefully accomplish the entire model of the transistor by the end of the internship.


Week 6, June 30-July 6, 2014

Traveling to the Czech Republic

T.S. Elliot once said "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." This quote resonates with me and why I have wanted to travel around the world. I believe Elliot is trying to tell people that one cannot understand where they come from until they know where others come from. By seeing how other cultures live, their food and customs, people acquire knowledge they wonít receive sitting on the couch at home. A person must be willing to seek new understanding about the world and everyone who lives in it. Only then will a person be able to come back home and know where they started from.

The Czech RepublicThe reason I bring up travel and exploration this week is because I received an amazing opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic and present a poster at an international borate glass conference with a group from my school. I was over there for a week, and this trip was an eye-opening experience. I learned about the Czech culture, their history, tasted delicious food, and learned about borate glass. I canít wait until the next time I can travel around the world and experience a different culture.

Pardubice was the first city I had been too as a person who didnít know the native tongue. I resorted to playing charades with various employees at different establishments to communicate what I wanted. They probably saw me as a crazy American dancing around like a lunatic, but that was the only way I could talk. It was quite amusing to my friends I was with and they teased me the rest of the trip about it. Jokes aside, I can see how hard some people have it in America when they canít speak English. There are language barriers that arise when talking to someone who doesnít know your language and I experienced a few while abroad. It was interesting being on the other side of the issue for a little bit and seeing the role language plays in our everyday lives.

Luckily for me, the conference was held in English so I could understand the words the scientist were saying; as for the material, I understood roughly 40% of the research presented. Overall, it was a very well-run conference. I got to meet the faces behind articles I read last summer and see the rock stars of the borate glass community. They had plenty of snacks and refreshments between each sessions so people could discuss the recent talks and digest what they heard. My favorite part of the whole conference was the final reception at Pardubice Castle. They had a three course meal for the guests; composed of local Czech dishes, roasted veal for the main entre and a chocolate fountain for dessert. After dinner, they opened up a glass art exhibit for people to mingle around and discuss. I think it was a nice way to end the journey and give the guests a nice way to relax after the intellectual stimulation of the week.

We even added a couple days at the end of our trip to see Prague. I probably walked twenty hours in two days exploring as much of the city as I could. I couldnít believe the beauty of the buildings and how each style of architecture blended with the others because of the development of the city over the centuries. In addition to the sites, Prague also had great food that I got to sample while there; the dishes were mostly meat and potatoes or Italian food, but were cooked so well every bit melted in my mouth. I loved everything about Prague, and I want to go back to see more of the city. The only thing that I wish I could have changed would have been staying over there longer.

Being that this was my first trip overseas I have nothing to compare it to, but I do think it was one of the best experiences I have had. I got to witness a culture first hand that was not one that I grew up with, saw historical places I had only ready about, and learned about a country I was not too familiar with. Although I only stayed for a small amount of time, I received a brief look into the Czech peopleís way of life and that added to my personal perspective of the world. As I returned to America, I came back with a new look at our country. I appreciated my upbringing that much more, the opportunities I have received, and the people in my life. I would have never seen where I have come from until I went on that journey. I believe Elliot was right in saying you canít know where you are from until you come back again. I canít wait to travel more and continue my exploration through life and science. There is so much in this world to see and explore and I only hope I can explore as much as possible until my last day.


Week 7, July 7-13, 2014

COMSOL and Kayaks

Each week seems to pass faster than the one before. It is already week 7, and I am starting to wind down with my research.

This week I spent most of my time trying to couple electrostatics physics with a current running across the transistor. I am having some frustrations with COMSOL; the biggest two being not having the enough iterations for a simulation and not having an image displayed after a study ran. For the iteration problem, I believe my boundary conditions are messing up. When I couple the two physics modules together the software says it runs out of iterations and can not continue the process. When I run the two modules separately however, there is no error. I think when I apply the electrostatics to the electrical circuit a boundary condition is off, leading to a result going to infinity and causing my simulation to run out of memory. Next, the problem of the missing image has been plaguing my work. From the 1D plot COMSOL tells me data has been taken on the line prescribed by me, but when I go to the 3-D view the image is missing parts so I don't get a good visualization of what is going on. I have searched forum to forum seeking an answer to my problem and I havenít found one yet. I have a couple of days before I have to seriously worry about not having an image, but I would like to get a good visual representation to display for the final presentation. Hopefully, I will solve both problems before next week, and include them in my slideshow.

Kayaking on the PotomacI spent most of my time near the water this weekend. A group of us went down to Georgetown for the day and rented kayaks on the Potomac. It was a gorgeous day; the sun was beating down from overhead with a few clouds giving a nice relief of shade. We paddled around Jefferson Island and then as far down the Potomac we could go, stopping for a little bit on a sandbar to rest and get our feet muddy. After spending the day out on the river we decided to shower and return to the riverfront for dinner. The rest of the night was spent watching the yachts on the dock and enjoying the summer night air brushing our faces. This week was a fairly relaxed week. I am sure the one that will follow will start picking up as we get closer to presentation time, and the end of the summer. Itís been a fun time so far and I hope to keep that going for the next 3 weeks.


Week 8, July 14-20, 2014

Making a PowerPoint and NASA

My research started to wind down even more this week. While Arvind was at a conference in Italy, he gave me the goal to finish the simulations I am running and start preparing a presentation to show him come Monday. Putting together the presentation was fairly easy; I had documented my work clearly so I could follow my time at NIST this summer. I think the hardest part about putting the presentation together was keeping it under ten minutes. I have a lot of results from this summer that I could talk about for 30 minutes, but I have to cut out the filler and leave only the meat of my research. I am eager to receive Arvindís feedback and his constructive criticism on the power point. He is a stickler for the big picture and why we need this research which is helpful for me, I only hope the presentation is up to his standards. As for the simulations, I am having no problem this week with COMSOL. I have been able to couple the electrostatics with the electric circuit; I am only having a problem massaging the data out to check whether my results are correct. The results will be helpful to my team here at NIST but I donít know if I will have time to include them in my final presentation next Friday.

In addition to preparing for the final presentation, we had an eventful week of social activities through SPSí planning. Wednesday, we had an evening dinner with the mentors from everybodyís location at the College Park's Aviation Museum. It was a nice social evening to say thank you to the mentors and sponsors for the time they have put in this summer. We also toured NASA Goddard this week, which has been one of my favorite tours so far. We saw the giant centrifuge they have to test space parts, NASAís flight control room, the clean room where they are building the James Webb Space telescope, and even had lunch with John Mather, a Nobel prize winner in physics. Next week, we have the tour of the capital building, where Ben and Ashley work, and our final presentations so that week will fly by too. This summer has been a unique experience that I would not have gotten without the SPS internship. I have had a lot of fun and am sad to see that there are only two weeks left in this program.


Week 9, July 21-27, 2014

The Final Presentations

Our final presentations are tomorrow and it has been a hectic week. At work, Arvind came back from Italy and we are putting the finishing touches on my PowerPoint. It was a long process from the rough draft to the final product, but Arvindís constructive criticism has helped me refine my presentation and hit the main points of the talk while skipping over the less important details. He also gave me a few more pointers and some words of encouragement for tomorrow. Sadly, he will not hear my final presentation at ACP because he has to catch up on work that he fell behind on while overseas. This afternoon, I received more feedback from Joe and Daniel when I gave my presentation run through at ACP. They seemed to enjoy the talk and I was happy to receive more criticism about my PowerPoint so I can improve in any way possible. I have put the finishing touches on the slides and am ready to rock this presentation.

With this week under wrapóexcept for the presentations tomorrowóI think this has been one of my most productive weeks. I got a presentation ready, almost finished COMSOL, toured the Capital Building, and went to Toniís going away party. I look forward to finishing the final presentation and being able to have more time to finish my research at NIST without worrying about a PowerPoint to make. It should be a fun time at the event tomorrow. I have heard many of the talks from the other interns and if they go as well as they did in the warm up rounds then the guest are in for a great day. I am sure the mentors, family, and friends will also be happy to see their person do well when they are front and center stage. I am happy the stress will soon be over and we can do well on Friday.


Final Reflections, August, 2014

Final Reflection, Looking Back on it ALL

As I return to the school year routine, I think back to the wonderful memories I had this summer. I couldnít imagine doing anything better with my time. The SPS internship program was truly amazing and opened my eyes to the possibilities a person has graduating with a physics major. From the research to the tours we got to take, everything was incredible.

I learned numerous skills throughout my internship that I will carry with me. I taught myself how to perform simulations on COMSOL multiphysics software, as well as learned the importance of networking. I improved my presentation skills and learned to cut the fat of the presentation and focus on the important subject matter. I learned that research is an unhurried process that takes many years to complete, and although you may only contribute a verse in that project it will help push the project towards conclusion.

In addition to skills, I will miss the people that helped me along the way this summer. Dr. Suehle, my group leader, Arvind, my mentor, Dr. Ken, Christina, Dr. Darwin, Toni, Kendra, Joe and other employees I got to connect with over the summer. I enjoyed the dynamic that they brought to the office at both NIST and SPS ; their personalities livened up my day and made me feel comfortable interning there. I will miss talking to them the most and working alongside them. They are fantastic people, and I am happy to have met them this summer.

Some of my most beloved memories come from outside of work. The other interns made living in D.C. enjoyable, and made for an unforgettable experience. It was amazing how quickly we bonded with each other; it was a dynamic unique to our group, and I loved every minute of it. I wish I could relive the summer in D.C. and spend a little more time with this summerís interns.

All in all, I have no complaints about the summer. SPS put on a great experience for all the interns to enjoy. I will treasure the memories and the connections I made with the people I got the opportunity to meet over the ten weeks. I will carry my new knowledge and the skills with me to my next adventure in life. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I received and the resources I can put to use now. It will truly be a memory I will never forget.

Thank you for the extraordinary summer.



Identifying Biomolecules in Solution

NISTThe Semiconductor & Dimensional Metrology Division at the National Institute for Standards and Technology, NIST, provides leadership in conducting research in the areas of dimensional, nanometer-scale, surface, and acoustic pressure metrology; accelerometry; silicon Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology; MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS); power electronics; nanoelectronics; and flexible/printed electronics.

A new sensor is being developed at NIST that will uniquely identify individual biomolecules in complex solutions. The sensor is based on a solid-state nanopore with molecular-scale features and an integrated transistor using a 2-dimensional semiconductor. This device will take advantage of the fact that every molecule has a unique electrostatic profile, arising from the unique arrangement of functional groups, ligands, and heteroatom within the molecular structure.

Benjamin and fellow SPS intern Kelby are assisting the division with the nanofabrication steps, electrical testing, and fluidic testing using targeted molecules and numerically modeling the device.

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