Week 8: Whirlwind

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Sunday, July 20, 2014


Ashley Finger

I mentioned last week that the events on my calendar looking forward were extremely exciting, but even so, I was not aware of the whirlwind in which I was about to be swept up. Throughout the week, I was assigned a series of research projects (including a very interesting investigation of a constituent concern and background information for the EPA’s chemical regulation system IRIS) and event summaries. These projects filled my time extremely quickly, leaving me wondering where the day went each time I was reminded that it was time to leave.

Me with a model of Eta Carinae, the stellar nebulae that Nick is studying at NASA Goddard.My nose-to-the-grindstone week was punctuated with incredible opportunities both on the hill and off. First thing Monday morning, I attended a briefing on algae fuels where I learned about the facilities, collaborations, and range of algae research. A new intern also arrived in our office that day, so I spent the afternoon showing him around Capitol Hill and taking him to get a badge—it seems too soon after my own arrival for me to be already mentoring someone else! Then, on Tuesday, I had the privilege of meeting my congressman, Representative Tim Bishop, with whom I talked about my experience on Capitol Hill, my future plans, family, and even a little bit of environmental policy related to issues with which we had both been involved over the past few weeks. It was also nice to see photographs representing a little bit of home decorating his office.

One of my childhood heroes, Bill Nye the Science Guy.Absolutely thrilled, but knowing my day was only going to get better, I returned to the office for only a little over an hour before I headed to a panel on the research potential of Jupiter’s moon Europa, that included Dr. Ellen Stofan, the Chief Scientist of NASA, Dr. Robert Pappalardo, who studies Europa at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, several congressmen, and Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Not only was watching Bill Nye, one of my childhood heroes, speak in person an incredible experience, but I had the opportunity to take a picture with him after the lecture! That evening, my busy day continued as I rushed to the College Park Aviation Museum straight from work for dinner with the other interns, AIP staff, and the mentors and sponsors of each internship. Notable guests included Fred Dylla, the CEO of AIP, Dr. Mather, the Nobel laureate who supports my internship, and Ted Gull, an astrophysicist at NASA, among many, many others.

Wednesday slowed down a little bit relative to the start of my week, but the committee still had a lot going on! Not only did I still have extended projects to work on, but I was responsible for summarizing a Senate hearing on space access assurance in the morning, and my committee had a hearing on EPA’s IRIS in the afternoon that proved to be extremely partisan. Right from work, I went to a concert at Wolf Trap National Park in Virginia, with several friends from Davidson.

The Space Environment Simulator (SES) at NASA Goddard, one of my favorite parts of the tour.Thursday was my birthday, for which I got up early to head to NASA Goddard! Kirsten and Nick did an incredible job organizing tours from the Conceptual Image Lab, to the building where the James Webb Space Telescope will be assembled. Our tour also coincided with a research fair, where scientists across Goddard presented their research, which gave us an excellent overview of everything that happens there. Even after an entire day at NASA, when we returned to Foggy Bottom, everyone still managed to gather up enough energy to celebrate my birthday by making it to the Georgetown Waterfront just in time for the sunset.

Friday was a relatively slow day at the office, although I still had enough projects to keep me busy. I have a lot to check off my D.C. bucket list this weekend, with only two weeks left!

Ashley Finger