Week 7: Star Tours

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Monday, July 15, 2019


Terance Schuh

Now before you ask, yes, I’m very much aware that my title is also the name of a ride at Disney World. I decided to go with it anyway though because this week, among other exciting adventures, Nolan and I gave our tour of NASA to the rest of the SPS group.

The tour was on Thursday and it went exactly as we planned. We were able to get everyone onto the campus by 10:15am allowing us enough time to explore the Science Jamboree, NASA’s annual showcase of all the research going on at the center. Afterwards we ate lunch on-site and saw the official NASA Goddard library. From there we bussed over to the world’s largest clean room aka the place where the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was built (unfortunately it’s not there anymore). We also met up with my mentor, Ed Wollack, who explained in detail some of Goddard’s other current missions such as WFIRST, HIRMES, and Dragonfly. Lastly, we headed over to the building that Nolan and I work in. We got to see and hear about both of our labs as well as honorary SPS intern, Chad Poz’s. I work in the observational cosmology lab, Nolan works in the planetary environments lab, and Chad works in the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) lab. We ended the tour by stopping at the Visitor Center and gift shop where almost everyone purchased some goodies. Although we saw a lot of cool things during the day, the most noteworthy was the rain, or should I say lack of rain. All week leading up to the tour, forecasts were predicting heavy rain for the whole day, but the physics gods must’ve known our tour was going on because it didn’t start raining until we stepped on the return bus at 4pm. Like I said, and I can’t emphasize this enough, the tour was a success.

After the tour we headed over to the American Center for Physics (ACP) for the official SPS intern picnic. Unfortunately, the physics gods must not have liked us too much because the aforementioned rain came in buckets forcing our picnic inside. Nevertheless, it was a still a great way to bring all the interns and mentors together for some awesome food and drink. There were tons of activities and pockets of mingling going on, but I found myself stuck in the longest game of Settlers of Catan ever (over 2 hours)! It was still a good time, but part of me regrets agreeing to play. As you can probably imagine, the tour + picnic made our Thursday very tiring, but it was definitely a nice change of pace from the usual workday.   

Now, not only did we give our tour this week, but we also had the privilege of touring intern Gia’s place of employment at Capitol Hill. Without going into too much detail, not only did we see all the major touristy Capitol building stuff, we also went inside The Library of Congress, the congressional house office buildings, and The Capitol Hill underground tunnel system! Then, to top it all off, we got to meet with Rep. Bill Foster, the only physics PhD in congress! It was a pleasure talking with him; you could tell he really enjoyed being in the company of some young physicists. He had some great advice for our SPS cohort and was just, in general, a very insightful man. It was truly the icing on the cake for Gia’s tour. She crushed it!

If you couldn’t already tell, this work week was unique compared to most others, but the weekend on the other hand was full of the same ol shenanigans. The two major highlights this go round were National Mall exploring…at night and physicists vs. Escape Room! On Saturday, a group of us decided to explore the Mall at night around 11pm. Going against my original belief, it was actually a lot of fun. Surprisingly, it was more crowded than I thought, but the cooler temperatures made walking around for a couple hours very doable. We said we might go again this coming weekend. The next day, Sunday, 8 of us went to Alexandria, VA, to test our hands, or should I say brains, at an Escape Room. It was my first ever Escape Room, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was honestly a blast. I highly recommend! We escaped the Mad Doctor’s evil chamber in 34 minutes putting us in contention for the fastest time for that room which I’m sure helped in my overall liking of the experience. Like the late-night Mall festivities, we might also do another Escape Room next weekend, we shall see.

In summary, week 7 was a solid week with a lot of perks attached to it. I didn’t get to talk about it, but research is still going very well. I’ve made a lot of progress since my last post so be sure to tune in next week where you’ll find out if I was able to calculate 0. What’s that? Not sure what that even means? Well tune in anyway. For now, Terry Schuh signing off.  

Terance Schuh