Week 1: Introductions

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Sunday, June 1, 2014


Nick Durofchalk

It's a strange feeling, moving into a city. I’ve spent my entire life living in quaint, quiet suburbs but yet there I was, Monday afternoon, pushing a cart and a half full of my belongings into the Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (JBKO) Residence Hall at the George Washington University in Washington D.C., anxiously awaiting the opportunity to meet my new roommate, and the rest of my fellow SPS interns.

My name is Nick Durofchalk, and I am a rising senior at Lebanon Valley College, a (very) small liberal arts school near Hershey PA, working my way towards a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Music Recording Technology. I’ve known a couple of people who, upon learning of my two majors, question the wisdom in pursuing a degree in two vastly different subjects. These people wave their hands and claim that the two don’t work together, but I disagree. I see the two as entirely complimentary and after finishing my undergraduate studies, I hope to combine my love of sound and science and pursue a Ph.D. in Acoustics.

This summer, I have the privilege and joy to be working with a team of scientists at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on a project concerned with the changing properties of the binary star system, Eta Carinae, and the characteristics of its solar winds as its two stars approach Periastron (the term used to describe when two orbiting bodies are at their minimal distance to each other). Despite the orientation for the Society of Physics Students (SPS) internship program, which was on Wednesday, orientation for the NASA Goddard interns isn’t until next Monday. So while I haven’t started work at NASA quite yet, I can’t wait to gain a deeper understanding of the material and dive into the research process.

In the meantime, all of us interns have had the pleasure of being introduced to the various personnel that work in the ACP building, which stands for the American Center for Physics. We’ve spent the past couple days commuting to the ACP and developing networking skills, speaking with staff members of the multiple organizations housed at the ACP, working with a few physics demonstrations, and occasionally even being fed!

One of the physics demonstrations we worked with during a meeting with members of the SPS staff.This is a Hydrogen Lamp viewed through the lens of a pair of diffraction grating glasses. In addition to seeing the light from the Hydrogen source, (the vertical light beam in the center of this picture) the diffraction glasses allowed the observer to see the spectra lines of Hydrogen (the blue, green, and red lines surrounding the hydrogen source).

When I applied for this internship through the Society of Physics Students, or SPS, last spring, I couldn’t even imagine standing where I stood the day after moving in: wandering the halls of the Smithsonian Museums with some of the most intelligent and friendly young physicists I have ever had the pleasure of meeting – all of us anxiously awaiting the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy of being accepted into this amazing summer intern program.

Nick Durofchalk