Final Reflections

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Friday, August 1, 2014


Mark Sellers

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 Sellers