Week 8: NIST and Other Events

Share This:

Saturday, July 23, 2022


Taylor Overcast

This week it became very obvious that the end of this summer is right around the corner. Our final presentations are underway and we have been contemplating the last things that we want to experience in the city. I can say that the friends that I have made here surpassed my expectations, and I will truly miss them once we head back to our individual lives. This week was less eventful than some other weeks, but still plenty busy. Over the weekend we went to Jazz in the Garden, the Asian festival on Saturday, had a chill movie night at The Consignment (what we call the dorm room we all hang out in – shout out to Janessa and Emma for being lovely hosts), I hung out with some college friends on Sunday, and then the week began. This week I began a project for STEP UP. I am creating a preliminary data set for all the schools that might offer physics in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It has taken up the majority of my working hours this week, but I am really enjoying datamining – it is quite satisfying. The interns also had the opportunity to tour NIST this week – it was incredible and there will be more details to come. Outside of work we had a taco night, attempted attending a movie at Franklin Park, and made cookies. 

Jazz in the Garden was a very fun experience. Tickets are difficult to get, but the experience was worth it. I think we all decided it is one of the things that is worth experiencing, but not repeating. The vibe was fun, but it was quite crowded and the music was difficult to hear. For our crew of musicians, we wish we had chosen seats where we could have heard the talented band better. We got dressed up and made a night of it. Lucy, Emma, and I decided to take the walk back to campus and explored a rooftop on the way home. 

Waiting on the band to start:

The vibes:

Checking out the rooftop on the way home:

On Saturday, we went down to the Asian Festival and walked around for a couple hours. It was very interesting to see all of the various countries and cultures that were represented. After exploring around, AT&T (Anthony, Taylor, and Taylor) made our way to get bubble tea for lunch. Our small crew takes occasional trips on the weekend, solely for the purpose of trying new teas, and it has become one of the things I look forward to. Bubble tea is not really a thing where I am from, so it has been a fun new experience. While at the Asian Festival, we learned that there were quite a few interns that had never had root beer floats. So while we were out we divided up supply runs and gathered up the materials to make everyone floats. After a little down time, we reconfigured for floats, card games, a movie, and some karaoke.  

AT&T with our freshly brewed tea:

The street at the festival – sorry for the low picture quality… it doesn’t do the festival justice:

On Monday night the interns decided to have a taco night. We all signed up to bring an ingredient, and our food gatherings never disappoint. Janessa taught us how to properly dance and we had lots of fun – even if most of us are not great dancers. There is picture proof of this event; however, they are somewhat embarrassing so I will not be sharing them. 

On Tuesday, I killed my streak of never seeing a Marvel movie. It was a great fun fact for Never Have I Ever and I am slightly disappointed that I gave in to the peer pressure. All jokes aside, Black Widow is actually a fantastic movie and it was worth it. A small group of us headed over to Franklin Park for the showing. It was sponsored by Whole Foods and the free snacks did not disappoint. However, the interns who had seen Black Widow decided that the music that was added to the showing was distracting, and that we should leave. I was a little lost and asking a lot of questions, so it was probably a good decision for everyone involved. However, we began watching it last night and it is quite a good movie – and I am not one for movies, so that is saying a lot. 

Here we are enjoying our snacks and waiting for the movie to begin… Ben decided to take a nap:

On Thursday we got to tour NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology)! The experience was pretty amazing. As a physics major, NIST is something that comes up quite a bit. In my head it was a magical place where a bunch of brilliant scientists wearing lab coats work with crazy technology everyday and produce next-generation science… turns out that the picture in my head wasn’t too inaccurate. We had the experience of standing in the Anechoic chamber and it was by far the highlight of the tour for me. An anechoic chamber is a room that absorbs and dissipates sound. In an average room that is considered “silent” the decibel level is around 20. However, in this room the decibel level is around -20. They gave us the opportunity to stand in the room for around 20 minutes. As my ears grew accustomed to the silence, I was able to hear my heart beat and the blood moving in my body. In full honesty, the silence was a little unsettling. Growing up in the country, I thought I knew what silence was. However, the level of silence in the chamber is eerie, and several times I felt like I needed to make a sound to remind myself that I could still hear. After exiting the chamber, simple noises felt too loud and it took a few minutes for me to regain the ability to not attempt to shut my ears everytime someone said something.

The rest of the tour was very fascinating too! We had the opportunity to see two labs in addition to the Center for Neutron Research. The labs both had intriguing equipment that I do not understand. As the scientists described their research, I was fascinated (as anyone in a physics field would be), but I quickly realized that research of that type would not be for me. I am grateful that even within physics there are so many types of people and that the field is so diverse. The Center for Neutron Research was huge, and we were able to see the main reactor. On the way out, we were scanned to ensure that we were not tracking any radioactive materials out. The experience was one to remember. 

As for my work week, there is very little to report compared to last week. I started a project for STEP UP and I have really enjoyed it, even though it is a little redundant. I am creating a spreadsheet of all the schools in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago that could potentially offer physics. The data that I am collecting is purely preliminary, but I feel sure the team will put it to good use. I thought with only three areas the project would go quickly; however, I was surprised to find out that there are about 5000 schools to investigate. Over the course of this summer, I have realized why it feels like so little is being done about access to physics in urban and rural areas. There are so many schools to be outreached to, and so few of them have access to qualified physics teachers. The population is too vast to be reached at one time, but, project by project, the future of physics education is, hopefully, being improved. 

Signing off for now :)

Taylor Overcast