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Singularities - Profiles in Physics

Snappy Physics

My Internship in Byte-Size Pieces


Isabel Binamira, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Georgetown University

Though I did not have to physically travel far from Georgetown University to my SPS internship at the American Physical Society (APS), the path I took to the SPS summer internship program itself was a bit more of a process.

Isabel Binamira. Photo by Matt PayneWhen it became time to look for summer internships last year, I, along with many of my classmates, applied mostly to research positions sent out by our department. While glancing through the list, I found the SPS summer internship program among the long list. After a little investigation, I ended up applying because of how unique it seemed, as the experience was much more broad based. 

When I heard back from APS, I admittedly took a while to get back to them. I had to seriously consider what it would mean for me to give up a summer research experience to work at a national society. Many people I spoke to told me I had to get research jobs over my summers, and I was worried that by taking the SPS internship, the lack of summer research experience would hinder my future prospects. But I soon realized that working with the APS Outreach Division was much closer to what I wanted to do with my physics degree. I attend Georgetown University where I have been heavily involved with the student newspaper, The Hoya, as well as a student-run consulting firm on campus. Through the intern program, I was able to find the perfect confluence of my interests in communication and problem solving. Internships such as the ones offered by SPS are valuable for people like me, who are considering a wider variety of science careers.

I was given a lot of freedom when coming up with my summer project for APS. I knew I wanted to focus on students who were just starting to seriously explore their interests in science. Many students within this age range, between 16 and 20, use social media as their main source of information. To capitalize on the relative novelty of the app Snapchat, I decided it would be a worthy endeavor to work on social media outlets, specifically, on the APS Snapchat account.

PhysicsCentral, APS’ outreach arm, already had an account but had not used it. My goal for the summer was to create meaningful and interesting content that students would appreciate. Originally, I had planned to create a daily story for APS that would be pushed to all of the app’s users, but upon further consideration, as well as talking to people at Snapchat’s headquarters, we decided to scale back the project. Instead, I managed the account and tried to grow its followers. I attempted to find ways to partner with Snapchat to get the APS presence out there. We used Comic-Con this year as the first full-scale test of the account, updating followers on what we were up to in real-time. The account was popular during the conference, and a few people even followed us as a result of our marketing efforts at Comic-Con. The partnership plan moving forward is to send Snapchat headquarters details about conferences occurring in their cities of interest, and see if we can get airtime on their local stories.

As the ways people access information become more varied and tailored to their generation, it is important that outreach efforts evolve along with current trends. I feel Snapchat is one such avenue, and I hope to inspire people to pursue their interests in science as a result of my unexpected, yet ideal summer experience. //

Be a 2017 SPS Intern!

Applications due January 15

The SPS summer internship program places undergraduate physics students with various organizations around Washington, DC, in the areas of science policy, communication, outreach, and scientific research. All internships include paid housing, a competitive stipend, commuting allowance, and transportation to/from Washington, DC. Check out the details here.

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