Week 9: Scientific Snapshots and Penultimate Pictures

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Monday, July 31, 2023


Jaden Sicotte

A few things I learned this week: ten minutes is incredibly quick, trust the emergency Flash Flood Alerts, and a million pounds is an impressive sight. 

Also there were a lot of cool pictures from this week (hence the alliteratively photo themed title) so either skip ahead to them or stick around to the end.

Monday Devin, Jenna, and I met with APS’ PR Journals Associate Editor and had a lovely informational interview about the publication process, career paths, and general life tips. Afterwards I collapsed into work mode the way a star collapses into a black hole. Head down, I worked through the last of my final report for my mentor Bri, as well as a draft of my final symposium presentation. 

Tuesday was the day of my practice presentation. While the rest of the interns have until the 3rd to work on their drafts and practice, Devin, Jenna, and I (the APS interns) had to prepare to present today, to 20-30 APS staff. Needless to say, the three of us were nervous balls of energy, with myself choosing to pace back and forth with Play Hard (feat. Ne-Yo & Akon) by David Guetta, Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix) by Yeah Yeah Yeahs and A-Trak, and Prada (Casso Edit) by Casso on repeat. You’ve never experienced pure adrenaline until your fight or flight kicks in 3 minutes to presentation time as David Guetta lays down an insane bass drop to Akon’s vocals. Despite running past the 10 minute limit, my presentation went fine and I received some good feedback as a result. Post presentation, us APS interns had a meeting with the APS Education team, followed by a meeting with the APS Governmental Affairs team. Both meetings were great informational interviews and gave us new perspective on potential physics career paths. It had been a long day, so after all my meetings, I went for a little bike ride and then a long walk. It started raining lightly midway through but I decided to stick it out for the vibes (and the dope pictures below). Upon returning home, I found the other interns having game night in my living room and quickly joined in. Tuesday was also the last meeting I had with my mentor Bri Hart, as she was going on vacation until the end of my internship. She has been incredibly supportive and welcoming throughout the program and I hope her vacation is unreal and that we continue to stay in touch.

Wednesday morning was an APS Programs department meeting, where I got a cool glimpse into the behind the scenes of physics education and outreach. Every topic of debate, every program detail, and every new idea was passionately considered, debated, and revised in order to best fit the relevant sub-community. It was nice to see that so many caring people are working to support the physics community. Post-work I hungout at the pool for awhile with some friends, then went home to make some dinner. In defiance of my last two potluck failures, I tried making a new dish: chicken pot pie. And while there’s always room for improvement, I can attest that third time is the charm. Catch me opening a catering business or a restaurant or something, it was so good. 

Thursday began well with a resume workshop for all the interns given by Dr. Midhat Farooq, one of my favorite colleagues to have worked with from APS this summer. The resources and tips were incredibly helpful (although it seems I’ve got to tear my current resume to shreds). I then had my last informational interview of the summer with the PR Materials Editor, which was a far more informal (and thus more natural) conversation, which was a welcome change of pace. Brynn then came over to swim in my apartments pool. I had been planning to join her, but unfortunately, fate had other plans for me. First, my AC-destroying-superpowers resurfaced, disabling the AC unit in one of my apartment’s bedrooms. This resulted in a 95 degree temperature and one sweaty and unhappy subletter. The building said they’d send an engineer up, for which I waited for hours, and then no one ever came. Hit number two came when I received a supposed speeding violation notice from the rental car company I had used to move myself in way back at the start of Week 1. The alleged violation was caught by the notoriously sneaky and extremely unreliable speed cameras. However, the rental car company had informed me of the ticket well after the period DC had allowed for contestment, as well as the due date for payment. This means the fine is no longer fightable, and it’s double the original amount. Needless to say, I was quite livid (don’t use Zipcar).

Friday was the day of our NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) tour (thanks Gizem, Eva, Clay, Janessa, and Colin for setting it up). We started at the Additive Manufacturing lab where we got to see metallurgical 3D printers. Next up was the Trace Explosives lab, where I volunteered one of the bills in my wallet for a demonstration. It was swabbed, tested, and came back positive for drugs! Apparently over 90% of US bills are contaminated with trace amounts of cocaine, like the one I had. We then got to see some cool fluid dynamics visuals, learned about the human thermal plume, and delved into artificial dog nose technology for tracing explosives. Next we went to see the million pound deadweight machine, used for precise calibration of machines from all around the world. The rest of the tour involved pizza, the NIST library, and then the NIST class-100 clean room. The piece de resistance was seeing a clone of Isaac Newton’s famous apple tree that was grown from a cutting of the original (meaning it’s genetically identical to Newton’s). All I can say after the tour is: NIST, please hire me. The rest of the day saw me finally able to get the AC fixed (again), quiplash games with the interns, and then a fun night out. 

Saturday I ventured to the Natural History Museum and then the US Botanical Gardens. Such a wholesome and good day, until a severe thunderstorm swept in, and I was still a 20 minute bike ride from my room. I eventually had to disembark the bike when 80 mph winds made forward motion impossible. I made it home carrying the equivalent of a kiddies pool worth of water in my clothes, shoes, and hair. 

Sunday was a slow day, and it began with a trip to the Georgetown Flea Market. I didn’t find anything worth buying, but it was a good excuse to leave the house and always a cool place to walk around. I spent some time afterwards organizing my apartment and then settled in for the night.  

It’s the penultimate week of the internship. I’ve been trying to avoid the “I can’t believe it’s gone so quickly!” sentiments and simply enjoy the time that’s left. But it seems acknowledging the passage of time is an inevitability. I’m grateful for all of the opportunities, experiences, and connections this program has given me this summer. As I head into the last week,  I’ll dodge the cliche and say it’s not exactly bittersweet. I am excited to be home with my family and friends again, and I’m also excited for the new semester to start soon after. I will of course miss this summer terribly: the interns, the work, and the atmosphere it all created. But I think this internship has helped me to recognize that there are stages of life, and that the only sadness that should be associated with transitions is if you didn’t take full advantage of the previous stage. I feel that SPS and APS have helped me to take full advantage of this summer, and I’m eager to do the same for the new semester. 

Jaden Sicotte