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Kearns Louis-JeanKearns Louis-Jean
Xavier University of Louisiana
Internship: SPS Science Outreach Catalyst Kit and NIST Education

I am the son of Haitian immigrants, born and reared in Boston, Massachusetts. I am currently studying physics at Xavier University of Louisiana. I work with the STEM education research program observing the effectiveness of service learning in the New Orleans school system. I have previously done research analyzing the conditions in the troposphere and stratosphere using a small payload that measures temperature, pressure, and relative humidity. This year, I was invited to the 16th Annual LS-Lamp/Stem Science in conjunction with NORC Consortium Research Conference. During my time at Xavier, I have worked as a mathematics tutor, and I am presently the treasurer of Xavier's NSBE chapter as well as student coordinator for the physics outreach program. I hope to further my education by enrolling in a graduate physics or education program.

My interests outside of school include working out, volunteering and traveling. I look forward to spending my summer in Washington, D.C. as it will be my first visit to the nationís capital. I am very excited to see what the city has to offer and to meet all of my fellow SPS interns.

View Kearn'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
  • Final Reflections
Week 1, May 26-June 1, 2014

Chocolate City

My first week in chocolate city has been quite an experience to say the least. I flew out to DC on Sunday. It was really hot which reminded me of the weather back at school. My good friend Jonathan from college who recently graduated came to pick me from the airport. It made me a lot more comfortable to see a familiar face and I didn't have to worry getting lost on the way to my dorm. The check-in line at Amsterdam Hall was pretty long but went by surprising quickly. During check-in I met Ashley, one of my fellow interns, while she was moving in with her parents. She was very nice and welcoming considering it was our first time meeting in person. After I dropped off my luggage in my room my friend Jonathan and I went out to lunch at a place called Burger Tap and Shake, which I definitely recommend to anyone. After we came back we talked for a little bit outside and that's when I met Mark, who is doing the SOCK with me this summer. Mark and I decided to go exploring since no one was really around. I'm glad I did because I got to see the White House in person on my first day.

As the days got closer to the start of the internship everybody started to trickle in. We have already done quite a bit as a group. The first thing we did was go to lunch with Ms. Kendra Redmond. She is the SPS programs manager. Ms. Redmond brought her son Ben and her husband Paul. Her husband is a funny guy but her one-year-old son Ben takes the cake, he is just a ton of fun and always has a smile on his face. After that we went to the Memorial Day parade, which was amazing because you see the history of the country and the strong sense of patriotism the country has. After the parade we went grocery shopping and had a family dinner courtesy of our all-world chef Ashley. The next day we went to the Smithsonian information center and the American Indian Museum. The Smithsonian was very interesting. I saw a picture of Fredrick Douglass Patterson and George Washington Carver. I also saw a case that contained a helmet from a hall of fame running back and a football from one of the greatest college football coaches of all-time. That was a big deal to me because I'm a big sports fan. The National Museum of the American Indian was fun. We all tried out this canoe simulation where you see if you can keep the canoe afloat without tipping over. The younger children were a lot better than we were.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any more interesting, on our orientation day we had lunch with Dr. John Mather, a Nobel laureate. Dr. Mather works at the NASA Goddard Space and flight center. He is also a big advocate for scientific policy. Listening to him talk about scientific policy and his work with the Hubble Space Telescope was very fascinating. What most people don't know about Dr. Mather is that he is a very funny man. That night we went out for Thai food as a group. It was my first time trying pad Thai and I am proud to say I am now a big fan.

The first few days of working at AIP have been great. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. Mark and I have looked at the SOCKs from previous years and they are pretty impressive. We have a lot of work ahead us but that's the exciting part. The bar has been set, now it's time to reach that standard and raise the bar even higher for the next group. The best part about the SOCK is you get to let your imagination run wild. Like Einstein once said "Imagination is more important than knowledge."


Week 2, June 2-8, 2014


This week has been very eventful. Saturday we went to visit the Freer Gallery and visited Arlington Cemetery not to long after that. It was my first time witnessing The Changing of The Guard. It was a very humbling experience. It also puts things in perspective for you and what type of contribution you want to ultimately make to society. Those soldiers put their lives on the line for their families and this country. I hope one day I can have half of the impact they have had on society. Sunday we went to Director Sauncyís house for a barbeque. The lives of the party were definitely her dogs Captain James Buoy and Bernoulli. They are very lively. It was nice time for everybody to unwind after their first week of work.

Most of our second week of work has been spent brainstorming experiments to implement for the SOCK. We also had a few networking opportunities this week which is always nice especially when you see people where you might want to be someday. Thursday was probably my favorite day of my second week. Caleb, Mark, and I were escorted by Ashley to the Rayburn House Office Building to witness Exploravision. It's an event sponsored by Toshiba where students ranging from age seven to eighteen from all over the country arrange groups with a teacher and pick a current technology, research it, envision what it might look like in 20 years, and describe the development steps, pros & cons, and obstacles. It was amazing to see the projects these young minds could come up with and the problems in todayís society they wanted to solve. I canít wait to see some of those children grow up and change the world for the betterment of mankind someday.


Week 3, June 9-15, 2014

Physics and Politics

This was yet another eventful week in the life of an SPS SOCK Intern. Monday we made a lot of progress in narrowing down all the ideas for experiments for this year's SOCK. On Tuesday I went to the Rayburn House Office Building for an event sponsored by the (NUFO) National Userís Facility Organization where national labs from across the country come to talk about the work they do at their facilities. I arrived at the building a few hours early to sit in on a hearing titled "A Review of the P5 : The U.S. Vision for Particle Physics After Discovery of the Higgs Boson." The P5 is the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel. It was very interesting to hear the congress members' different views and fascinations with particle physics. After I left the hearing I had lunch and went to the NUFO event. It was a great experience getting to meet people who worked in all of the National Labs. I met a lot of interesting people and learned about the research they do in their respective labs. Wednesday and Thursday it was back to work on the SOCK. After this week I have a newfound admiration for science policy.


Week 4, June 16-22, 2014

Back to School

Outreach at Tuckahoe ElementaryThis week we had a few more networking opportunities in house where we connected with people we hadn't met already. It is always good to meet new people and pick their brains about the work they do and what led them down that path. Every person you meet in life has their own unique story and you learn something different from every person you meet. Whether it is good or bad it will ultimately help you become a better person as you progress in life.

The best part of my week was by far Thursday. Jake, Mark, and I led an outreach event at Tuckahoe Elementary. We went to a third grade classroom and led various physics activities. A few of the demos were from last year's SOCK and a few were from this year's SOCK. Outreach at Tuckahoe ElementaryIt was a mini test run for the new demos to see if they would be successful if put in this year's sock. Personally I think it went really well. Even though there was a fire drill during one of our demos it still went smoothly. The kids were a lot of fun and very advanced for their ages.

I ended my week by watching my first ever PhD thesis defense. Ironically it turned out to be from one of the former SPS SOCK interns. It was very inspiring to see the progression of a former intern. I can't wait to see what next week has in store for me.


Week 5, June 23-29, 2014

SOCK and NIST Preparations

This week has been dedicated to finishing the experiments for the sock. We have been writing the explanations for these demonstrations & activities. It has been very fun to go over the experiments. You get to look at the experiments from a different perspective. This week was a pretty busy week. Mark and I met with Toni to discuss our plans to go forward with the SOCK. We pulled together a Google spreadsheet of all the materials we would need and re-doubled our efforts on writing explanations. On Tuesday I went to NIST with Mark, Kendra, and Toni to talk about the upcoming middle school science teacher institute held every summer that I will be assisting with. On Wednesday night, I went out with Ashley, Mark, Caleb, Ben, and Courtney, who is one of my coworkers at the American Institute of Physics, to the Congressional Baseball game which features the Democratic versus Republicans. We left early since there were signs of rain and the republicans were losing terribly to the democrats anyway. On Thursday Mark and I had the privilege of chatting on Skype with Jenna Smith, a PhD candidate and former SOCK intern who thesis defense I was lucky enough to get to watch online. We talked to her mainly about graduate school, the selection process, and potential obstacles. She was very willing and enthusiastic to talk to us and answer all of our questions. It was a blessing to hear the wealth of knowledge she was willing to offer. Iím really excited to start at NIST next week.


Week 6, June 30-July 6, 2014

First week at NIST and July Fourth

My first day at NIST went really well. My boss Dr. Catherine Rimmer is really fun to work for. I also met Ms. Karen Cloud who is a former participant of the NIST summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers. It was very interesting to hear about her experience with the institute and her views on some of the experiments and demonstrations planned for teachers, which she had previously done. We spent the majority of the week organizing and preparing the materials needed for when the teachers arrive next week. It was really exciting getting to see all the scientific goodies the teachers were going to use the throughout the program. Tuesday was probably the most exciting day of the week because Mark, Jake, Caleb, Stephen, Courtney, Ms. Kendra, and I did outreach with children at the NIST childcare center. They were 30 kids whose ranged from kindergarten through fourth grade. The activities included measuring the speed of light in a microwave and explorations of fiber optics, diffraction, and fluorescence. It was very beneficial to get a chance to test out our SOCK experiments to see if there were any adjustments that needed to be made. To cap off the week I got to see the 4th of July fireworks display on the national mall using diffraction glasses, which make the show that much more amazing. The best part of the show for me had to be when I gave a little girl standing in front of me with her father an extra pair of diffraction glasses that I had with me. The look of amazement she had when she put them on saw the fireworks was priceless and made my week.


Week 7, July 7-13, 2014

Teachers Arrive

This was my second week working at NIST. It gets more exciting by the day. On Monday the institute for the middle school science teachers started and I finally got to meet all of the teachers. We did introductions on the first day and the teachers went through a workshop on measurement. Tuesday was really cool. The teachers and myself got a tour of the reactor at NIST and went through a crystal growing exercise later that day. Wednesday someone came in from NASA and taught us about rain gauges and how experiments that relate to real world problems such as precipitation can be incorporated into the classroom. On Thursday a structural engineer at NIST came in to talk about designing buildings that will be protected from earthquakes and tsunamis. Then there was an activity where the teachers built earthquake resistant models. Friday was my favorite day. Mark and myself got to be teachers for a day and went over a few of our SOCK experiments with the teachers. The experiments we performed included ones on polarization, basic diffraction, and CD diffraction, and crystal structure. I was amazed to see how involved and interactive the teachers were.


Week 8, July 14-20, 2014

Last Week of Teacher Institute and NASA

I have mixed emotions about this week. It has been a very fun-filled week. It has also been a sad week because it was the last week of the middle school science teachers summer institute. I have developed a strong relationship with the teachers and I am sad to see them go. On Monday the teachers did spectroscopy and nano magnetism activities respectively in the morning. In the afternoon they went on a tour of the Ballistics Testing Facility at NIST. That was really cool because they got to see how scientists test the Kevlar material that is used for bulletproof vests. After that we attended an ice cream social with all the scientists that work in the chemistry building. On Tuesday I had the privilege of accompanying the teachers to Capitol Hill so they could meet with their congressional representatives. I ended up running into Bill Nye the Science Guy. He happened to be in the room next to the room the teachers were meeting in giving a talk. On Wednesday the teachers did a temperature measurement activity in the morning. After that the teachers went on a tour to see the million pound force machine. It is crazy to think that one machine can generate that much force but thatís why NIST is the standard for innovation and technology. That afternoon Mark and I did the second part of our SOCK activities for the teachers. We did fiber optics and diffraction activities. Thursday I went to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on a tour sponsored by our two NASA interns. It was a really exciting day because it was their Science Jamboree. Thatís where every group at NASA comes together and sets up posters and some models so people can walk around and see the projects that are going on at NASA. We all had lunch there with Nobel laureate Dr. John Mather. Later that afternoon we went to see the testing facility for the James Webb Space Telescope. Friday was the last day of the Middle School Science Teacher Summer Institute. We had a closing ceremony for the teachers and reception. The teachers from American Samoa did a special ceremony where they gave gifts to the head of the institute and all the presenters.


Week 9, July 21-27, 2014

Pentagon and Final Presentations

This week was just about all dedicated to preparing for the final presentations for the intern symposium. Monday morning all of the interns went on a tour of the Pentagon. I thought it was really interesting. We had a great tour guide who was very enthusiastic and informative. After the pentagon tour my fellow interns went on a capitol tour and I went back to NIST to help wrap everything up for the summer institute. Tuesday I went back to NIST to help assist with the teachers who were participants in the Albert Einstein Distinguished fellowship program who were visiting for the day. They visited NISTís stone test wall which is a wall in a secluded area of NIST where testing is done on to see how different types of stone hold up over time. There are over 2200 different types of stone in the wall. That afternoon the Einstein fellows did a measurement activity. It was very interesting to hear the various paths they had taken in life that got them where they are today.

Wednesday was my first day back at the American Center for Physics to collaborate with Mark so we could put our final presentation together. Thursday was our practice rehearsal. All the interns working at the American Center for Physics presented along with both of our NASA interns and one NIST intern. The practice presentations were very helpful and everybody received a lot of constructive criticism, which helped us make final adjustments to our presentations. The two policy interns and the other NIST intern couldnít make it to the practice presentations due to work scheduling so there was a second practice held for them at the dormitory when we are being housed. The practices must have went really well because the final presentations on Friday were amazing.


Final Reflections, August, 2014

It's hard to imagine that my SPS summer internship is over. It seems like it was just yesterday I was at ACP working on polarizers for the SOCK and then going out to dinner with the interns. It's funny how fast time flies, not as fast as light, but still funny none the less.

I have had a lot of time to reflect on my experience this summer. This internship has definitely showed me how important SPS is. I am a testament to the impact SPS can have on someone's life. I have grown and learned so much through my various experiences this summer.

Being able to attend events like NUFO and meet congressional representatives and scientists from national labs all across the country is a once in a lifetime experience. I even got to meet Bill Nye the Science Guy this summer, one of the most popular figures in the science community, or any community for that matter. Even other experiences, like attending the children's science fair at the Rayburn House office building and being a part of the NIST summer institute for middle school science teachers, that many people may not think are as cool as meeting scientists at NUFO or Bill Nye I thought were just as important. These experiences, the people I met, and all that I have learned from all of it I will cherish for the rest of my life.

This is why I know picking the SPS SOCK internship was the best decision for me. If I could I would do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing. The SOCK gave me a wide variety of opportunities this summer. I had the privilege of working with Toni Sauncy, Kendra Redmond, and the SPS staff. I also was lucky enough to get to pick the brains of former SPS interns Courtney Lemon and Joe York. The advice they gave me throughout the course of the internship and continue to give me today is priceless and will not just help me in physics, but in life. Everybody in ACP from the top executives to the security people at the front desk were just so helpful and willing to offer any knowledge they had that they felt I might find useful.

I am proud of the work Mark and I put into the SOCK. I would not trade all the outreach events, meetings, and time working on the SOCK for anything. The outreach we did this summer and all the outreach that will be done throughout the school year with the SOCKS is invaluable. Outreach is very important to the community and that is why it is a big goal for SPS. Mark and I both value outreach a lot and I think that's why together we made a great pair of SOCKs.

Overall I am very grateful for my opportunity to participate in this SPS summer internship. I'm blessed to have met such wonderful people this summer, especially my fellow interns. I know I have made friendships and memories this summer that will last a lifetime.



Equipping SPS Chapters to do Science Outreach

The Society of Physics StudentsThe Society of Physics Students is a professional association explicitly designed for students, to help them become contributing members of the professional community. SPS Science Outreach Catalyst Kits, or SOCKs, contain hands-on exploratory physics and science activities specifically designed for SPS chapters to use in outreach presentations to local elementary, middle and high school students.

Kearns and fellow SPS intern Mark are creating and testing a set of core activities for this year's SOCK and writing instructions for lessons and demonstrations. They will also use the activities with the NIST Summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers.

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