Last Saturday I arrived in Washington D.C. on a flight with a group eighth graders on a school trip. Let me tell you how much fun that was. After navigating my way through the Metro to George Washington University, I met most of the other interns who had just moved in. That night we went to two different grocery stores at two different Metro stops. Grocery shopping by Metro is hard work!!! On Sunday we went to wonder around DC. We saw the White House, National Treasury, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and of course the statue of Einstein in front of the National Academy of Sciences.
On Monday we commuted in a group to the ACP (American Center for Physics) for our orientation. During orientation, we met about a zillion people, learned a lot about AIP and all the other organizations that are related to it, and traumatized a lot of office workers. We would be unleashed on a floor to meet (interrogate) each group, learn about what they did at ACP, and tell them about the parade of interns flocking through the building. We also got this wonderful goody bag with so much cool physics stuff: posters for our naked dorm rooms, physics word magnets, and a ton of other cool and random stuff. The AAPT group also gave us a coloring book of famous physicists (at least I think it was the AAPT group... I don't really remember). After lunch and a riveting game of Alphabet Soup, each of us went our separate ways to our separate internships. Jack Hehn took Pat and I to the NIST Computational Chemistry Group that afternoon. Pat had already started earlier that week, so she went to do her work while I met with Carlos. He set me up with a desk, phone, and computer, but my computer had some problems. The fan was broken, so it made cow noises when turned on, so Carlos lent me his iMac for the first two days. That first day I set up my desk and met Cynthia, one of the post-docs in the group. Pat and I then met up with Andy and Alex at the NIST shuttle to go home. Monday night we made dinner and basked in the glow of our freshly procured Internet and hung out at the dorm. We have one side of the 7th floor of Munson all to ourselves, and we tend to all leave our doors open and wander in and out of each other's rooms aimlessly.
Tuesday began the first of work at NIST. We leave for the Metro around 7:15, take the Blue or Orange line to Metro Center, and the Red line to Shady Grove. We then stand at the Metro stop with our NIST compatriots waiting for the 8:15 shuttle. Alex, Pat, Cynthia, and I always sit in the very back row talking, reading, or doing crosswords. This started because I had to hide from the security guard on the NIST shuttle. My badge was not ready until Thursday, so I had to use my visitor's pass to get into work until my badge was ready. We get to work around 8:45 and walk to our respective buildings and offices. I share an office with Anwar, a very untalkative man, as well as the refrigerator, coffee machine, and water fountain. Everyone comes in to deposit their lunch or procure coffee, so I am never lonely. At 12 we go to lunch with the group and sit under the gigantic beech tree in the courtyard with the solar-powered fountains with artificially blue water. We talk about random things for an hour and then return to our work. Alex, Pat, and I catch the 5:00 or 5:30 shuttle to Shady Grove and then ride the metro home. Then we cook dinner, do dishes, and collapse exhausted on to our beds until the next morning. (We also make time to hang out with the other interns and read some scientific papers).
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Russell Johnson taught me how to use GaussView, Gaussian, and Cygwin to run my calculations. Unfortunately though I am not quite sure what my project is yet. The person I am supposed to be working with is currently out of the country, so I haven't gotten to meet her yet. But Russ and Cynthia have been helping and giving me good ideas about how to get started on my project, so I'm running some calculations right now. I'm studying (or at least I think I'm studying) the interactions between the different bases of DNA, so I started calculating the energies of the different bases by themselves, and then I will try them in different combinations to see what happens.
On Wednesday night we left work early to go to this CNSF event on Capitol Hill. All of these different groups that get government funding showcase what they have been studying and talk to people. There's a lot of food, and I met a representative and the director of NSF. I also talked to a lot of people and learned about the development of racial stereotyping in children, the biochemistry of oil spills, invasive butterfly species, and a million other things that I can't remember right now. And the best part was I got a really cool toy tornado, the little bottles that you shake and a tornado is made out of bubbles. After that, our feet hurt from wearing nice shoes, so we all went home.