Week 9: It’s the End of the SPS Internship as We Know It

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Sunday, July 28, 2019


Terance Schuh

(And I feel fine!) Sure this summer has been great and all, but I think I’m ready to head home.

In this penultimate post I want to take the time to acknowledge some of the awesome things that came out of this internship!

I made a lot of friendships and connections that I won’t soon forget.

Unfortunately not everyone in the physics community is going to be your friend, but if you are one of those sad souls like me who loves the subject, I promise you you’ll have no trouble finding a group of people you end up calling your physics phamily. That trend continued for me this summer. From the other awesome interns in the program and those at SPS who selected us, to my incredible mentors at NASA who taught me so much and my fellow NASA intern lunch buddies, I was once again reminded that I am exactly where I want to be. These are my people, this is my field.

I learned a ton more physics.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when you tell someone you studied physics and they suddenly assume you know everything about the universe and how it works. Wrong! Physics is a massive area of study. I would argue it is one of the largest, most broad subjects out there. You could spend your whole life studying it and you would still never know it all. With that being said, I got a little bit closer this summer to achieving that feat.

Even though I took many physics courses in undergrad, some things are impossible to learn unless you’re forced to literally deal with them every day. My research fell into that category. Greatly centered around a subfield called continuum mechanics, one of the first things my mentors told me when I arrived was, “The physics you’re going to learn here, you won’t learn in school.” That’s the truth about much of physics in the 21st century and I’m glad I got a taste of that.

I gained more research skills.

I am very confident that come next Fall I will be attending grad school for physics. While there, research will obviously be one of my biggest concerns so having the necessary tools before even starting is a big deal. I’m grateful my mentors allowed me to work on a project that had a lot of room to develop all-around useful research skills. One of the most significant skills I learned was how to develop my own individual research ideas. Even though I have had past research experiences I still have always been curious about how someone transforms from a researcher that carries out someone else’s ideas to a researcher who generates their own unique ideas for future projects. I think a lot of people, mainly naïve grad students, struggle to make this transition. It is incredibly difficult; however, it is vital if you want to be a successful researcher! Now, I’m not saying I’ve made the transition already, but this internship allowed me to clearly see how one would do it!

I got to live in the heart of a large city.

To be honest I’m not going to miss living in D.C. Sure, it’s exciting and full of things to do, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I was never and still am not keen on the city life, especially doing it out of a college dorm. I will say though that I’m glad I got to experience it. I know it’s not what I want going forward. Again, in terms of grad school, I know for sure now that I do not want to go to school in a big city. It might not seem like much, but that really is something that matters when considering where to apply.

That was, by far, not everything that came out of my SPS internship experience, but those were the highlights. Only one week to go now. This week we have our final presentations and on top of that I have my NASA poster presentation. It’s going to be a busy one putting all that material together, but it’ll be good for me. Although everything will be over by the time I upload it, be sure to check back next week for my final post. It’ll probably be pretty lengthy, but it will have a lot of my final thoughts in it. Until then, Terry Schuh signing off.

P.S. For those of you who consider yourself dedicated fans, I’m here to inform you that this past week, after many hours of frustration, I finally was able to calculate zero. It’s still not exactly what I was hoping for, but it’s as good as it’s going to get, and my mentors are satisfied. Hopefully no one, except me, lost sleep over it, but I thought you all should know.

Terance Schuh