Week 9: Not Wasting Time

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Sunday, July 27, 2014


Ashley Finger

The end of Week 8 was just as busy as the start. On Friday, right from work, I went to dinner with a group of former AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Fellows in the Woodley Park area where I learned about their experiences, both personal and professional as scientists in Washington, D.C. I was awake before everyone else on Saturday morning and used a good part of the day to walk through the Holocaust Memorial Museum slowly and reflectively. The museum was as well thought out and reverent as I had remembered from my last visit to D.C., but experiencing the exhibits in solitude made for a much more powerful and emotional visit.

After a solemn Saturday, and an early Sunday morning run, I spent most of Sunday cooking an extravagant brunch of French toast, breakfast potatoes, sausage, bacon, and omelets to order for the entire hall. After cooking and eating for hours, we spent the remainder of the day watching movies and ensuring we were well rested for the busy week ahead.

 View from the West side of the Capitol Building out over the site of the presidential inauguration ceremony.Our week started off with a trip to the Pentagon bright and early on Monday morning. Our group had our own tour guide who taught us about the building, showed us hallways dedicated to branches of the Department of Defense, quizzed us on our U.S. history, and shared his experiences working as a liaison to the public. As we left the Pentagon, Ben Preis and I took over as tour guides as we showed the other interns around Capitol Hill. We started with a quick trip up to the office of Congressman Bill Foster (who is a physicist!) where Ben works, then headed over to the Capitol Building for a tour led by Ben. Until this point, I had only ever been through the lower levels of the Capitol for work and had yet to find myself in the stunning hallways and famed locations of the upper levels. We saw the west portico where presidents are inaugurated, the compass rose that marks the center of D.C., the interior of the Capitol dome, and so much more. After the tour, I returned to my office briefly to finish up some lingering projects before meeting up with the interns again to give them a taste of my life as a committee intern. I was able to show them the Committee hearing room, as well as the staff and member lounges, explaining my day-to-day activities along the way. Finally, we made the trek over to the Ford House Office Building where the minority office for the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is housed. There, several staff members for the committee took time to speak to the interns about their backgrounds (two of which are in physics) and their experiences on Capitol Hill.

Subway system in the tunnels under the Capitol Building.Tuesday was a relatively slow day in the office with not much in the way of events until Thursday. I spent a lot of my time preparing for the upcoming intern symposium at the American Center for Physics on Friday. Finishing my presentation early turned out to be time well spent when the pace of my week picked up rapidly first thing Wednesday morning. On Wednesday morning, I attended a lecture by the Democratic Whip, Representative Steny Hoyer from Maryland, in the Capitol Building. He spoke to us (the congressional interns) about his motivations, inspirations, and frustrations throughout his tenure as a congressman and was a thoroughly engaging speaker. After the lecture, I had over an hour to kill before the next event on my schedule—a Senate briefing on the automotive industry. I spent that hour exploring the Senate side of the Capitol building that included a ride on the Capitol Building subway system in addition to wandering the halls of the beautiful buildings themselves.

On Thursday our Committee had a scheduled downlink with the International Space Station where representatives asked the two American astronauts currently on board about life in space and the ongoing research. The downlink was followed by an exposition through which scientists at NASA explained some of the recent research and technological developments in the ISS. After a long afternoon of processing the videos from the downlink event, which were in high demand, I raced home to practice my presentation for the next morning.

Friday morning I woke up earlier than I usually do for work to travel to ACP with the other interns for our closing symposium where I had the opportunity to learn in more detail what the other interns had been doing all summer. We were joined by AIP and SPS staff, mentors, sponsors, family members, and friends who quickly turned the morning symposium into an all-day event. We celebrated our successful presentations that evening with a dinner of "endless appetizers."

On Saturday, Ben, his girlfriend Hannah, Kelby, and I woke up early to meet Courtney over at the Capitol building for pictures and an additional, less formal exploration of the building. Afterwards, Kelby and I headed over for lunch in Old Town Alexandria where we met up with one of my friends from Davidson to tour the waterfront, the art galleries, and the historic buildings.

I finished off my weekend with an early alarm, since I had heard that the best time to explore the National Zoo is before most of the exhibits open. Sure enough, Kelby, Stephen, and I were treated to a nearly empty zoo to watch the animals’ morning routines. We returned just in time for me to catch up with a friend for brunch, feeling good about having had a full day before anyone else got out of bed.

Ashley Finger