Week One: Back Home, Kind Of

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Monday, June 13, 2016


Mariah Heinzerling

As a native of the DC Metro area, moving into my apartment in Woodley Park should have been the first thing I did when I got home. Instead of doing the smart thing, I waited until Sunday night at 9 pm the day before my internship started. My mom helped me move a few bags into my room amidst an impromptu Game of Thrones viewing party that a few of my roommates were hosting. She left, I introduced myself, and the night went on. Maria, Samantha, and I are living with three students from Mizzou who are all pursuing careers in law or journalism, which has lent an interesting slant to our conversations. After finishing college, I want to go to law school to study Science and Policy, so being able to talk to people who are involved in law was a unique opportunity I was not expecting.

After staying up a little later than we should have, we all went to sleep to prepare for the next morning. All the SPS interns met in the lobby of our apartment building and left for the metro. Knowing how to use the Metro was a necessity growing up in DC, so I anticipated little trouble with this particular endeavour. Of course, something went wrong. I forgot my passport, which we were very severely insructed not to forget. A short run back to the apartment later, and all was well. At ACP, all of the interns underwent orientation and got to meet Robert Brown, the CEO of AIP, and Brad Conrad, the director of SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma. After orientation, we ate lunch with Nobel Laureate John Mather, which was an extraordinary experience. He was well spoken and genuinely excited to see the new SPS interns. In the afternoon, I met with my mentor Bo Hammer to discuss the work I would be doing over the summer. Originally, I was going to be designing an outreach kit for SPS Chapters to use in their events, but instead I will be marketing past years' kits to a wider audience. The plan is still fairly uncemented, and I am looking forward to being involved in any outreach events over the summer. 

For the rest of the week, I concentrated mainly on developing activities for an event called Astronomy on the Mall. This was an event organized by Hofstra University, aimed towards informing the public about current events in astronomy, the basics physics behind astronomy, and encouraging children to learn more. Over 20 different organizations participated, each one bringing their own demonstrations or informative lessons. There were several telescopes set up to allow people to look at the moon, and the night was beautiful and clear, perfect for stargazing. SPS brought five demonstrations, including Mobius strips, pocket solar systems, and beach ball moon phases. Once we got to the Mall, I realized I had a significant amount of free rein. The senior employees stepped back, and I got to run the event. It was exciting and nervewracking, but extremely rewarding. I met a lot of passionate kids, including one middle schooler who could name every single moon in the solar system. You go, Evan. 

All in all, my first week as a DC intern was incredible. The people at SPS and AIP have been so welcoming, and so sincerely interested in my internship. I can't wait for the next 10 weeks!

Mariah Heinzerling