Week 1: The Elephant Team

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Friday, June 7, 2013


Jose "Ro" Avila

I remember the day I received the email from SPS offering me the Career Pathways internship for this summer. I was really excited, but at the same time I had no idea of what it actually meant, or what to expect from it. However, a continuous set of experiences during my first week in Washington DC have evaporated all my doubts and wonderings.

My first contact with my roommate Darren happened through a text message asking him if we should bring linens or not for the beds. Having always lived off campus at my university, I had no idea of how empty our room was going to be. Nevertheless, my communication with Darren was not that “empty;” we even agreed to meet at the airport the day we arrived, so we could go together to the check-in at George Washington University Campus. After that first encounter, things flew by quite frictionlessly. I met Jamie, Alec, and Caleb (some of the other interns), and we went and had dinner around midnight, making my first day very remarkable, especially since a couple hours earlier I did not know the people with which I was sharing words, experiences, laughs, and even a cake.

Throughout Sunday I met Nikki, Nicole, Christine, and Alexandra, who became part of the group very quickly. I was really glad to meet them, and they especially provided personality to the group. Most of us got to meet Toni Sauncy, the Director of the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma, that evening and had dinner at her house, where we met other people we are now working with, such as Elizabeth, Daniel, Tracy, and Amy, and I think I could say I had some of my first interesting conversations with real physicists.

Orientation took place the next day, where we heard a lot of acronyms we are still getting familiarized with, met a lot of people, and had lunch with Dr. Mather. As the next few days went by, I shared dinner with my new friends, met one of my bosses – Roman Czujko, Director of the Statistical Research Center of the American Institute of Physics, and I initiated several projects. On Wednesday I had two meetings, one with Roman, and one with Patrick Mulvey, who conducts the Higher Education Surveys, and I was informed of the great data he collects from students all across the country. Work started getting a little tiring at the end of the day, but somehow I found energy to go running with Darren and walk through downtown with the other interns looking for a place where we could have dinner.

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to attend the Einstein Fellows Poster Session, which is part of the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education, at the Russell Senate Office Building. We had conversations with Einstein fellows, such as Denise Thompson, on their contribution and work during their ‘sabbatical’ year. Later that day, Toni took us out for dinner at a delicious restaurant at Union Station where I had some of the best salmon with chimichurri I have ever tried.

Jose "Ro" Avila