The Un-Official Non-Comprehensive Guide to the Mather Internship

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Monday, July 15, 2019


Giavanna Jadick

Yes, she lives! You may have noticed, I’ve been gone a little longer than usual since my last blog post. Never fear, some fluctuations from the median arrival rate are expected with any Poisson distribution. The length of time between my blog posts is inversely correlated with the amount of sleep I get, and things have sure been busy. In addition to my typical Science Committee workload, the SPS internship has some special events which the Mather Interns traditionally plan.

Since this blog post has already been derailed from its preordained post time, it might as well serve as a time capsule, detached from the chains of the clock altogether. So, I write this post to you, future Mather interns! I hope this post is of some help as you embark on your ten-week trek through Washington, DC. Special thanks to former Mather intern Sarah Monk and her blog posts and my fellow Science Committee intern Katie Prebelich for designing a beautiful itinerary, both of which were of great aid to me and certainly enhanced SPS’s time on Capitol Hill.

Without further ado, here is The Un-Official Non-Comprehensive Guide to Making the Most of the Mather Internship.

Your Site Placement

Usually, both Mather interns are placed somewhere on the Hill (although in characteristic iconoclast fashion, my co-Mather intern Nicholas is instead crushing it up at NIST this year). It is an experience unlike other public policy internships. Here's the low-down.

  • Introduce yourself to everyone in your office, and don’t be afraid to emphasize your physics background. If you’re the only intern with technical knowledge, you’re more likely to get more of the hard science work.
  • Identify your specific science policy interests, and make sure your supervisor knows about them.
  • Get involved in a focused research project as soon as you can.
  • Be creative! Your project doesn’t necessarily have to be something someone else is doing. Feel free to make it your own.
  • Connect with staffers who are researching the topics you like.
  • The Hill has a bunch of events going on all the time. Don’t just go for free lunch (although that is nice). Go to learn new things about topical political issues and to meet people working on issues you’re passionate about.
  • Give out business cards. Network. And send follow-up emails to everyone you meet!

The Fourth of July

You are in Washington DC, home of our federal government, and you are one of only a few policy interns in a group of physicists. Goody you! It is now your job to get all the other scientists excited about policy, too. One of the coolest ways to do this is by helping organize a fun, patriotic celebration on the 4th of July. 

  • One DC classic is the annual “Capitol Fourth” concert on the National Mall. Your Capitol Hill ID gets you and as many guests as you want special access to seating on the steps of the Capitol. Bring everyone! I probably had close to two dozen people with me. Special shout-out to the policemen who watched me go back and forth to get more friends, twice.
  • If you show up at 3pm, the Capitol seating will be empty. It’s an awesome view and maybe you’ll get to see some of the artists rehearse their sets. Make a picnic out of it!
  • The steps of the Capitol have the best view in the house (no pun intended).
  • After watching the fireworks on the Mall, the Metro will be flooded with tourists. Bring some walking shoes and enjoy a view of the White House on your way back to GW!

Tour of Capitol Hill 

Each SPS intern is responsible for organizing a tour of his or her respective placement site. For the Mather intern, this is a great chance to talk more about the specific work you do and expose some physicists to the policy grind of Washington. There is plenty to do while on Capitol Hill!

  • Try to organize group meetings with Congresspersons, and organize the tour date around whatever works best for the most offices. We met Rep. Bill Foster, the only PhD physicist in Congress. It was awesome; he talked with all of us for an hour!
  • Tour the Capitol Building early in the morning so you can beat the mobs of middle schoolers.
  • After you finish your planned meetings, don’t be afraid to just pop into Member’s offices. You never know—maybe your Congressperson will be hanging out on the couch, and you’ll get an impromptu half-hour meeting (props to Nicholas’s Congressman, Rep. Mike Simpson)
  • Go by your site placements and show everyone around your office. If you have a committee room, it’s worth booking just to show off the beautiful space. Talk about your work and explain how Congress functions.
  • But, don’t forget to remind everyone that they’re still in an office building.
  • Show off your newly-developed skills navigating the rumored labyrinth of tunnels.
  • Go to the Library of Congress and get a reader’s card. Think of documents you want to see! Trust me, you’ll wish you allotted more time to hang out there.
  • Dress full business attire and represent SPS with those sharp lapel pins.

That’s all for this “week’s” post! Until next “time."

This year's Mather interns in the House Science Committee room.
The SPS intern cohort on the steps of the Supreme Court.
The beautiful rotunda in the US Capitol Building.
Rep. Bill Foster met with the SPS intern cohort during our visit to Capitol Hill.

Giavanna Jadick