Week 9: Politics, Astronauts, and all that Jazz

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Friday, July 24, 2015


Hannah Pell

This past week was full of more exploring and activities; oh, and quite a bit of work too.   Shauna was back in the ACP office with me, so it was time to buckle down and get the SOCK done.  We finished our second edited copy of the manual and are about to go out and about to pick up all the supplies! We have eight main activities and demonstrations, and included some brand new things to the SOCK not done before.  It’s so exciting to know that in just a few more weeks, SPS chapters across the country will have their very own, and will be gearing up to get out and teach some acoustics! I’m certainly excited to bring this home to my LVC chapter, as well as all the skills I’ve gained in doing science outreach from this summer experience.

The ArchivesOn Friday night, Shauna and I went to check out the popular Jazz in the Garden in the sculpture garden across the street from the Archives. It was a beautiful sight; the weather was perfect, the jazz was excellent, the Sangria was extra fruity, and the garden was literally packed full of friends and picnic-ers.  We luckily secured a spot along the water after walking around the garden a bit.  For any future DC visitors, I highly recommend checking it out! On Saturday, Pat and I spent most of the day on our self-designed “DC Tour de Brewery.”  We made stops at 3 Stars, DC Brau, and Bardo Brewpub.  Apparently, local craft brews are still relatively new in DC, and it was great to take a few tours, hear stories behind the companies, and taste what DC local has to offer. And then of course, we ended the day with more beer and breakfast.  The next morning Brean, Veronica, and I went to explore the Eastern Market in the Southeast area.  It’s a big flea market full of local produce and arts and crafts.  Although the heat was pretty rough that day, we managed to look around for a few hours and do a bit of shopping.

3 Stars... more like 5 Stars!Cheers!

Library of CongressDistrict Representative OfficeMonday was our tour of Capitol Hill.  We started the day with a historical tour of the Capitol building; we saw the Crypts, Statuary Hall, and inside the Rotunda.  I found Statuary Hall the most interesting.  It is a large, dome-shaped room which used to be home to the House of Representatives. You can just imagine the awful acoustics of the place, carrying echoes and amplifying everybody’s voice.  However, the Hall is an example of a whisper chamber; because of its elliptical, rounded-off shape, if you stand at one of the focal points, you can hear clearly someone speaking on the opposite end of the room at the other! We then visited Drew’s work area.  We met his mentor and visited the hearing room for the Committee of Space, Science, and Technology.  I certainly learned a lot about science policy and the committee, and especially how useful the skills we gain from studying science can be to the future of politics.

Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing RoomLibrary of Congress

Next we made a quick stop at the Library of Congress.  We had very little time, so I was sure to go straight to the George and Ira Gershwin Room.  They had original manuscripts of Porgy and Bess, as well as George’s piano! My inner music history nerd was certainly coming out.  On our way out of the Library of Congress, I briefly noticed an inscription on the beautifully crafted interior: Science is Organized Knowledge.  

After lunch, I had the chance to visit my district house representative.  Unfortunately he wasn’t in his office, but it was wonderful to see it completely decorated with Hershey things: the Penn State Medical Center, Hershey’s chocolate, all the local colleges in the district (including Lebanon Valley!), and much more.  It made me quite a bit homesick.  We then followed Elias to his hearing room for the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Overall, it was a great day exploring our nation’s capital.  I learned a lot about science policy, politics in general, and about Drew’s and Elias’s work.  It certainly reinforced for me that the skills gained from studying science are beneficial no matter what career path you choose to follow, and I think the ability to problem solve and think logically yet creatively are things we need a bit more of in government.

Dr. Cady Coleman, NASA AstronautWednesday night was the third annual Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fair and Reception hosted by Women’s Policy Inc.  Located on Capitol Hill at the Cannon House, the fair featured exhibits of public and private sector STEM programs to encourage girls and women to pursue STEM education and careers.  It was a wonderful atmosphere of support, encouragement, and empowerment for women; I was certainly inspired listening to the representatives speak of their passion for women’s issues in STEM and politics.  Also, hearing more about the up-and-coming STEAM movement (STEM + Art and Design) was certainly comforting, as the integration of the arts and science in education is an issue quite close to home for me.  We had the chance to meet Dr. Dava Newman, the NASA Deputy Administrator (#2 in command!) and Dr. Cady Coleman, NASA astronaut! It was an incredibly exciting and humbling experience, especially when she was so excited to hear that we were a group of physics majors.  The work done at NASA has always inspired me to be an innovator in both my respective disciplines.

What a week. As I sit at my desk, knowing that this time next week will be the closing reception for this internship, I feel a mixture of excitement and sadness.  Although I certainly haven’t run out of fuel yet (I ran to the Lincoln Memorial last night from Woodley!), a part of me is ready to see the completion of our 10-week project and go home to be with my family. I need a vacation! I know that this last week will be full of last-chance sightseeing, preparing for the symposium, and packing things up.  I struggle to find the words to even describe what this internship has done for me; it has changed my life.  So, without further ado, here’s to my last week!   

View of Potomac from behind Lincoln Memorial

Hannah Pell