Week 2: Fail Until You Fail To Fail

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Sunday, June 11, 2023


Eva Rissanen

This week, I did indeed hit the ground running.
I successfully woke up at 7am and was out the door by 7:45. I traveled to work, met my mentor for the first time in person (exciting!!!) and then did some alone work which just consisted of me messing around with basic circuits. Then with the help of my mentor, ran an online simulation of the circuits I had drawn up and compared current, voltages, etc. with the math behind it to make sure the results were what we expected. I had my lunch break, then back to more experimenting with stuff I was unfamiliar with. I learnt about what the term “phase angle” actually means (before anyone asks, up to this point I've really only taken the general physics courses at school). Then my mentor took me on a tour to see the labs! I'm not sure how much I am allowed to talk about them, but let's just say that my mind was blown. After work, I went to the mall later with the other interns and had another matcha tea from the same ice cream truck last week! (It wasn’t good at all this time I'm not sure what happened) then I chilled for the rest of my night!
On Tuesday I woke up, went to work, worked with a few circuits on the simulator then visited the labs again. I replaced a battery in a multimeter (which, surprisingly I have never done before, considering I worked in lab set up back at Appalachian State), and I went to a couple of meetings. The last meeting I went to was a group meeting where a couple of group members talked about their research and experimentation. I, to be quite frank, had no idea what anybody was talking about the entire time. Even so, I really enjoyed just being there. In a way, it showed me where I’m at in terms of physics knowledge, and how much work I’m really going to have to put in to get to these people's level. Normally, I'd be really intimidated, but at the end of the day these physicists have many years of experience compared to me, and my excitement to (hopefully) be like them one day overpowers that intimidated feeling. I was super tired by the end of the day, but made it back to the dorms and relaxed for the rest of the night.
On Wednesday, I woke up late (sadly, I've discovered I cannot fix my awful sleep schedule in two days), made it to work at a reasonable time, checked some emails and then went down to the lab and experimented with an SMU (source measurement unit). Basically, I made a series circuit with two resistors and a capacitor and was able to convert data points into an I-V (Current vs. Voltage) graph with a linear curve fit and the Siemen (inverse Ohm) as the slope. Then I had lunch, and came back and messed around with that stuff for a bit more. Also, my mentor jumpscared the life out of me. I’m not sure when he appeared but I was listening to music while working (probably at a louder volume than I should have had it at) and when I turned my head he was just standing there silently. LOL. With his help, we wired a circuit connecting a waveform generator (a power source with a set frequency) to an oscilloscope and in the circuit there was a resistor then a capacitor. The oscilloscope showed the discharge of the capacitor! I also went with my mentor to a coffee and donuts event hosted by NIST, where I talked with him and his boss! Turns out his boss also lived in Boone (where Appalachian State is) for a few months! 
On Thursday, my mentor was pretty tied up with actual work stuff, so I ran a few simulated circuits on my own in the morning. Later that day, my mentor taught me how to compare real data with the simulated data by uploading both data sets into the same graph. I also finally learned how to solder!! I definitely need more practice, but it was so fun doing hands-on stuff like that. Doing hands-on work is how I learn the best. I also took a few different data sets from different circuits, which honestly took a bit of time to figure out since I was using the oscilloscope to “read” the charge and then went back home!
I tele-worked from home on Friday since my mentor was also tele-working. At midnight, me and a couple other interns went to see a movie called “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. It was so much fun! They played the movie, but the twist was that the stage crew also re-enacted the movie in the front, in more of a sarcastic/comedic way. They also had first timers go to the front and do different activites. It was a super interactive movie, where the audience members yell and make jokes about the characters. Very different from your average movie theater trip, and it was such a fun experience!
I slept in on Saturday!! With no early alarms to wake me up!! Traveling to NIST and needing to be there by 9:30am means I need to wake up verrrrry early, so it was good to wake up (much) later than I normally have to. Then me and a bunch of the other interns went to the pride parade!! Again, a super cool experience! My roommate put glitter on my face and in my hair, it looked so pretty. I'm going to upload a picture of it below, but I beg of you, please ignore the single strand of hair that I parted to the wrong side of my head. Everybody walking in the parade really went all out and honestly, so did the crowd members. Everybody looked so beautiful, and it was so nice to see all of these people band together and celebrate pride! 
All in all, this week went smoother than I expected! I've developed a good schedule to stick by, and work has been really fun. I’ve already learned so much this week and I haven’t even really started on any official experiments! I’m a little scared to start research, but something my mentor said helped me feel a lot better about my inexperience. He told me: “The point of this is to fail and fail and fail and fail until you fail to fail.” It reminds me that everybody has to start somewhere, and it’s totally okay to break things (not purposefully of course) and fail! Everybody’s been there! So every time I get nervous that I might be doing something wrong, or there’s something I don’t know, I tell myself that it’s okay if I'm wrong. It’s a learning experience, it’s okay to not know everything. The whole point of me being there is to learn, and you bet I will be taking advantage of that in these next few weeks!

Eva Rissanen