Week 3: A novel about my week

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Monday, June 15, 2015


Amandeep Gill

This week was a doozy, of the best sort.

It started with an outreach event for the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins on Saturday; four interns, Rachel, Max, Veronica, and I, along with Daniel and Sean attended. We presented the fabric of the cosmos demo, from the 2012 SOCK to many kids and parents. The demo is a ~2m diameter hoop with spandex fabric (representing space and time) stretched over it, a heavy weight (a mass) is hung underneath in the middle, pulling down on the fabric. The warping of the space and time due to the mass is gravity! We had marbles of various weights and diameters to represent stars/planets, depending on if we were modeling a galaxy or solar system. The kids loved being able to sending the planets into orbit, some of the younger ones seemed more interested in creating rouge planets :) STScI Outreach We even showed them how planets in a binary star system would interact by have two weights pull down at different locations! I always love doing outreach events, especially with young kids, it is amazing to be the person who sparks or grows an existing interest in science for a young kid. The event lasted all day, after we got dinner together and then headed back to Woodley Park for a rest well deserved.

Sunday Veronica and I went to see the National Cathedral, it is immense and beautiful! While the Sunday service was going on, we went outside to explore the gardens and had lunch the Open City cafe onsite. After the service was over we joined a tour group to hear about the Cathedral’s history. They have over 200 stained glass windows, most interestingly one is called the Space Window, it illustrates the lunar landings and even has a piece of moon rock at the middle of it! Also, by popular vote one of the more recent stone gargoyles atop a tower is actually a sculpture of Darth Vader. National Cathedral Space Window.

 This week at work has been magically, quite honestly. I emailed a few people last week who have experience both in physics and engineering, I requested an in-person meeting with the ones who were close enough to do so and everyone who I contacted was happy to help. So I spent much of this week visiting scientists and engineers at Goddard to talk about these experiences and get blurbs to add to the fliers and app I am making. One of the people I talked to is Dr. Richard Barry, he works on exoplanets at Goddard and without me even asking he happily showed me around the center, in addition, to talking about his switch from engineering as an undergrad to astrophysics for his Ph.D. He explained how having an understanding of both fields helps him as a project scientist to optimally interact with all members of the project. During the tour, he showed me the buildings in which many space missions are being built and tested, including the JWST! Visiting Goddard. With one of the JWST mirrors.My other visit this week to Goddard was with Dr. Diego Janches, he studies very small meteors in the atmosphere and he followed a path through school that is like mine right now, where we both started as physics undergrads and then went to engineering grad school. As it is a big change, it was reassuring to hear from him that you can still work on science projects after engineering grad school; it does not limit you, in fact it opens up more project opportunities! I have a couple more visits and phone interviews planned for next week, for now, I am going to go add the information I gathered so far to the app.

Of course no week at ACP would be complete without mentioning the free food, Wednesday was the outgoing AIP CEO, Fred Dylla’s retirement party. There were songs and skits, performers included our own Hannah on the ukulele! It was a wonderful celebration of a person who has done so much for AIP and I wish him luck in his retirement; sounds like his wife will be keeping him busy with a honey to do list that is more of a “novel with chapters” according to her.

After the retirement party, Shauna, Connor, Hannah, and I went to the IEEE Baltimore chapter’s Women in Photonics Tech Talks with Sean and Courtney. Three early-career women spoke about their current research and after stayed to talk some more about their paths to grad school. Thursday afternoon we were all invited to a talk at UMD titled “Women in Physics in the Netherlands,” it was very interesting to learn about how the underrepresentation of women in science and leadership positions is handled in the Netherlands. There are no laws against quotas, so they set a quota or goal to have a certain percentage women hired and do so. After the work day, we headed to the Congressional Baseball game! Super awesome to see congress people play baseball for charity, even better is that President Obama showed up during the game! We were not terribly close to where he greeted the two teams but we still got some grainy, super zoomed in shots of him! President Obama at the Congressional Baseball Game! Friday, I spent the day at Goddard again to talk to more people about physics and engineering, after work we had dinner with the SPS Executive Council at Clyde’s. It was lovely to see the exec. council again and share with them how the internship is going so far. Cannot wait to see what the new week has in store for me!

Amandeep Gill