My last official week at NASA passes quietly and unorganized as usuall. Since this is my last offical week, I'll make a short annalysis of my time here.
This city is a fun place to visit for families and indviduals alike and a great place to learn about your country. I'm not a big city man, so I certainly found myself frustrated at times with its ins and outs. However, I still had a good time eating at interesting restaurants, enjoying the unique atmosphere at various bars, walking the many streets, and of course seeing the city's sights. Overall, I would say this is a city I might not settle down in for too long, but I'd love to visit again. The Virginia countryside is a beautiful place to make a home, but is still close enough to the city to visit. (I'm a bit biased towards Virginia since I spent my ten years of life there.)
My time at Goddard was very short but I tell you this is an amazing place. I've been to several lectures and seen the enormous engineering buildings and even a piece of the space shuttle. I've seen how small science groups come up with new ideas and propose them and even witnessed several of their department meetings. Yea, it feels pretty cool to say: "I worked at NASA."
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At NASA, things have been rather slow. Admittedly not much has been accomplished on my project since I only managed to connect to my school's server this past week. My goal from the start has been to write a program to read sets of data from Neutron and Gamma Ray Spectrometers on LRO, Prospector, and Odyssey orbiters and analyze them using clustering. I already have a basic program that does this on several predetermined sets, but in order to be able to look at any set I need to improve the robustness of the program. I have a solid base, but there's still a lot of work to do. This week and next will mean a lot of coding for me.
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Since things at work have still been moving rather slowly I figured I'd throw in a little segment on keeping fit in the city for the next year's group or whoever is interested.
If there is ever concern whether or not you will be able to keep your shape in DC, you should dismiss them now. No really, you can't walk 3 blocks without tripping over a L.A. Fitness, cross-fit gym, or some other third option. My gym, Primal Fitness, happens to be at M st/New York st, just a few blocks away from the Mt Vernon metro stop; an easy stop to make on the way back from work on the green line. Primal is a cross-fit certified gym but with several other unique classes. It serves as one of the only parkour related gyms in the country and hold several parkour classes daily at varying degree's of difficulty. I go there specifically for the equipment (vault boxes, gymnastics mats, parallette bars, etc.) and small class size, which gets me a lot of one on one time with professional traceurs.
There are gyms all over DC, but if you don't like those options you can always run. DC, other name should be "The city that never stops running." I've been on snack runs at 3 AM and seen people running. I've even seen people out on those days when it was 105 degrees; they looked miserable but at least they were out there. The point is that the city is a good place to keep active because the community encourages it.
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This past weekend was fourth of July, and I had a feeling DC would be the city to do it big. The festivities encompassed the entire mall and included cultural celebrations of Native Americans, Mexico, Asia, and that's about as far as we made it before the heat got to us and we cooled off in the modern art museum. I was confused at first why they had so many exhibits celebrating countries other than America, but in a city that seems like it was built to do just that I suppose a purely American festival would be redundant; especially since American culture is a product of many different countries.
The fireworks started by the time the sun set and they were spectacular. As an added bonus our entire intern group had a pair of diffraction glasses, multiplying our show by 3, or 5 if the glasses had a 2-way diffraction grating. The show ended quicker than expected, but not without a fantastic finish and we returned to our rooms an hour later after the massive crowd dissipated.
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My internship with NASA has been pretty bumpy in getting a start. Getting clearance to get on the campus was just the beginning it turns out. In order to get access to a computer and appropriate software for my research, I needed to get cleared by security then take IT training. We are still waiting to hear about the status of the clearance request. Meanwhile I’ve done a lot of reading on the background for my proposed project. I’ve gotten to know a couple of the other interns as well as the NASA employees in my department so I’m not alone. To avoid the frustration of having little to do, I’ve taken the time to tour the buildings on the compound on my own and there are definitely some cool projects to see. I actually touched a part of the space shuttle! Once I am granted access to a particular computer at Goddard I will have all I need to proceed with my intended research. Details on that are certain to come later.
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We never have to struggle to find something to do around here. It sounds corny, but the only limitation to finding fun is your imagination and transportation of course. There plenty of theaters, landmarks, monuments and museums for the cultural side. Our group has been to many of the museums and memorials, yes including Einstein. SPS even funded a soiree at the Lincoln Theatre on U Street which was playing Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies; which was an amazing show in my opinion. Besides learning and culture there are plenty of clubs, bars, and restaurants to enjoy on evenings and weekends. We’ve had some good times at night finding a pub or bar to stop in at. It isn’t too hard to find a restaurant in the city, but sadly many of them close before 10 pm, so if you like to stay up late you’re stuck with either fast food or cooking in. There are plenty of CVS stores for some convenient groceries though, like one on every corner actually.
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Life in DC can be a lot of fun if you can adjust to the transportation situation. Getting to work and back is quite a commute whether you’re driving or taking the Metro and no matter how short the distance, it always seems to take longer than it should. The Metro rail system takes less than 5 minutes to understand and learning things like sprint-walking, train-surfing, and crowd dodging come pretty quickly. The rail, on the whole, is pretty efficient and if you time it right you can get from one end of the city to the other in 30 minutes. One downside, however, is that you’ll have to abandon your expectations of common courtesy. People are in a hurry and they will shove you into your handicapped neighbor when there is already 150 passengers on the car, and the next red line train leaves to Shady Grove in a whole 5 minutes.
The Metro bus is a completely different beast, for which I have no patience. I’ve found the bus to be unreliable and pretty much a waste of time. Many day’s it’s happened that the bus in a particular direction just never comes, or often times I could have walked to my destination and beat the bus. I try to avoid the bus at all costs. Taxi travel is convenient, but you will pay greatly for the convenience; taxi’s in the city start fare at $3.00 and charge you even just to sit in traffic. I take taxi’s only when I’m really lost, or carrying something very heavy. The most important advice I have is to learn to love walking. It’s good for you, almost always necessary, and usually quicker than the bus or a taxi.
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I spent about a week working with Jasdeep and Patrick on SOCK while NASA prepared to receive me at their facilities. A SOCK, or SPS outreach catalyst kit, is designed to aid outreach programs in SPS chapters which have never participated or have little experience in physics outreach. Included in the kits are fantastic examples and demonstrations based about a central theme or lesson. I know these kits are great since my chapter personally has received one (they actually come in a giant sock). As interns our goal is to analyze the effectiveness of past lessons/demonstrations and design new ones. This year being the 50th anniversary of the laser’s invention, colloquially dubbed “LaserFest”, SPS wanted to build a kit in honor of the laser as well as several other new ones. During my short time helping the SOCK interns I helped mostly by looking at past kits.
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My summer in DC started with a five hour drive from my hometown in New Jersey on May 28th. Aside from navigating the city streets, the move in process was clean and easy. GWU already had my information on file and I only had to pick up my GW access card and room key from New Hall. Having the SPS intern rooms on the 9th floor of the dorm made taking the elevator a necessity for moving heavy objects. My parents left me to unpack my belongings and found a hotel just outside the city.
I didn’t end up meeting any of the other interns until Sunday, so I spent my Saturday walking around and taking a run. Memorial Day weekend brought a huge number of roaring motorcycles to the city in celebration. It was definitely a fun time for motorcycle lovers; definitely not for everyone else. On Sunday I met my roommate Travis Barnett and his father, although they both had somewhere to be that night. That night was when I met most of the other interns. We eventually started congregating in the hallway of the dorm and decided to go to a restaurant and go grocery shopping. That night I learned two things: Thai food is very good and; if you’re buying groceries in the city, make sure you aren’t walking very far afterwards. The store we were at, Trader Joe’s, was at least 10 blocks away from the International House.
The SPS internship orientation at the American Center for Physics was scheduled as our official first day of work. To get to ACP we took the metro subway to College Park and found a local shuttle that transports people to businesses in the area. All of the interns met each other officially as we sat around a table and talked with Kendra Redmond and Gary White as well as several other SPS employees. Afterwards there was a presentation from each of the companies that run out of ACP followed by a luncheon. At this point each intern’s employing company had sent a mentor to give a tour and orientation of their respective facilities. NASA was unable to receive me at the time so I was instructed by Kendra and Gary to aid the SPS interns working on the SOCKs.
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