Week 6: One for the books

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Saturday, July 8, 2017


Kristine Romich

What a week!  In three days, I’ve knocked as many things off my bucket list:

  1. See America’s founding documents
  2. See the Beach Boys in concert
  3. Hang out with a Nobel Prize winner

Tuesday was the Fourth of July, and several of us started the day with a visit to the National Archives, which houses original versions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  Photography is prohibited in most parts of the Archives (including the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, where the founding documents are displayed), but here’s what it looks like from the outside:

The wait to get in was almost an hour.  Thankfully, we had entertainment.

Before leaving, we stopped by the Boeing Learning Center, where we had the opportunity to sign a replica of the Declaration ourselves — with quill pens, of course.

 And then there was this:

We ate lunch at Pi Pizzeria (heh).  The deep-dish reminded me of home.  I’ll need to come back for a slice of pi.

In the evening, we headed out to the Capitol grounds for A Capitol Fourth, a D.C. Independence Day tradition featuring live music and fireworks.  The fireworks were a bit underwhelming, but the concert was as American as it gets — with appearances from The Beach Boys, The Blues Brothers, the U.S. Army Band, and even everyone’s favorite droids.  I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun.

Now, as for that other thing:

Perhaps you’ll remember that I briefly met astrophysicist John Mather (who won the Prize in 2006 for his work on the cosmic microwave background) during AIP’s orientation in May.  Dr. Mather has been affiliated with Goddard since the 1970s, and despite his fame — you might call him our resident celebrity — he’s developed a reputation for his humility.  He’s also known for his generosity:  he and his wife sponsor AIP’s two science policy internships, along with an annual scholarship for Goddard interns.  On Monday, I reached out to him.  

"I will be happy to see you,” he responded.  His message was signed, simply, “John.”

Two days later, I was in his office.  After chatting about his experiences and a few of the unanswered questions in physics (which the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope mission will seek to address), I bared an insecurity:  sometimes, I find even completing the tasks my mentor assigns to be a challenge.  How can I go from that to pursuing my own research questions?  In other words, what turns a student into a scientist?

John’s answer was simple:  “Persistence.”

I left with an autographed copy of his book, The Very First Light.

Until next time,

Kristine Romich