Final Reflections: It's been great fun.

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Monday, August 24, 2015


Veronica Martinez-Vargas

I find myself back in my hometown in disbelief that this summer ever happened. There is a lot to take from an opportunity like this: The length of the internship, the housing location, and the social events were perfect.

I am quite grateful I was able to do my internship at NIST under the guidance of Dr. Suehle and to have worked in this project with Teresa, an amazing woman and research partner. Looking back now, everything was not as terrifying as I thought it would be; instead, I felt in place. Growing up in Cueramaro, a very small town in Mexico, it never occurred to me that I would be living in Washington, D.C. and interning at one of the oldest physical science laboratories in the nation that promote innovation and industrial competitiveness. This experience has altered my perspective for the better on what I can and cannot do, and on where I do and do not belong. I learned that I enjoy working in a lab A LOT. That is not say that I would choose experimental physics over theoretical physics any day now; at least not yet. I do feel more confident about my career choice, though, and more prepared and ready to continue on this path without fear. I thank Dr. John Kasianowicz for accepting my informal interview  request and providing me with the insight of what a biophysicist does and why. He also gave me a list of excellent biophysicist whose work has influenced the advancement of biophysics research.

As this summer came to an end, I have found myself reflecting on all of the work that was done. For example, the last week was focused on preparing for the final talk on Friday, July the 31st. On Monday, the group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was able to start the e-beam lithography process. This just means that the electrodes-- source, drain, and gate-- were generated on top of the flakes. Unfortunately, by Wednesday (our last day at NIST) we could not be witness to the ending product, but that is okay because that is how it works out sometimes. Research takes time and care. I did leave NIST with the satisfaction that our AutoCAD files were successful in the lithography process and with high hopes that our contribution to the project will work once it is completed. During those final days we obtained constructive criticism on our presentation from Dr. Joey, Dr. Suehle, and SPS folks which allowed us to improve our presentation. By the time we had to give our talk, we were better prepared to let the audience know about our work on building the protein sensor. After our presentations, a nice reception followed allowing us to drink, eat, and be surrounded by great company, including our mentors and AIP staff.  

That’s another thing about this experience: Networking is key. You have to take every chance you get to meet people and make those strong connectations. Do not be afraid to reach out and connect with persons that will be of the utmost influence to you. Step out of the comfort zone and make those connections. After work, attend as many events as you can, and explore your interests. You will be surprised at the number of people you meet who are just as passionate as you are, whether it be in bridging the gap between science and politics, or fighting for social justice. There will be safe spaces for you.

Alas, I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to have had this opportunity. Thank you, Dr. Sean Bentley, for answering my phone call back in December of 2014 and saying that my DACA status was no obstacle in applying for the internship. Thank you, fellow SPS interns, for making this summer fun and interesting. Brean, special thanks for those Rock Creek morning jogs! The rest of the SPS staff and NIST staff, thanks for the accommodations and for making this internship a life changing experience. It is not the end, it is a continuous adventure.

Veronica Martinez-Vargas