Week 1

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Friday, June 14, 2013


Dayton Syme


This is the plan for what I hope will bring a glorious beginning in improving our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education system.

About 3 weeks ago my life took a turn towards something amazing.

Recently a graduate of Idaho State University, I have since been accepted for grad school at Florida State University for continuing my education in the fall for a Ph. D in Molecular Biophysics. Because I would be moving from Pocatello, Idaho to Tallahassee, Florida, my family and I began to prepare for me moving. My dad and I on an impulse trip went down to look at the housing market and the school.

During our visit, I received an email that was a followup for my application for the John Mather Internship through the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and the American Institute of Physics (AIP). Intrigued, I contacted them. What was offered was a chance to help the Department of Education (DoEd) with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education policy. Due to the recent STEM Realignment set out by the Executive Administration on April 10th (see last week’s post), there was a proposed 53.9% increase to the budget for the DoEd for K-12 STEM education efforts. Being offered such an opportunity to help the United States on the federal level felt to me like an opportunity that comes only once in a lifetime. So of course, I said yes.

The next nine days afterwards were – what I can only describe as – a flurry of emails, papers, and phone calls that led to me to boarding an airplane to Washington DC at 5 on a Sunday morning.

Upon arriving, there was only one word I frequently used to describe my feelings at the time; excited. Being an SPS Associate Zone Councilor for the past two years, I had already been to DC and the American Institute for Physics building. But I have never gotten over the feeling of being a part of an organization that has its headquarters only a few Metro stops from the heart of DC. A part of me kept saying to check and make sure everything was real or – for you fans of the movie Inception – spin a top. But it is real, I am here, and I am humbled by everyone’s shear kindness and help I have received over the past week.

After settling in, I have been set to work under Dr. Tyler Glembo, the Government Relations Specialist for the American Physical Society (APS). I now have a temporary office located on one of the higher floors in the National Press Building – and it has a window! For the time being, I have projects relating to what the new policies for the DoEd are (i.e. STEM Master Teacher Corps, STEM Innovative Networks, etc.), how they work, and what is next for them in the legislative process.

I realize I am in a unique position, and what I will learn on this internship will be invaluable. My biggest hope is to simply do my best for the DoEd and foster relationships with all of the people I meet along the way will last beyond just this internship. Wish me luck!

Dayton Syme