Week 9: End-in-Sight

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Sunday, August 3, 2014


Nick Durofchalk

Week 8 came to a successful end, but I knew better than to think my work was over. The Friday that was fast approaching was to be the day of the SPS Intern's Final Presentation. Yet when I woke up on Monday, I had to finally face the truth- I really needed to start working on that.

So on Monday, like a good college student, I procrastinated. Today was the day Ashley and Ben were to lead us on a tour of Capitol Hill, or at least what they could access. In addition to that, Ashley had arranged for us to tour the Pentagon in the morning, before the tour of the Capitol. The Pentagon was really neat, although we didn't really end up seeing more than just a couple long hallways and a few offices. I assume the "fun stuff" is off-limits for tourists. Capitol Hill was much nicer. Little did I know, but part of Ben Preis' Job working with a congressional office was to lead tours of the Capitol. So naturally, Ben gave us a great tour.  We saw the Rotunda, the center of Washington D.C., and a really cool acoustic echo spot. After that, Ashley showed us the room where most of her hearings were held, and the office of the committee with which she worked. And finally, after all that, we all had the chance to have a group conversation with a few of the Physicist on Ashley's committee about getting into Science Policy. Now while all this was happening, I noticed my mind constantly fretting about Friday, and all the work I had yet to do.

The rest of the week went by way too quickly. I spent a lot of time at work preparing my presentation. Confirming my research's results with Ted and Caleb and discussing how to best present them to an audience that knew as much about Eta Carinae as I did in May (Read: Nothing). I stayed up late bugging whoever would listen to me, asking if they could listen to me give a run through of the presentation and if they had any suggestions (sorry Riley...). Thursday morning, SPS hosted a practice presentation session for the interns. I took advantage of that and everyone gave me advice on how to make the presentation better. Before I knew it, it was Thursday night, and I had what I had. I was still nervous as can be, but I gave it run more run through for my friend Sean Flanagan, who had come down for the weekend to catch up, hang out, and see my presentation. After my run through, Sean's only suggestion echoed what I had been told earlier: "do it without your sheet of notes." To that I replied, "I'll try" and did my best to try to hide my nervousness.

Classical music on the National MallSince Sean was in town, and it was only a little past dinner time, we decided to walk around the city for a little while. We walked down to the National Mall to see the Washington Monument and whatever else we could see. As we're walking around the monument, we hear classical music coming from somewhere. Apparently, the US Marine Band was playing a set of classical music on the stage near the Washington Monument. We listened for a song or two then decided to tour the rest of the monuments before the sun set. By the time we got back to the room, it was basically time for bed.

The following morning went by as unremarkable as it could have been. Kearns and I woke up in a timely matter and buttoned up our suits. We all caught the metro and made it to the ACP building. My mom, dad, and brother all came down to see the presentations, as well as Ted Gull, Mike Corcoran, Tom Madura, Kenji Hamaguchi, Jamar, and Caleb from the Eta Carinae research team at Goddard. Since I knew Ted and company would be slightly late, I asked Kendra if I could go later. I went last. Everyone's presentations before me went incredibly well, and I was just hoping I wouldn't mess up. When it was finally my turn, I walked up to the podium, loaded my slideshow, attached my microphone, set my notes in front of me, and took one deep breath...

...and I nailed it. After I finished my last line, I realized that I didn't even once look at my notes. I didn't stutter, I said what I needed to say, and I must have got the audience interested because they certainly had questions to ask. The best part about the questions? I knew how to answer them! It felt great! After all of the questions subsided and Kendra was about ready to take over for the closing ceremony, I remembered there was one more thing I wanted to mention. So before Kendra could take full control of a microphone, I started "...and one more thing." Pulling a play from Steve Job's playbook, I reached into my inside suit pocket and pulled out the 3-D Model of Eta Carinae that Ted had given me a few weeks prior. I the proceeded to explain what it was, briefly summarized the work being done by Ted and his team, and finished by mentioning the press release that had come out earlier in the summer on the 3-D structure of Eta Carinae.

The group of us at TGI Friday's.To celebrate a job well done, a large majority of the SPS interns plus Sean went out for endless appetizers at TGI Fridays. We probably ate too much food, but as far as I'm concerned, we had no regrets. Further celebrations were in order, so after that, well into the evening, a handful of us went out for a few drinks in Dupont Circle. Sean and I ran into more public music as we walked through the actual circle in Dupont, and we all danced and listened to an amateur jazz band as they rocked "When the Saints go Marching in." To summarize, It was a fantastic weekend and a great conclusion to my internship with SPS.

Nick Durofchalk