Week 2: The Interns Find Free Food

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Friday, June 5, 2015


Connor Day

I am really starting to enjoy life at the American Center of Physics (ACP). My position is directly affiliated with the American Institute of Physics (AIP), and we SPS interns have entered during a time of new and exciting change for AIP. The Institute has new CEO, Robert Brown, and Monday was his first day in his new position. The entire building attended a luncheon to celebrate his arrival and to ask him questions about himself and his plans for AIP. Everyone seemed to be impressed by his answers to some tough questions on his first day - and also with the food provided at the luncheon! A lot of food was leftover the next day, and we interns were some of the first to help ourselves to it. Even the retiring AIP CEO Fred Dylla took note (“Oh look - the interns found the food!”), and we got to take a whole plate of pasta salad back home to share with the rest of the non-ACP interns. Even though I am trying my best to become more independent with regards to cooking now that I am finished with my undergraduate career, I still appreciate free food as much as any college student, and I’m glad the rest of the staff at ACP understand that!

The free food this week did not end with the CEO luncheon. There are many people retiring this month from the AIP, calling for more celebrations and goodbyes - and more food! AIP CEO PhotobombWe enjoyed cake and sparkling cider on Wednesday to celebrate the retirement of Terri Braun, the Vice President of Human Resources at AIP. The celebration continued into Thursday with cake leftovers as well! There have also been two days this week in which I snagged free bagels for breakfast at a couple of meetings and demonstrations on my floor. We ACP interns are beginning to get a bit spoiled.

Among all of these soirées, I have still managed to get some work done! I focused on one of the lesson plans that covers four women - Lise Meitner, Marietta Blau, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and Chien-Shiung Wu - who completed significant work toward discoveries for which other men with whom they worked received Nobel Prizes. The lesson plan is set up to be a class debate regarding whether or not each woman should have been acknowledged by the Nobel Committee for their work. Each case is very interesting; some arguments may a bit stronger than others, and each woman’s experience in life and in their profession was different. They all faced difficulties due to their status as a female, but their stories of overcoming those difficulties for science are very inspiring to all, but especially to women in physics. I have read and taken notes on a few different biographies of each woman and have acquired many of their own publications of their almost-Nobel-Prize-worthy work. I created a relatively hefty list of related sources, many of which I still need to find and evaluate. I sent in my paperwork to acquire a research affiliate ID at the University of Maryland at College Park to use their facilities and databases to find more sources, so I hope to venture over there when Brean arrives next week. With the books and articles I have found here at the library and online, I still managed to fill up about half a legal pad with notes this week!

The people I work with and around continue to be extremely helpful and interested in my work and progress. The statistics department shared an unofficial article with me that includes a study that they performed on why so few women receive Nobel Prizes, and all my coworkers make sure I am taking advantage of everything AIP has to offer, from weekly yoga classes to bagels in the break room.

Outside of work, this past weekend, a few of the interns and myself visited the Smithosonian National Air and Space Museum, which was one of the coolest places I have ever seen! There are many amazing exhibits and things to see that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. I also got to see the National Mall for the first time, visiting the White House and the Washington Memorial and enjoying an awesome gyro from the food trucks in the area. Two of my friends from college came to visit me as well, one who has since moved back to her home in the U.K. and the other who I will get to see a lot this summer since she is from the area! I went to the zoo with my local pal on a very warm and humid Sunday afternoon but still enjoyed seeing the animals that live nearby out apartment, especially the elephants. In addition, on Wednesday evening, my fellow intern and roommate Hannah and I took a short trip to see the Air Force Concert Band and Chorus play on the National Mall. They were phenomenal; they even did a barbershop quartet bit, which was adorable. Hannah and I are both involved greatly with music as well as physics, so we both geeked out over their performance.

This upcoming weekend, the interns are participating in outreach festivals, which are always fun for me. Kids are really funny, and it’s great when they are funny and excited about science too. I hope to do some more city exploring and maybe some shopping as well. I can already tell the summer will be over very fast, so I will make sure to make the most of it!

Connor Day