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Mark SellersMark Sellers
Rhodes College
Internship: SPS Science Outreach Catalyst Kit

I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I am a rising senior physics major and Spanish minor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Since my freshman year at Rhodes, I have worked on an ultrasonic method for detecting osteoporosis with my advisor, Dr. Brent Hoffmeister. As a sophomore, I served as the first Communications Officer for the Rhodes College chapter of SPS, with the goal of raising awareness of Rhodes's science outreach programs. My work as the Communications Officer led to my education internship at the Pink Palace Museum last summer. At the Pink Palace, I wrote science programs for Memphis-area elementary and middle school students. I am undecided on my future path, but I believe I will apply for graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in physics. I'm very excited for the SPS SOCK internship, as I want to continue to do my part in furthering science education and awareness, as well as learn more of the skills required to be a capable teacher.

In addition to my studies in physics and Spanish, I am the lead tenor saxophone in the Rhodes College jazz ensemble and take saxophone lessons. When I have free time, I usually play competitive e-sports such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Team Fortress 2, or—if I want something less competitive—I play Pokémon and Minecraft. I also enjoy day hiking at Shelby County Forest, riding my bike around Memphis, and watching movies and YouTube.

View Mark'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

Transition to D.C. and First Days!

Selfie with the White HouseBefore I explain what I have been up to for the past week, allow me to introduce myself! I'm Mark Sellers and I'm the 2014 SOCK intern. I am originally from Kansas City, Missouri and am a rising senior at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. I am a physics major, Spanish minor, and music enthusiast at Rhodes. After much shopping, huffing, puffing, sorting, organizing, swearing, re-sorting, packing, unpacking, re-packing, flying, and finally nesting at George Washing University, I'm glad to have a few moments to look back on this week and how I've gotten to this point. This experience seemed so far away in the weeks leading up to it, as I struggled with my Quantum Mechanics and Advanced E&M courses and their respective finals. But now, I guess I'm here. Huh. Time still baffles me.

Once I had settled in on Sunday afternoon, I started roaming around Foggy Bottom to explore my new surroundings. I met up with Kearns and the two of us walked around the neighborhood together as we started to get to know each other. We even went by the White House and snapped a few photos before heading back to the dorms.

Andrew Jackson ImpersonatorOn Monday, Kendra took the interns out to lunch at a restaurant called Circa, right across the street, where we got to meet and socialize with each other. After that, the interns grouped up and went to go see the Memorial Day parade, which was spent admiring the soldiers, marching bands, and impersonators as they walked down Constitution Avenue. After a quick hike through the National Mall and to Trader Joes for groceries, all of the interns got together and helped make a taco dinner. Ashley is an awesome chef! I also met my roommate, Caleb. The whole group later hung out and chatted over a game of Cards Against Humanity before finally heading to bed. I liked how easy it was to fit in and talk with these people, knowing that we all have the same interest and passion for physics.

On Tuesday, the group went back to the National Mall to explore some of the Smithsonian Museums. We went to the Smithsonian Information Center (the one that looks like a castle) and then had lunch at and toured the American Indian Museum. Afterwards, we went to the Washington Monument because Ashley, in her awesomeness, had gone by and picked up tickets for us during her morning run. It was incredible to see the mall and the White House from that high up.

After that, we headed out to dinner at a Thai restaurant when the skies decided to open up. Thankfully, I had my rain jacket, but the others weren't too lucky. The remaining interns had arrived that night as well, so we helped them move in.

Finally, orientation day! ... Wait, what, it's already done, where did all that time go? After all of the ice breakers, meetings with directors, lunch with THE Dr. Mather, practicing our "elevator" speeches, meeting some of the staff at AIP, and finally finishing up with an impromptu lab where we estimated the wavelengths of Hydrogen's spectra, the day just seemed to fly by. Definitely a good first day.

The 2013 SOCKThursday also went by just as fast, as Kearns and I worked through the 2013 SOCK to familiarize ourselves with how a SOCK is put together, met with more directors, and helped assemble some demonstrations for the Howard County Science Festival. Vortex cannons, balancing rods, gravity visualizations (thanks 2012 SOCK!), LEDs, lasers, oh my! I take time's quick passage as a good thing, since I'm meeting so many new people and doing so many new things already.

This summer, I really hope to create a solid SOCK, following the theme of "Light as a tool". We've already started to plan out some ideas for demonstrations involving crystallography and possibly solar cells as well, with maybe some optics/cameras thrown in as well. I also hope to make strong bonds with the other interns and the staff at AIP, as both have been extremely welcoming and easy to talk with. I'll admit, I was a little nervous going into this internship--change is never an easy thing--but the group of people here has wiped that anxiety from my head.

...For the most part. The metro still makes me uneasy.

Photo 1: I had to take a selfie with the White House, no shame.
Photo 2: An Andrew Jackson impersonator. Definitely glad I didn't have to wear the full costume on that hot day! He was quite chipper though, despite the heat.
Photo 3: Opening up the 2013 SOCK and diving right in!

~Mark

Week 2, June 2-8, 2014

Getting into the groove of things

So, it's been a full week at SPS and things are going very well. I think I've made a good transition back into the working environment. Friday was spent on brainstorming more demonstration ideas, as well as meeting Dr. Kraig Wheeler of the American Crystallographic Association at a meeting. I talked to Dr. Wheeler about my project and mentioned that crystallography was going to be a big part of it. He mentioned that he received a kit from the ACA and invited me, Kearns, and Toni to see it! Talk about serendipity. We definitely got some good ideas from that on how to present the subject of crystallography using legos.

The weekend went by very quickly. On Saturday, we visited the Freer gallery and saw the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery. The visit to Arlington was definitely a humbling experience; you don't realize how many soldiers have died until you walk by the fields of ordered tombstones. On Sunday, the group broke into two groups to compete in the Washington Post Hunt. My group consisted of Stephen, Kirsten, Jake, and Ben, while the other group had Ashley, Kelby, Kearns, and Nick. Our team managed to correctly solve all 5 of the riddles (defeating the other team, booyah!) but the 9 of us were unable to collectively solve the final puzzle. It was still really fun though! Later that night, all of the interns got together at Toni's house for a barbecue and socializing.

Testing out the speaker with Toni and KearnsThis week has mainly been about networking, finishing our brainstorming for the SOCK, ordering parts, and testing out demonstrations. Hopefully we will be including a really cool demonstration that uses a laser and solar panel to power a little speaker!

Photo 1: Testing out the speaker with Toni and Kearns.

On Thursday, Ashley escorted Kearns, myself, and Caleb to the Rayburn House Office Building for the Toshiba ExploraVision science fair. The fair focuses on envisioning innovative technologies that could emerge 20 years into the future. Some of the projects involved creating a new artificial kidney, a battery powered by the human body, and a mechanism to help cool off the interior of a dangerously hot car. The students were quite savvy and creative with each of their projects! It was interesting for me as well, since I'm already seeing the next generation of scientists; and it made me feel old too.

Hot Car Safety SystemPhoto 2: The "Hot Car Safety System" project would create a sensor that would lower the windows of a car to help vent excess heat and sound an alarm if a person or animal was trapped inside.

On Friday, we got to have lunch and dinner with the SPS Executive Committee and I met Dr. Earl Blodgett who had the same PhD advisor at Washington University as my mentor at Rhodes! Definitely a small world! Afterwards, we went to the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall and explored the monuments at night. We event got to climb on the Einstein statue for a group picture. On Sunday, the interns headed out to the Howard County STEM Festival, where we presented four demonstrations--lasers vs LEDs, modelling spacetime, balancing rods, and vortex cannons. We had about 100 to 200 students and parents come through to see our demonstrations and they got to keep a pair of diffraction grating glasses as a souvenir!

Next week I hope to have a working draft of the SOCK completed, since we will be visiting a group of 3rd graders sometime during the week of June 16th. Time is seriously going fast!

~Mark

Week 3, June 9-15, 2014

One more week! And crazy stuff!

This week has focused on testing out new demonstrations for the SOCK, planning for our classroom visit, and lots of networking! Monday was mainly taken up with writing up some new explanations for our demos, as well as figuring out what to take to the 3rd grade outreach event. We want to give the students a taste for the 2014 SOCK, so we're focusing on light, how we measure the speed of light, and diffraction/spectroscopy. After assembling most of the parts into a box, I refocused on the issue of new SOCK demonstrations. A big part of this week was spent working with Lego sets to try and accurately replicate crystal structures. After I finished the first models, I did some estimations on how many Lego bricks I would need for each SOCK.

It's an understatement to say I need a lot of Legos. So, we may try working out a deal with Lego to get the parts for a reduced price, if we decide to pursue that avenue.

Tuesday was very interesting, as we went to the Rayburn House Office Building to help out with the NUFO (National User Facility Organization) exposition. There were about 10 different groups from national labs at this exposition, ranging from Argonne to Oak Ridge to Los Alamos. All of the AIP interns and the Mather interns helped move in the A/V equipment for the exposition and set it up. We only had about 10 minutes to spare when we finished! I got to meet with lots of people from these labs and talk with them about their stories as scientists and students. Afterwards, the interns helped take down the set and the very generous people of NUFO took us out to dinner at Cava Mezze for a marathon of small plates, drinks, and socializing. I earned several business cards from NUFO officers and associates, which I quickly followed up on the next day. My evening was probably not as crazy as Stephen's though, so you may want to check out his journal entry for this week. Just a small protip.

The rest of this week has been spent prototyping new demonstrations as they come in--fluorescence under UV light, macroscopic structures that mimic atomic-scale crystal patterns, and printing our own diffraction gratings. It's been more of a whirlwind week, what with the NUFO event on Tuesday breaking up the normal flow of the work-week. It's really hard to believe that we are getting close to the halfway point for this summer experience. This internship is definitely picking up! Next week is definitely going to be key for finishing up the remaining demonstrations, ordering the last prototype parts, and assembling the first SOCK.

~Mark

Week 4, June 16-22, 2014

Plants, more plants, SOCKs, and outreach!

I had a very green weekend! Kirsten and I visited the National Arboretum on Saturday and it was incredible. The whole complex spans over 400 acres and has different areas dedicated to different plants. We saw some late-blooming azaleas in a forested area, walked through a plain of wild grass, and hiked through another wooded area dedicated to ferns. We didn't get to see the whole area (we wanted to go see the state tree grove) but we did get to see some research farms. It was interesting to see other research projects outside of physics and reading about how those results could improve the native bee population and plant health in the area.

The "plains" with the columns from the old Capital buildingPhoto 1: The "plains" with the columns from the old Capital building at the other end of the field!

On Sunday, Kelby, Ashley, Stephen, Kirsten, and I went to the US Botanical Garden and later to the Sculpture Garden. I'm pretty sure that, between both days, I walked over 20 miles. I definitely felt it when I got back to my room that night.

This week was spent refining a few of our demonstrations and preparing for our outreach event to Tuckahoe Elementary. I've started to write up some of the procedure and explanation sheets for these demos, which really does test your understanding of the demo and the physics behind it. I also got some new ideas from Courtney, one of the new SPS employees, on how to set up the diffraction activities. Hair ties, rulers, and binder clips make for a very cheap "ring-stand"-like apparatus!

apparatus to measure the wavelength of the laserPhoto 2: I used this apparatus to measure the wavelength of the laser and got 654nm, which falls neatly in the center of the indicated range of 630-670nm. And it's cheap too!

On Thursday, Jake, Kearns, I, and Joe York went out to Tuckahoe for our 3rd grade outreach event. We had a group of about 50 students, all of which were very sharp! Our first demo was “borrowed” from the 2013 SOCK—using differently scaled rulers to measure equal lengths of rope—to stress the importance of standards of measurement. After that, we dived into how light is used to measure distance and then had some demos on how white light can be broken into its various colors and how that information can be used. Kearns got the biggest "wow!" from the kids with his demo, which involved polarizers, transparency film, cheap cellophane tape, and an overhead projector to create a “stained glass” mosaic of colors. Each student got to make a pane of stained glass that we then put on the projector to show how it turned out. Joe took us out to Ted’s Bulletin in the Eastern Market area for brunch, which was really good!

The "polarized stained glass" demo!Photo 3: The "polarized stained glass" demo! Even though the tape is clear on the transparency film, the students were clearly doing some pretty intricate designs!

Photo 4: Talking diffraction with the 3rd graders!

Talking diffraction with the 3rd graders!By next week, we should have a good idea of the demonstrations we'll use in the SOCK, so we can start collecting all of the parts we need. It's kinda crazy to think we're already about halfway done with this internship!

~Mark

Week 5, June 23-29, 2014

Busy social week! And looking forward!

This past weekend was super fun! I went to go see Speakers of the House, a Baltimore boogaloo (aka, funk) group at Jazz in the Garden. Even though I got there a little late, I managed to snag a spot right by the stage! Ashley, Kirsten, and Caleb joined me after they got off work and we all split a pitcher of red wine sangria. Around the second or third part of their show, the crowd really started getting into the music. Everyone—old, young, and even some security guards—was clustered together in front of the stage and dancing without a care in the world. I really want to find more of the Speakers of the House, but they don't seem to have an album out yet. Boo. I'll just listen to the demos on their website.

Speakers of the HousePhoto: Speakers of the House!

On Saturday, I did mostly chores and such before heading out to go see "How to Train Your Dragon 2" with Kelby, Kearns, Caleb, Ashley, Jake, and Simon. I had listened to the first book on audio tape, and was surprised at how different the plot was between the book and movie!

Sunday was taken up with the D.C. bar-b-que battle in the downtown area. I managed to get a lot of free samples of things, which made up for the rather steep cover fee. I was really sleepy after a full day of walking and snacking, so I headed to bed fairly early.

On Monday, Kearns and I met with Toni to finalize plans for the SOCK. We pulled together a google spreadsheet of all the materials we would need and re-doubled our efforts on writing explanations. We also tried out another demonstration that was quite similar to one I had done at Rhodes. If you have a set of polarizers, a light source, and a sugar-water solution, you can measure the concentration of sugar by the angle required to block all of the polarized light. On Tuesday, I went to NIST with Kearns, Kendra, and Toni to talk about the upcoming middle school teacher's workshop, which Kearns will be helping out with. That evening, most of the gang went out to the Argonaut for their science night. There were three competitions--science trivia, a successful science experiment, and having the best team name. Our team name was "Let Us Atom!" and we had to do the infamous "egg-drop" competition as part of the experiment. The trivia was pretty hard--I didn't really know any of the answers except for the obvious ones--but everyone managed to pull together to get 10/15 correct answers. Our egg also survived a two-story drop from the Argonaut (the only successful drop!) By the end of the night, the SPS interns had swept all of the competitions and won a $50 gift card and a bottle of wine from the Argonaut. Not too bad!

On Wednesday night, I went out with Ben, Ashley, Kearns, and Caleb to the Congressional Baseball game (Democrats vs. Republicans). We left early since it started to sprinkle during the game, but we didn't miss much--the Democrats had a 10+ point lead over the republicans when we left. The rest of the week was fairly uneventful after that.

The Nationals mascots--the Presidents! Sorry for the fuzzy picture, they were running around in the outfield.

Thursday was a pretty big day for me. I got to skype with Jenna Smith, a PhD candidate, SOCK intern, AND Rhodes alumnus. Kearns and I talked to her mainly about graduate school, since Jenna had just defended her thesis work. It was very informative and she gave us a lot of tips and tricks to think about when searching for a graduate institution. Later that day, I had a good discussion with Steve Wasserman, who works out at the Lilly Research Laboratory, which is part of Argonne National Labs, about his experience with science, graduate school, and his unexpected path into doing science advocacy. I met Steve at the NUFO exhibition a few weeks back in the Rayburn House Office building. It was great to talk with him and definitely appreciate him taking the time to share his experiences. After both of those big talks, I'm thinking physics grad school is my step forward once I finish at Rhodes. I just have to get past the GRE and all of that!

Looking forward, we have a small outreach event at NIST, so we can prototype some other demonstrations on a younger focus group. After that, it';s just a matter of organizing the manual, finalizing explanations, and ordering parts.

~Mark

Week 6, June 30-July 6, 2014

Outreach at NIST, 4th of July

The weekend was fairly uneventful for me, which is a good thing. I definitely needed some time to take a breather, sleep, finish chores around the apartment, etc... I did go to the Air and Space Museum on Sunday, but it was super packed (which is normal, from what I'm told). It was still amazing to see all of the different aircraft models and to see the exhibits on the space expeditions.

This week I've been focusing on improving the SOCK manual and explanations. Kendra and I met to talk about some changes to how the SOCK demonstrations are explained and organized, which reinforced my understanding of the demonstrations and the target audience. We also finalized a buy list of parts for the demonstrations so, once the explanations are completed, we can start to assemble the SOCKs!

Another part of this week was devoted to preparing for an outreach event with the NIST day care and summer camp groups. These two groups, roughly 30 students, ranged in classes from kindergarten to fourth grade. We did demonstrations on fiber optics, fluorescence, diffraction, and measuring the speed of light in a microwave. I got a lot of help from Caleb, Jake, Kearns, Stephen, Kendra, and Courtney to both manage the excited kids and to present the demonstrations. It was also good to have a focus group to work with, since we started to realize what worked and what needed to be changed in the demonstrations. It went well overall, and the kids got to take home a pair of diffraction glasses to use on the 4th of July!

Showing the summer camp how to do single slit diffraction with two pencilsPhoto: Showing the summer camp how to do single slit diffraction with two pencils!

Speaking of which, most of the interns spent the 4th on the National Mall on the grounds of the Washington Monument. We played frisbee, talked, hung out, and tried to avoid getting too badly sunburned. Caleb definitely saved me from getting sunburned, since he loaned me an umbrella to use as a parasol. The interns also distributed roughly 200-250 diffraction glasses to the people nearby to use during the fireworks display. We kept a few for ourselves and wow! The fireworks looked incredible! http://instagram.com/p/qKKU9sFMMZ/?modal=true

~Mark

Week 7, July 7-13, 2014

Preparing for more outreach and NIST!

After the 4th of July, I stayed close to home, skyped with my family, and did laundry and such. Nothing too eventful!

This week, I started preparing for some upcoming outreach events at NIST and at the University of Maryland high school physics camp for girls. I had to solidify my understanding of the explanations so I could write a clear guide with appropriate and relevant questions. Kendra gave me some really good advice on how to avoid making big logic jumps in the explanations, which really helped a lot! After working with these explanations for so long, it gets harder and harder to take an outsider's perspective on what's really being said. More SOCK parts started coming in as well, so I started to organize those materials together and prepare them for the outreach events. For example, each of the middle school teachers received a set of large polarizers, so I had to make sure to cut strips of the polarizing film with the correct dimensions so they could be placed in transparency mounting frames.

NIST's high-resolution SEMThe big day this week was Friday, when we did the NIST middle school science teacher outreach event, toured NIST, and went out to the Udvar-Hazy extension of the Air and Space Museum. For the NIST outreach event, Kearns and I worked with 22 middle school teachers (roughly half of them were from American Samoa and Hawaii) to show them some of the SOCK demonstrations. We started off doing the demo on polarized "stained glass", which got a very big wow! After that, we did our introduction to diffraction demonstration and then tested out our other demonstration on diffraction patterns. Both seemed to go over very well with the group! It was definitely good to work with the teachers and observe some of the sticking points of the demonstrations. For example, I learned I need to be very clear about the procedure for the basic diffraction demonstration (which involves making a single slit with pencils). It was also good to see how some of the materials in the diffraction pattern demonstration might need to be modified or stabilized in some way so they don't hinder the experience.

Shuttle Discovery at Udvar HazyKearns and I joined in late to the NIST tour, where we got to see some very powerful SEMs (scanning electron microscopes) and walk past the NanoFab clean rooms. Afterwards, Kelby and Ben showed us their labs and talked about the work they did for NIST. The tour ended with Kendra taking the interns out to lunch at Dogfish Head, which was quite tasty!

Afterwards, Courtney drove myself, Kearns, and Simon out to Udvar-Hazy, where we got to see the Discovery space shuttle, in addition to some other sweet air-rides! Walking around the Discovery was definitely a humbling experience, since it really hit home how much effort went into designing, manufacturing, assembling, and finally flying the shuttle. I'm definitely eager for the next space age! (Mars, hopefully?)

Photo 1: Checking out one of NIST's high-resolution SEMs!

Photo 2: Discovery speaks for itself I think.

~Mark

Week 8, July 14-20, 2014

Whirlwind week of outreach and stuff!

I took the 12th of July pretty slow; slept in, made a big breakfast, and didn't leave the apartment until about 1pm. I headed out to the International Spy Museum, which was quite fun! The exhibits were focused more on children, but the museum still had an impressive collection of artifacts and history related to espionage. They also had an interesting exhibit on all of the villains in the Bond films and explained how a lot of them reflected the problems of the time (tensions between US/Russia, nukes, cyber-terrorism, etc etc etc... The fun stuff!) Afterwards, I went down to the waterfront with the interns for some dinner, cupcakes, and walking around. Sunday was uneventful.

Helping a group of students at the UMD physics campThis week, I prepared for two outreach events--one on Tuesday with the University of Maryland high school physics girls camp and one on Wednesday with the middle school teachers at NIST. So, Monday was spent acquiring materials and solidifying the explanations for Tuesday. The outreach event went really well, since it was good to see how that age group of students would react to certain demonstrations and activities. We focused on our diffraction activities, since we had yet to test them with a higher level group. We also tried incorporating worksheets for some of our demonstrations so the students could have something to work on together. For the rest of Tuesday, we got ready for the NIST outreach event. Also, on Tuesday evening, we went out to the College Park Aviation Museum for a dinner with the interns, their sponsors, and some of the SPS/AIP leadership. It was a really enjoyable evening, as seen in the photos of us playing dress-up and posing by some of the aircraft in the museum.

Inside the NASA-Goddard newsroomOn Wednesday, we arrived at NIST around 12:30 and started setting up. We did our light fountain and fluorescence demonstrations with them. We attempted to do the demonstration showing how to calculate the speed of light from a microwave oven, but the microwave ovens at NIST didn't produce the desired result. So, to fill that time, we polled the teachers about the activities and what they were wanting to do in the classroom. I also gave all 22 teachers my business card, so now I have some contacts in American Samoa and Hawaii, which is pretty awesome. (Gradually conquering the world with physics!)

Goddard's massive centrifugeOn Thursday, we went out to NASA-Goddard for our tour! We timed our visit just right, since there was a "Science Jamboree" that day, which is NASA's version of a science fair. In addition to picking up a lot of free NASA goodies, I learned a lot about the different research groups involved with NASA and saw some of NASA's super computers! Nick's mentor also took us on a tour of the James Webb Space Telescope facilities, where we saw the fabrication clean rooms, some of the testing facilities, and even stepped into the centrifuge chamber! The NASA interns did a really good job of planning everything out!

Photo 1: Helping a group of students at the UMD physics camp get their apparatus set up.

Photo 2: Inside the NASA-Goddard "newsroom"!

Photo 3: A view of Goddard's massive centrifuge. I couldn't fit the whole thing on one frame!

~Mark

Week 9, July 21-27, 2014

Starting to wrap things up!

Like the previous weekends, I took things pretty slow. With all of the outreach events we'd done, I definitely needed some time to sleep in and catch up with friends and family, do laundry, get groceries, play Counter-Strike, etc etc. Also, I knew this next week was going to be very active, so I figured I should enjoy the down time while I could!

Starting on Monday, the interns toured the Pentagon (sorry, no pictures allowed inside!) in the morning and then went to tour the Capitol and visit the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. It was quite a federal day, but still really interesting to see the different branches of government at work. Capitol buildingBen Pries took us to some awesome parts of the Capitol, including the balcony overlooking the Washington Monument and the steps where the president is sworn in. We also went to the "whisper spot" in the old House room, where you can hear people talking clearly from across the room but can't hear the people beside you. That blew my mind! At the end of the day, we visited the House Science committee, where Ashley works, and got to chat with some of the scientists on staff. I enjoyed talking to them about their experiences and how they found themselves in the science policy realm.

The remainder of this week was focused on getting ready for Friday--presentation day! Despite the office getting a little hectic with preparations, we all got together on Tuesday to celebrate Toni's time as SPS director. It was a bittersweet affair, since we are all sad to see Toni leave, but we know that she will be moving on to do great work as a professor.

Capitol visitor centerThe remainder of the week involved presentation preparations, with the rehearsal on Thursday and the actual event on Friday. The rehearsal was very useful at pointing out certain aspects of all our presentations that could be improved so we could all shine even brighter during the real thing. For the SOCK presentation, Kearns's and I talked about the formation and development of the SOCK, performed the polarized stained glass activity, and wrapped up by talking about Kearns's experiences at the NIST middle school teachers institute. All of the interns did a really good job with their presentations and it was really cool to see everyone talk about what they had done over the summer.

Long restaurant receiptThis weekend had a "food theme". On Friday night, the interns went out to get endless appetizers at TGI Friday and, as a group, we managed to get through roughly 5 rounds of appetizers before throwing in the towel. We definitely got our money's worth out of it (and a 3-foot long receipt to show for it)! On Saturday, I went out to dinner with Courtney, Nick, and Nick's friend Sean at the "new" Thai Place. On Sunday, the interns went out for a 3 hour long brunch at Scion in DuPont Circle.

It's really crazy to think that we're almost done with this internship, I don't know where the time has gone! I think the SOCK is coming together quite nicely. We just need to focus on getting the last few parts and starting to put together the actual kit!

Photo 1: The view from the balcony of the Capitol!

Photo 2: And inside the Capitol visitor center!

Photo 3: I will probably never see a receipt that long at a restaurant for a very very long time.

~Mark

Final Reflections, August, 2014

Final Reflections

It blows my mind that I'm writing this reflection just two weeks after this internship. When I first started, it felt like this experience would go on for forever. Now it seems like forever ago that I was back in DC with the rest of the interns and staff at SPS. It's funny how time does that to you.

While I've been home, I've had a lot of time to process everything that's happened. This internship definitely helped me understand more about how to have meaningful interactions with new people, especially when discussing science. As an example, the lesson on the first day about elevator speeches taught me how beginning a conversation is as simple as shaking hands, explaining who you are, where you're from, and what you're doing. Those new people skills helped me have an amazing experience, since I could take full advantage of events like NUFO--I still keep in touch with the contacts I made there!

That brings me to my next point--the mentorship with this internship has been absolutely incredible. Toni, Kendra, Courtney, and even non-SPS people like Steve Wasserman really took a lot of time to talk to me and help me understand my options for the future. Going in, I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to do after undergrad. Now, I know I want to go for a Ph.D. in physics because I want to continue contributing to physics as a researcher and as an advocate. I know I have more learning and growing ahead of me before I'm ready to make a splash in the physics community. But I do know that this is the community I want to stay in.

Now, onto the SOCK itself--also incredible. If I could choose to re-do the internship, I would still pick the SOCK. Why? It gave me so many different opportunities and challenges that tested lots of different skills. Doing outreach events is a very different experience from researching new lessons, which is a very different experience from acquiring parts and testing out the activities. For example, the lesson writing required me to write clearly, whereas researching activities necessitated critical thinking about cost and time constraints. When you do an outreach event, I had to gauge my audience and modify the lesson plan on the fly to better suit their needs, such as going deeper into the material. Finally, I had to be flexible with the activities--just because one person online had done an activity one way didn't mean I had to do it the same way. I definitely feel more confident with my outreach skills after this internship.

I'm also very thankful for the opportunity to live in DC for a summer. It is so nice to live downtown, where everything you need is just a walk away. I already miss the other interns and all of the fun outings we had. I think I definitely made some long-lasting friendships on this internship.

Anyway, I've started researching Ph.D. programs in earnest. I currently have a list of roughly 16 different programs and am studying for the physics GRE in October. I think I'll focus on optical physics since I really enjoyed learning about "the spectrum of utility" of light--shameless SOCK plug. I really can't wait to go back to Rhodes and tell everyone about all the cool things I was up to this summer.

So, to the next wave of SOCK interns... Go for it! Make the most of your experience! If you'd like, contact me and we can talk some about the internship.

~Mark

 

Equipping SPS Chapters to do Science Outreach

The Society of Physics StudentsThe Society of Physics Students is a professional association explicitly designed for students, designed to help students transform themselves into 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.

Mark and fellow SPS intern Kearns 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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