Week 2: Doing Things and Meeting People: My First Real Week

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Sunday, June 15, 2014


Benjamin Preis

On Monday, I met with Kendra for a shortened reproduction of the orientation, in which she went over all of the information about SPS, AIP, and APS that I missed due to my late arrival. At the end of the meeting, we discussed what I should do for the next two weeks, and she suggested that I meet as many people as I could: APS/AIP fellows, my Congressional representatives, and the APS Government Relations staff. We also discussed what I should do. In addition to a Capitol Tour, it was agreed that my Physicist’s Guide to DC would be a perfect assignment for these next two weeks. Thus, I left my meeting with Kendra with the very specific instructions to "do things, and meet people." In the afternoon, I planned what things I would do, e-mailed/called the people I would meet, and that was my last day in the office for the week!

Tuesday was an exciting, but long, day. It began at 8:30am, with my arrival at the Federal Center SW Metro Station. I was attending the morning meeting of NUFO — the National User Facility Organization — in which Jen would show scientists how to talk to members of Congress and their staff. However, that meeting was taking place on the North side of the Capitol building, and I was on the South side. I began to walk, but in the process, it began to rain; I was without an umbrella. I arrived to the meeting soaked, but luckily, I dried off – mostly – by the time I accompanied one of the scientists to her meetings with the Senator’s offices from her state.

What is NUFO? A "National Facility" is one of the nationally sponsored laboratories (e.g. Los Alamos, Fermilab, CERN, etc.) and a "user" is someone who is not employed by the lab, but uses it, such as a university professor. These labs are important because they have costly and important equipment vital to the research of thousands of people, even those who are not employed by those labs. NUFO exists to serve as a network and a resource to those users, and every year they host an expo at the Capitol to show Congress what it is the funding for the National Facilities actually creates.

After the Congressional meetings in the morning, I met up with six of the other interns for lunch, and to help set up for the NUFO expo. We unloaded a truck full of boxes, and moved them upstairs. We scrambled to set up TV stands and the TVs which would sit upon them. We ran like maniacs; we got lost in the very confusing Rayburn House Office Building. It was quite the afternoon. We also helped check people into the event, but had some free time, during which I got ice cream in my House-Office-Building-to-be. I also explored the expo, which was very cool! There were demonstrations of linear particle accelerators, double pendulums, a 3-D TV demonstrating how grape vines grow; NUFO contained very interesting and engaging demos. Bill Foster also came to give a speech, which was fantastic to see. After the very successful expo ended, we helped break down the TV stands, re-box the TVs, and collapse in exhaustion. By that time, it was 8pm, making it an 11.5 hour day. To thank us for our work, NUFO brought us out to dinner at a delicious Greek restaurant, and by the time I returned home, I had been out of the dorm for upwards of fourteen hours.

Wednesday was much slower, as I needed a break after such a hectic day prior. In the morning, I headed to the National Building Museum, to see whether their exhibit on preventing Natural Disasters had anything related to Physics. It did, and it was a gorgeous museum and exhibit — I highly encourage anyone who visits DC to go. In the afternoon, I met with the APS Fellow, Paul, who told me about his path through undergraduate and graduate school, and his eventual landing in Washington DC as an APS fellow. I am now, unexpectedly, considering a PhD in physics. I really cannot believe how easy it is to meet with people here; everyone is so willing to have informational interviews.

On Thursday, I began the day with a visit to the Koshland Science Museum, a small science museum run by the National Academy of Sciences. I ultimately decided that it would not be a top target for the physicist's guide, but I did meet two very nice men there who gave me quite a bit of advice for my guide. In the afternoon, I headed to the Library of Congress to find some books with facts about DC, and enjoyed treating the Jefferson Reading Room as my office.

Friday was a great day. In the morning, I met with Tyler, who works for APS in their Public Affairs office. An incredibly nice and engaging guy, he was wonderful to talk to, and shared quite a bit of insight on his workings in DC. In the afternoon, I went to the National Academy of Sciences and met with Alanna, the Senior Program Associate there, and Janice, the Archivist. They showed me around the NAS (open to the public!) an absolutely gorgeous building, and told me about the various collections they have and the history that the building has seen. I would highly encourage anyone who visits the Lincoln Memorial to take a quick side-visit over to the building. After work, I met up with some friends from school to watch Chile take Australia down in the World Cup!

Saturday was a peaceful and relaxing day for me. I went to Georgetown Waterfront Park to sit in the grass and finish my book, before walking down M Street to watch the tourists shop. In the evening, some SPS interns watched the England-Italy game, cooked dinner, and hung out for the rest of the night.

On Sunday, I unfortunately had errands to do, and so it was none-too-interesting of a day. However, in the evening the SPS Director Toni invited us all to her house to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones. Though I had never seen an episode, I could not say no to such a kind invitation, and was glad I accepted! Not only did I enjoy the show, but it was nice to get to know more about Toni and hang out with the interns more. Now for another week of doing things and meeting people!

Benjamin Preis