Final Reflections: An enlightening experience

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Friday, August 9, 2013


Dayton Syme

It is very sad for me to say that the end of my internship has drawn to a close. I left on Wednesday to fly to Idaho where I proceeded to start a 4 day road trip with my dad all the way to Florida for my facilities training in grad school. On one hand it was sad that I had to leave. On another, I knew that there were big things in store for me.

With only being around for four days this week I had plenty to keep me busy, but on that last Sunday I wanted to make sure that I had the DC tourist experience. That morning I got up at 8am and I was out the door in 30 min. I walked south from the GW campus all the way down to the National Academy of Sciences, to the Einstein statue. I didn’t realize then that I was supposed to rub his nose for good luck; but thinking on it, I’m sure the man wouldn’t have cared for that sort of thing anyways. Next followed the Lincoln Memorial, which sadly was defaced by some ridiculous vandal. The Korean War Memorial was recently decorated from a 60th anniversary. Here’s a link: Afterwards was the Martin Luther King Memorial, that was, like many things under renovation. The FDR memorial was one of my favorites, and I can’t help but think that it is under appreciated for its beauty and profound coverage over one of our presidents. My most southern destination for that day was the Jefferson Memorial, and in the carved walls I found not only the Declaration of Independence but wonderfully apt quotes that I see as being relevant to this day.

At the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, I went to an IMAX movie featuring the Hubble telescope. I am not one for 3-D movies, but for that movie, I will make an exception. I did a little back tracking to the Holocaust Museum, and I would have to say that it is a powerful museum that takes about 2 hours minimum for the main exhibit. With an hour before closing, I sprinted towards the Newseum (museum about news). It was ok, a little too much focus on the pop media side of life in my opinion. However, the photo wall of journalists who died while on assignment was rather astounding. Being only a couple blocks away, I went to the National Art Gallery. I sadly only had about an hour there, so I was only able to cover most of the sculpture art, and a very small fraction of the paintings. I finished at the National Portrait Gallery; at this point I had been touring the capitol for almost 11 hours. Let’s just say that every seat there was a good seat. By the time I dragged myself home, I can only faintly remember brushing my teeth and going to bed. But I do remember it was a wonderful sleep.

My last few days at the ED went off without a hitch. Monday, I sent out an excessive amount of emails to several people at the ED. Mainly, the emails were for getting things set for Camsie so that in my absence she would not be overwhelmed immediately by people rushing to speak with her. I also left a few things at my station for the next person from SPS to use when they take over my “STEMtern” position.

Later that afternoon I dabbled only briefly in lobbying. I felt that it would be a good experience for me to have since I would be in DC for only a few more days. But before those of you reading get some idea of under-the-table deal making, I will inform you that my cause was not of any nefarious type. I decided that I wanted to speak to my Federal representatives on the topic of increasing the access of internet for all Idahoans – a humanitarian topic in my opinion. There was even an alliteration that went with the cause; “The Improvement of Internet for Idahoans”. A great name if I say so myself. Pocatello, Idaho has been ranked as having the slowest internet in the nation and I wanted that to change. If you are interested in the ranking, then here’s the link:

In two of the offices I went to, I mostly spoke with staffers. They were all very kind and polite in speaking with me about a subject that I am sure they didn’t really take that seriously. Besides, I can only imagine some of the crazy things that people come into their offices to talk about. My final meeting was with Jim Risch’s office. Being that his was the only office where I could actually meet my senator it was pretty exhilarating. His staff was great as well, and certainly did their research on me before the meeting. Note: always remember that what comes up on a Google search can and probably will be referenced at some point in your life – laugh now but you’ll see when it happens to you. It was great to be heard, and I hope that even if I am not starting the big push to make internet better in Idaho, I at least brought some good ideas to the table.

On Tuesday I presented my final work to Camsie and Lily Clark, with the intention of hopefully leaving no stone unturned. Most of my projects were done and it looked like what I was unable to complete the next person could handle. At the end of the meeting both thanked me and expressed their gratitude towards me. I choked up a little bit from their words. They were wonderful mentors to me. They pushed me to do a good job and to hear that I might have done just that was powerful. This job was an opportunity that has been a wonderfully enlightening experience. It has changed my views and gave me the encouragement to do something great with my life, and possibly try to work again in DC at some point. In the mean time, I am expected to make a presentation of my internship at the American Association of Physics Teachers national meeting in Orlando in January. Wish me luck, and if you are interested in hearing me speak, I would suggest you sign up for the meeting.

Finally, there are a great many people I would like to mention and thank.

  • The other SPS interns: Caleb, Nikki, Jamie, Katherine, Darren, Fiona, Christine, Alec, Nicole, Alexandra, and Ro! You all were great, and I thank you for letting me be a fool in front of all of you.
  • The ED interns Abigail, Annie, Molly, and ED Fellow Emily. You were great to work with and very kind. I couldn’t have asked for better.
  • My fraternity brothers, thank you for shaping me into a man responsible enough to take this internship and your encouragement along the way.
  • The Berkeley kids, especially Ethan and Charlie. Thanks for welcoming a stranger so quickly and laughing at most of my jokes.
  • Anna Quider, that State Department meeting to this day follows me whenever I think of what the US Government has to do to improve US relations and the world. Your office does a lot of hard, calculating work and I thank you for it.
  • Elizabeth Hook (aka best Batman ever) for the support and kindness you have given me over the summer. Also, your extreme patience whenever it came to my blog posts (irony claimed as I am typing).
  • Kendra Redmond, you looked after us, SPS interns, diligently and compassionately. This all would be in shambles if you weren’t there to direct us. Congrats on the addition to your family and your hard work.
  • Jack Hehn, thank you for words and advice for a new person trying to transition into DC as quickly as possible. I wish we would have had more chances to talk, but I suppose there is always time in the future. Your dedication towards AAPT is astounding and I will see you once again in the near future.
  • Roman Czujko, you are a witty man who I should have spoken to more often. Thanks for listening to a couple of my crazy ideas, and please never change your office décor. I need something to reference for my grad student desk.
  • Francis Slakey, thank you for your advice and mentorship while I researched at the APS office. Your friendly attitude made me feel like I belonged there. I hope to talk to you sometime and ask how I can make the most of my life, the way you have made the most out of yours.
  • The great staff and people at Society of Physics Students, American Physical Society, American Association of Physics Teachers, and everyone at the American Institute of Physics; thank you for all of the work that you do. Please know that I have the upmost respect and love for what you do to make life better for all physicists and their sciences.
  • The OPEPD office at the ED. You walk the tough line as you try and guide our education on the right path. I wish you all the best of luck and thank you for everything that you do.
  • Lily Clark, you are a great well of information, encouraging, and I wish I would have picked at your brain more during my internship at the ED. Congrats on your baby and I wish you and your family the best.
  • Camsie McAdams, you took the risk of having a complete novice working in your office and treated me better than most bosses I have ever had. Your driven attitude and friendliness is a combination I feel is lacking in much of the DC culture and should be praised more often. You also made sure that my time spent in DC was more than just work, and advertised my presence whenever you had the chance. Thank you. I hope your efforts are rewarded greatly, and your work seen as extremely paramount towards the success of America’s education and the culture of science.
  • Tyler Glembo, you sought me out and gave me a chance that I could never have dreamed up. You taught me so much more about DC and federal affairs than I would have ever been able to learn in a textbook. You placed me in a position that needed to be treated with the best of intentions and more importantly, you trusted me with it; a somber notion that strikes me with humility every time I think about it. You brought me a purpose to have over the summer and a realization that not all hard questions are in physics but on the hill as well. Thank you for being my patient mentor into a new world of politics.
  • Toni Sauncy, you have been my biggest fan during this entire internship and words cannot express what you have given me during the past 2 years of my time in SPS. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
  • Courtney Lemon, I would not be where I am if it weren’t for you. In fact, you have been a definition of a great friend, encouraging me on some of my greatest steps not only for my internship, but my applying to FSU as well. Thank you.
  • My parents, Scott and Patti, for letting me leave on a week’s notice to go out and have adventures in DC, leaving behind the last long vacation I would get to have with them for quite some time.
  • To those I forgot. I am sorry, but please know that as soon as you say something I would gladly extol all credit where it is due. Thank you all and God bless.

Dayton Syme