Week 4: A funny coincidence

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


Stephen Skolnick

After a meeting with Krystal, the APS's graphic design specialist, and the Education Manager for the AAPM (which is one floor up from us), it looks like our project for the summer is underway. We're going to be creating and distributing a poster series on physics in medicine, and building an accompanying website with information and links to APS resources. We're shooting for an art-deco feel, focusing on visual appeal for the actual posters; in the age of smartphones it seems more sensible to let someone take the information with them in the form of a url or QR code than to clutter the poster with facts and dense text. One of the topics we're planning on covering is proton therapy, a pretty new form of cancer treatment that takes advantage of some neat relativistic physics to reduce patient risk, and the discussion of which led to a funny coincidence.

Another coworker of ours, the careers program manager, popped out of her office.

"Hey, if you have any technical questions about PT, I can tell you all about it" she offered. I smiled, because I spent the latter half of my undergraduate career focused on medical physics, and had learned a good deal about the procedure.

"Oh I could tell you all about protons!" I replied, "I spent like two years in a basement labs at IU's cyclotron!"
"Wait, like Indiana? I did my graduate work there!"

"Oh no way!" I exclaimed, voice rising in excitement, "Yeah, I worked on Helium-3 polarization with Mike Snow!"
Her jaw dropped. "Get out! I worked on Helium-3 polarization with Snow!"

Some of the other interns ride the carousel on the national mall.I suddenly remembered my old boss mentioning to me before I left that he knew a few people at APS, and slapped my forehead. I knew her name had rung a bell when I met her, and now I knew why--I opened my notebook that evening and found her name scribbled in the corner of the first page, along with those of a few other people I'd been told to look up once I was in DC.

We spent the next hour marveling at how small the world can be, laughing and swapping stories about working with one of the most unusual gases (and one of the most unusual professors) on earth. Summer just keeps getting better.

Stephen Skolnick