Week 6: What happens when electrons lose their energy?

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Monday, July 18, 2016


Tabitha Colter

They get Bohr’ed.

Given this recent heat wave, I thought a joke about having a lack of energy was appropriate. This past week had temperatures in the mid-90s and heat indexes of about 100, plus about 4000% humidity levels. I thought I’d left that kind of weather down in Tennessee, but that was before I realized that DC was actually built on a swamp and has insane humidity as a result. During the week, I made my way to various briefings and hearings all across the Hill- taking the underground tunnels whenever possible to avoid the brutal heat. I also took a week off from biking to work because even at 8 AM it’s been almost 90 degrees out! I may not have mentioned the bikeshare program before now, but I highly recommend it for anybody who comes to DC! For a low monthly cost, I received a key that lets me go up to any of the dozens of bike stations around the city and check out a bike. The rentals are for 30 minutes to keep the program working, but there’s no limit to how many times you can check one out a day so I frequently will check two or three out during the course of a day’s exploration. Since our apartment is only about 4 miles away from the Hill, I started trying to bike to work instead! The commute time is the same as the Metro and rather than being squished up against a bunch of people in a car racing underground I can instead be out in the sun getting some exercise in the mornings. Plus my route takes me right past the White House and the Washington Monument and that’s a sight I don’t think I could get sick of seeing for these ten weeks.

Highlights from the week included three lunch meetings on healthcare issues (which means three free lunches for this intern on a college budget), a public health fair, a dinner with SPS, and an outreach event with Dr. Mather. The public health fair was a great opportunity to practice my networking skills and go up to random tables and engage them in meaningful conversations. Working on the Hill has definitely gotten me interested in the realm of government relations or lobbying and I love the opportunity to speak with people who work in those areas. My newly sharpened networking skills has also come in handy even when it comes to riding the Metro or going to dinner with SPS! The other day on the Metro I met a guy who had attended one of the health briefings with me and after a brief chat, I walked away with his business card. Actually, my business card stack is getting quite thick with notable mentions including the director of VP Biden’s Cancer Taskforce and the CEO of the Optics Society. One of my favorite conversations to have is with people who came into policy or agency work from a science background. It’s from these people that I learn what they see as the next big issues, how to spin a technical background into the missing link of government jobs, and other great issues. At Thursday’s SPS dinner at the Aviation Museum, I spoke with AIP’s new CEO about his own background and where he sees the future of physics heading. The opportunities like this one that this internship has afforded me are absolutely priceless and something I know will serve me well in the future.

On Saturday, Dr. Mather did an event at the Einstein Memorial where he signed books and spoke to the general public. Our intern group also signed on to do an outreach event at his display for children. Using some spandex and a whole lot of marbles, we modeled different configurations in space. The heat was also rough that day so after, Marissa and I cooled off with some drinks and a Mediterranean restaurant right by our apartment. For dinner that Saturday, one of my friends from Furman came into town and I finally got to try one of DC’s Ethiopian restaurants with her! Sunday was another day full of college friends, and three of us tried to take advantage of REI’s free outdoor adventure weekend and kayak on the Potomac. However, the line was crazy long and we weren’t even sure we would get in the water before it ended and weren’t willing to endure an hour and a half line in the sun to maybe get in. Instead, they checked out bikes too and we biked along the river and then up to Georgetown’s campus! I had yet to make it to Georgetown this summer so it was nice to explore the area on bikes with friends. Less than one month to go in DC- no idea how I’m going to fit all the things I still want to see into such a short time!

Tabitha Colter