Week One: A Great Start

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Sunday, June 2, 2019


Joseph Tibbs

Before this week, I never knew how exciting it would be to live in the middle of Washington D.C. with a group of highly-motivated physics majors.  Then again, I probably could have guessed it would be pretty good—but even so, any expectations I had were shattered.  We arrived at Shenkman Hall (home sweet home for the next ten weeks) on the day before Memorial Day, and found ourselves meeting new friends from across the country.  Already, we’ve shared some interesting (and fun) times, like kayaking on the Potomac, building dry spaghetti-and-marshmallow towers, and exploring the metro system. 

I have to say, moving here from my rural Iowa background was a bit of a transition, but I have enjoyed every minute of it[1].  Being in the middle of the city seems to invite with it countless possibilities; we’ve already talked about shows at the Kennedy Center, fireworks on the mall, days at the Smithsonian museums, and many other plans.  In the last week, we’ve only begun to tap the potential of the culture and history all around us.  On Memorial Day, a few of us took a long walk around the Mall, White House, and MLK Memorial.  Despite the over eight miles we trekked, it seemed there was always more to see.  In the attached pictures, you can see us at the modern art museum, at Jazz in the Park at the sculpture garden, and enjoying the Mall. 

But we’ve also taken time to simply get to know each other.  Each of us is bringing something unique and special to this gathering.  I’ve enjoyed getting the chance to chat one-on-one with almost everyone here, at one time or another.  We may all be united by our love of physics, but the diversity of perspectives here is nevertheless broad.  I’ve already joked that each of us represents the concept of “Physics &”.  Physics and computer science; physics and education; physics and biology; physics and policy.  Our respective internships reflect this variety.

Speaking of the internship, I suppose I should describe mine.  As the NIST intern, I’m one of many undergraduate researchers flocking to the National Institute of Standards and Technology for some summer experience.  Nicholas, one of the policy interns here (and my roommate), and I are pictured in front of the old gate to NIST.  Although I toured NIST on Tuesday, my advisor, Mr. Joseph Kopanski, was at a conference for this past week.  As a result, I got to spend a few days reading up on the literature relevant to my project and chatting about it with someone who happens to have interned at NIST on a very similar project about fifteen years ago: none other than the director of SPS, the illustrious Dr. Brad Conrad[a].  I could write a lot more about how much I enjoyed working with Brad, but for brevity’s sake I’ll just say it was an experience I won’t soon forget. 

This group of students is one which I have no doubt I’ll enjoy getting to know, and I can't wait to experience this unbelievable summer with them.  I say “unbelievable” in the sincerest sense: I have to remind myself once in a while that, yes, I am in fact spending a summer of paid living in the nation’s capital, working at one of the nation’s premier laboratory campuses.  I’ll be meeting so many incredible people, in my work and outside of it. 

And the summer has only just begun.

This piece at the Hirshhorn museum seemed to evoke the Physics mindset
Just some nerds at a jazz concert in a park
A few of us went out on Memorial Day to pay our respects on the Mall and see a few of the famous buildings and monuments which D.C. is so well-known for.
Nicholas is a policy intern, but he'll be working at NIST.  And so it was that we got a tour together from (who else?) the one and only Brad Conrad.  Here's us outside the old gate at NIST.

Joseph Tibbs