Saturday, May 30, 2015By:
After just 4 days of getting used to my new life for the summer, my head is still spinning.
After a long flight in, I finally got to move my things to my new apartment on Monday and with my lovely roommates started to figure out the whole grocery shopping/cooking for ourselves deal after having eaten dining hall food for four months. With all that I’ve been up to over the past few days I’ve barely even gotten to explore Woodley Park, the neighborhood around our building, but I’m excited for the chance to do that over the weekend!
Anyways, after I had unpacked, tried to cook myself dinner, and then woken up for the first time in my new bed, it was time to officially start on the summer. All 12 of us piled bright eyed and bushy tailed (and a little sleep deprived) into a train, and then another train, and then a shuttle until eventually we all made it into the lobby of the American Center for Physics. The whole day was a blur of information about how to network with people, what to wear, when to write this very blog post (luckily for us, it was punctuated by free food). Finally, though, Max and I got a ride over to the NASA Goddard Campus to meet our new mentors for the summer.
Even though I’d spent time over the semester reading through the project description and looking into information on the star I’d be researching over the summer, Eta Carinae, I had no idea of the depth of the project I was stepping in on. My mentor and a postdoc in his office explained their project of trying to figure out the shape of this immense and nebulous star, showing me these 3d models of the star they had printed, which I couldn’t stop staring at, and I tried to grasp at the edges of the project, but I think it’ll take a little more learning for me to get more comfortable with it. Anyways, they spent the better part of the afternoon trying to help me start to understand, and then, the best thing that happened all day, my mentor took Max and me around the Goddard clean rooms. We saw the huge spaces where they’re building the James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble successor, as well as a good number of other things that made me stop and stare—a huge vacuum chamber several stories high and a centrifuge bigger than my house for testing the construction of projects, models of different satellite parts and equipment that would go on satellites or on the James Webb telescope. It was awe-striking to be in the presence of these objects that represent the culmination of so much ingenuity and collaboration and so many resources, and are capable of performing such complex and powerful tasks. After an introduction like that I’m further inspired this summer to share in even a small part of that collaboration and human search for truth.