Week 6: "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."-Albert Einstein

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Monday, July 6, 2015


Veronica Martinez-Vargas

I went to the American Center for Physics (ACP) tour hosted by Shauna, Hannah, Brean, Connor, Patrick, and Aman on Monday. We had breakfast as soon as we arrived to ACP, then Shauna and Hannah showed us their workspace and treated us to awesome demonstrations they have been working on to show the physics of sound waves. After this, Brean and Connor led the way to the Neils Bohr Library and Archives section, where they do research for their projects. I have to say, the exhibit they put out for us was fantastic! I nearly lost it when I saw Richard Feynman’s high school notebook standing right in front of me. Though I could not touch it, I managed to take pictures of it (see below). They showed us some of the books they have been using for their projects, one of them being “The Madame Curie Complex”, which I have! I bought this book when I attended the first ever Scientista Symposium at MIT last year. After this, we had lunch with ACP directors and networked with them. Then, Patrick and his mentor took us to the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) floor to have a thorough conversation about our college physics departments. Patrick showed us his workspace and the data he has been gathering for his project. Aman told us about her project with APS, the app she has been working on using the programming language python. One of her mentors showed us a cool demo, involving a laser and a speaker, the Spectra comic books as examples of the magnificent work APS does for public outreach. The tour ended with us getting free copies of the Spectra series, I made the most of this and took several copies for my nieces and nephews. I ended Monday with a trip to the Georgetown Waterfront Park, which was very relaxing. I enjoyed sitting on the benches under the shade of the trees, the view of the Potomac River and the sunset.

Richard Feynman's calculus notebook!

I did not start my Tuesday off very well. I forgot my badge at my place and did not realize it until I was on the metro. When I arrived at NIST, I gave my driver’s license to meet the photo ID requirement to get a visitor’s pass, to my misfortune I was denied as I had been put in the system under my passport information. At that point, I came back home and made it to work a bit later than usual. I picked up where Teresa left off, which meant scratching away the PLLA layer on our dummy substrate, sticking the PDMS layer and dipping dummy in water, taking it out and trying to peel the PLLA layer off once more, but aghhhhhh! Unsuccessful, once more. When Teresa came back from lunch, we opted to go on and try again, but this time we skipped a step in the procedure to see if it would have any effect in peeling off the PLLA layer. Although we were told not to… we were too curious to brush off the possibility. We kept all the other parameters controlled and went back to the default settings, this time we did not clean the dummy substrate with flakes before applying the PLLA layer, and guess what?! IT WORKED! IT FINALLY WORKED! The excitement was too intense that I almost dropped it and messed up the last step of the transfer. To celebrate, I had Georgetown cupcakes after work.

On Wednesday, we tried to reproduce Tuesday’s results, this meant starting off from scratch and cleaning new dummy and target substrates and characterizing them with the use of the optical microscope. We spent all day preparing the substrates; however, towards the end we were successful at reproducing the results! By this time, our mentors gave us the go signal to move onto the next phase, but first we needed to do a few extra steps.

Thursday, was an optical microscopy day. We spent all day scanning and characterizing the flakes on the target substrates. We did this to pick out candidate flakes of the appropriate shape and size for our device. This was the crucial step required before moving on to the next phase, which is atomic force microscopy! After work, I packed my things, headed over to the National Mall, saw Susana Baca, left DC, and went home for the weekend!

 Afro-peruvian singer, Susana Baca!

Veronica Martinez-Vargas