Week 8: Began with a bureaucratic nightmare and finished with a fun night

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Friday, July 17, 2015


Teresa Turmanian

Monday morning I took a break from project MOSFET to talk to do some career exploration.  This internship has been immensely valuable in that it has helped me identify what I don’t want to do, and given me the opportunity to meet others in areas that are more interesting to me.  My project this summer has consisted of a lot of wet lab work and using complex equipment to make measurements, but I haven’t done any math and I find that I miss it.  This project has helped me realized that want to be doing math in one way or another and theoreticians certainly do a ton of math!  I spoke to a theoretical physicist about his recent projects in optics and material properties.  He was perfectly happy to meet with me and easy to talk to.  The most important part of our conversation was finding out that he finds satisfaction in his from seeing theoretical predictions match experimental data because that agreement is evidence that we understand all the physics going on. 

Monday afternoon my need for AutoCAD became imperative so I decided to delve deeper into the dreadful depths of the bureaucratic nightmare that is software installation.  There’s really nothing else worthwhile to say for now so I will quite literally make a long story short and say “Now I (f-i-n-a-l-l-y) have AutoCAD. Yaaaaaay!  Now I can do science tomorrow!

NOPE! Arrgh! [Insert universe’s mocking laugh here.] I have the program installed but now it won’t open.  Frowny face.  The bureaucratic nightmare continues.  I am awaiting a call from another group of software people that the IT people referred me to and who knows how long that will take…………………

Well for the time being I have bypassed the bureaucratic nightmare by bringing in my trusty laptop.  Veronica and I spent the next few days working in AutoCAD to overlay electrode designs over the AFM image of the CoverFlake.   These incredibly complex designs, consisting of ooh wow rectangles!, took a surprisingly long time to create due to the inordinate amount of time spent wrestling and negotiating with AutoCAD. 

Thursday we got to show off NIST and all its awesomeness to the other SPSers.  First Veronica and I took everyone around our super cool labs.  Then we trekked along inter-building walkway, more affectionately known as The Spine, to the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology.  We saw a couple of their impressive electron microscopes, one of which can take 3-D images! Next we took a spin around the nano-fabrication labs and saw what I’d call the machine shop of the future.  There were a bunch of machines that build tiny devices on the nanometer and micrometer scales and a handful of chemistry stations.  After lunch, that was unusually good for cafeteria food, came the most fun of the day- a liquid nitrogen filled talk by Nobel Laureate Dr. Bill Phillips called “Time, Einstein, and the coolest stuff in the universe”.  He told us all about his research in laser cooling to reach such low temperatures previously thought impossible to experimentally produce.  Several crushed flowers and shattered bouncy balls later we headed over to the NIST Center for Neutron Research where I led a tour of the neutron beam guide hall. 

SPS interns in the neutron guide hall

I did a bit of a show and tell about all the gigantic equipment that uses the neutrons to see through samples of both living and inanimate materials.  We finished up the tour by visiting the Newton apple tree on campus for a snack.  It is a direct descendant from the apple tree Newton sat under when he was supposedly struck by the apple of inspiration. Despite the apples being SUPER sour we were still smiling!

SPS interns under the Newton apple tree

Besides work we had a really fun night at the Social Media Roundtable at Tracey Schwab’s house. We got the chance to talk about SPS’s outreach strategy and how to use social media to make outreach more effective and fun!  This was actually one of my favorite events we did together because I got to use creativity to come up with new ways to get the word out on how awesome physics is!

Teresa Turmanian