Week 1: The Foggy Bottom Boys (and Girls!)

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Sunday, June 1, 2014


Stephen Skolnick

Moving to a new city is supposed to be scary. Some of my friends warned me about the turbulence of "leaving your bubble", of having to establish yourself, find your bearings, make new friends, and figure out who you are in a strange place. This transition has held none of that for me. I may be at an advantage, coming from DC originally, but I’ve only been back a handful of times since we moved away when I was 5, so it’s not as though I’m much more familiar with the metro than any of the other interns.

The ease of the physical transition—moving myself and my stuff to a new place—was probably one of the biggest factors in making me feel more like I’m coming home than striking out on my own. Everything, from printing my boarding pass at the airport to the door card waiting for me when I arrived at the dorms of GW, seemed to run in smooth defiance of Murphy’s Law. Meeting the other interns over the course of the next few days only deepened the feeling of arriving into a niche that had already been carved out custom for me; we all get along well, and within minutes of making our introductions we were talking about chemistry and dead presidents, comfortable enough to laugh at ourselves for making a contest of reciting the periodic table.

The occasional bumps and jostles of the transition back to dorm life have been a source of humor more than anything else. The plumbing in our dorm, JBKO hall, reminds me of the old analogy between water in pipes and electricity in wires: usually, voltage is compared to pressure, but in this case it seems to be more useful in describing temperature. It can be adjusted with the taps, but it seems no one’s grounded the circuit: some days the sink’s range is from hot to boiling, while this morning the shower spanned frigid to room temperature. I think it has something to do with who else is using them at the time, but we can’t rule out the possibility of LC oscillations without a full map of the pipes.

Kaiser Permanente (not so permanent). Our residence hall is located near the former offices of the Kaiser Permanente Healthcare company. The irony inherent in the word "permanente" being all but obliterated struck me as photo-worthy.After making our way to the American Center for Physics, we began orientation. We’ve gotten acquainted with the building, met the staff and our respective supervisors, and begun work on our projects for the summer all in the course of the past three days. I’m working with two awesome people named Becky and James; I knew we’d get along as soon as I walked by his office and saw a signed drawing of Nikola Tesla by one of my favorite webcartoonists on the wall of James’ office. We’ve been hashing out potential concepts for this summer’s public outreach project, and while my favorite idea seems like it might not be practical, (it involves Tesla coils and, concordantly, safety concerns) we’ve had some really promising ones come up. You’ll be hearing more soon, and seeing the fruits of our labors not long after that!

Stephen Skolnick