Week 8: It's crunch time

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Saturday, July 22, 2017


Kristine Romich

With just under two weeks to go, the pressure (and, if we're being honest, my stress level) is mounting.  My two final presentations — a poster at Goddard on August 3rd and a talk at ACP on the 4th — are right around the corner.

Because of the time constraint, I won’t be able to accomplish all of the things I set out to do back in June.  Such is the nature of the beast.  I like to joke that programming is like playing Whack-a-Mole:  as soon as you fix one problem in your code, another pops up.  That’s compounded by the fact that the language I’m using doesn’t have built-in functions for some fairly simple operations, so I’ve had to write them myself.  What I’ve been working on is a wrapper routine for a program called EBTEL (Enthalpy-Based Thermal Evolution of Loops), which models the behavior of the corona if a particular heating mechanism is assumed.  Ultimately, we want to see which of two proposed mechanisms provides a better match to the data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.

On the upside, I’m basically done with my poster.  All I need at this point are the finalized plots, which should be ready by next Monday or Tuesday.

This week was punctuated with enrichment activities.  On Monday the SPS cohort joined Michael at his placement site, the Optical Society, for a tour.  I accompanied Dr. Viall to a panel on unconscious bias on Wednesday, and on Thursday all of the Goddard interns were treated to a lecture on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by John Mather.  If you’ve been reading my previous posts, you'll recall that Dr. Mather is Goddard’s resident Nobel laureate.  He’s also a senior scientist on the JWST project team.  We hung out a few weeks ago.

Speaking of hanging out with physicists, Sam and I had dinner with Earl Blodgett of the University of Wisconsin - River Falls the other night.  We both know Dr. B. because Sam is a student at UWRF, and I did my REU there last year.  He was in town for a conference.

The number of small-world moments I’ve had this summer is incredible.  It turns out that one of my future professors knows several people in Goddard’s heliophysics division, including Dr. Viall.  My professor is a solar physicist herself, and there’s a good deal of overlap between her research and mine. 

I'll conclude on a personal note:  my husband, Aleksander, visited me in D.C. last weekend.  It’s not at all an exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t be here if not for him.  A few years ago, when I was an unemployed grad-school dropout, he suggested I give STEM a try.  It took another year — and a short-lived stint at a corporate office — for me to follow his advice, but eventually I listened.  Thanks for everything, Aleks.  I’ll be home soon.

Kristine Romich