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The First Week: Insanity 101 - Jun 12, 2006 at 10:54PM
Kacey Meaker
2 Posts

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.

Replies to The First Week: Insanity 101

The rest of the first week's journal - Jun 12 2006 10:55PM
Kacey Meaker
2 Posts

Yesterday, Pat, Cynthia, Emily, and I (as well as some of the other group people whose names I can never remember) went to a SURF talk about studying how to preserve sunken ships, like the Titanic, Arizona, and Monitor. The best part was that we learned about the first submarine that actually managed to sink a ship. It was built by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. It was powered by 6 men pushing rotors, and the "captain" steered, operated the weapon part, and something else that I don't remember. The weapon was a mine on a twenty foot pole that was inserted into the ship. The first time it went out, the sub sank and everyone died. The next time it went out, the sub sank and everyone died. The third time, it blew up a ship and also the sub, and everyone died. I think they gave up after that. I guess they were desperate at that point in time, because that takes a lot of guts.

This morning, Cynthia and I went to a talk that Emily was giving for the Electron Physics group that she is applying for a job with. It was really interesting, and I actually think I understood a lot of it. It was about the surface interactions and bulk properties of these different metal oxide groups. It's really cool, and I never knew that you could figure out all this stuff from computer calculations before. It's a lot of fun. Right now I am running some more calculations comparing some different methods and basis sets for calculating the energies of the different bases. Then I'm going to start running calculations on different combinations of the bases together. Each calculation takes at least 30 minutes though, so I spent the downtime reading background material, making models of the bases, or organizing my data. Lunch is in 20 minutes, so I'm going to finish this up. This afternoon we have a picnic at ACP with all the other interns and some other people, so we're taking the 4:00 shuttle to hopefully get to ACP by 5:30. So long until next week.

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