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Name Cabot Zabriskie
Old Dominion University
Mather Policy Intern:
US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
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I have just completed my junior year at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA as a physics major with a minor in mathematics.  Currently, I am working on completing my research on diatomic molecule potentials. The jury is still out as to exactly what field I plan to pursue within physics, but so far I’m enjoying exploring the many options.

Outside of the realm of physics my interests vary anywhere from reading to kayaking to video games. If time permits I am usually game for almost anything and everything. I enjoy meeting new people and exploring new cultures and am very much looking forward to being in D.C.


Name Cabot Zabriskie
Old Dominion University
Mather Policy Intern:
US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Review of the Summer Friday, July 22nd Friday, July 1st Friday, June 10th
Friday, August 5th Friday, July 15th Friday, June 24th Friday, June 3rd
Friday, July 29th Friday, July 8th Friday, June 17th

Review of the Summer

A week later and I still can’t believe that my summer internship is over; if you had asked me this summer how long I though this internship would last I would have said forever. And yet it is now over and I am writing my final entry into the summer journal.

When I found out that I had been accepted into this internship, I didn’t know what to expect. Part of me liked that, going into the unknown can be fun, and I was excited to get down to DC to start of my summer. Like most things of that nature, the first few weeks were the most exciting, getting to meet all of the new people along with the fear and excitement that goes with starting a new job; trying to find my way with the Committee without screwing up too badly. It honestly didn’t take me too long to get settled in and by the second week on the job I was already swamped with work and the interns had plans in place to go visit all the touristy places throughout DC.

Now, one thing that you do catch onto quick is how the escalators work, stay right if you are standing and the left is for traffic. I would say it took me all of three days to start hating tourists who hadn’t figured that out yet.This was such an important thing for me because my main mode of transportation was the metro. In Norfolk the closest thing we have to the metro is a light rail system that, last I checked, still isn’t running and doesn’t even go as far as my school; so being in a city with a real mass transit system like that was absolutely amazing and I miss it already, not the paying for it part mind you (that got very expensive) but certainly the convenience.

I think I must mention that I could not have had a better place to work. The Committee Staff were great to work around; I think I learned more by being around them and hearing the real story on the happenings of Congress than I could have in any class. I just want to say that I really appreciate the time that I spent with them. Being on the minority side, I should mention, meant having less steady work; this of course meant that one minute I could be sitting at my desk looking toward a day of having nothing to do only a minute later to be wondering if I would have enough time left in the day to finish what I needed to. If I had occasion to go back up to DC I would definitely stop by to say “hi” to the staffers there.

In fact, one of my favorite things during the summer was going to hearings and having the chance to talk with the Staffers and see Congress in action or, in some cases, inaction (often funnier until you realize how important it is). During these events it fell to me to take the pictures for the Committee, so if you go to the democratic site for the Science, Space, and Technology Committee and look at the hearing I was there for, you will see the pictures that I took. I know it doesn’t sound like much but I’m still proud of that. Just being part of what was going on up on the Hill was great, if not occasionally embarrassing (we had a summer of scandals and dysfunctional debt debate). Being the kind of person I am, my biggest regret is not getting to contribute more (sort of like having “but one life to give for my country” but less morbid).

Another thing that I thoroughly enjoyed was giving a tour of where I worked to everyone. The fact the people were interested enough to cause us to run over our allotted time for questions amazed me and I was more than happy to be able to answer them. Despite still being sick that day, having the chance to take people around my work and show off my summer world made that one of the best days of the summer.

We also went to tour everyone’s work and one of the ones that stood out for me was going to NIST (I was too sick for ACP to remember much of anything, but I do remember the BBQ being really fun). Just having the opportunity to see all of the fascinating things going on at NIST helped rekindle my reasons for going into physics in the first place. I could go on for a while on all of the cool things that I saw, but I think the best and probably the silliest was the service elevator. Ask any of the interns, I guarantee you that they remember it.

On the whole the summer wasn't everything I expected it to be, but there were a lot of great things that I experienced during my time in DC and, in many cases, things went far better than I could have imagined. I saw my first (very belated) concert, I made some good friends, finally saw some fireworks again, met some very important people, and had a lot of good times.

Friday, August 5th

And thus begins my last journal, not my last post as there is a final one on the overall experience, but the last of the weekly journals.

This week marked the end of my summer in DC and the end of this internship. I had my last days of work wherein the debt crisis was resolved, though S&P still downgraded us. I was also able to visit all of the Dem. Member offices in search of signatures; so after several weeks on the Hill I was actually able to see where many of these people work.

Of course my work week was only two days and on Tuesday I said my goodbyes over pizza and ice-cream because the committee staff is awesome. I realize now that that is something that I have been remiss in mentioning, my committee’s staff are pretty awesome, so future interns remember that. Additionally, they gave me a House of Representatives space pen as a leaving gift, now I can write anywhere: space, underwater, upside down, anywhere.

On Wednesday, all of the interns went up to ACP to have our farewell breakfast and free stuff givawayapaluzathon. I enjoyed spending the final morning with everyone, talking about our summer and filling out thank you cards for everyone we met along the way.

Well, I’m going to cut this short so that I have plenty to write for the final reflection, but I want to thank everyone who has read up to this point. I hope you have enjoyed it and for those who have not then I have no idea why you are still reading, the internet is big there are other things to read. See you next week for the final, final writing but until then, call your congressperson.

Friday, July 29th

It has been a long week up on the Hill; with the debt crisis deadline fast approaching, things are tense around here. Nevertheless, I managed to have a fairly productive week despite the gridlock that many are facing.

On Tuesday, I had my last Hearing (not markup) on getting the most out of limited science funding. As this is a topic of great concern to my future prospects, I was happy to see that all of the witnesses did an excellent job of defending the merits of science funding, the peer review process, and the integrity of the scientific community. Additionally, I was able to once again see Dr. Marrett who was there to testify before the committee on this matter.

Later in the day Dr. Mather came to visit the Hill interns’ offices along with Gary White and David Kronig. My first visit was at the office of my Committee’s Ranking Member, Eddie Bernice Johnson. There we discussed science policy and the attitudes of the members toward science. It was refreshing to see a member of congress so enthusiastic about the value of science and I believe that Dr. Mather and the other visitors felt much the same way. Additionally, I was honored by the praise I received from my office’s Chief of Staff and Intern Coordinator before not only Dr. Mather, but also the Congresswoman and those present from AIP. Our meeting with Rep. Johnson very much got the visit off to a good start.

After meeting and having our pictures taken with the Congresswoman, we went to Courtney’s office to meet with Representative Holt. Meeting Rep. Holt for the first time proved very enjoyable and far less nerve racking as the meeting I had to set up, though I imagine you will find the opposite true with Courtney. Unfortunately, Rep Holt had to run off to make a vote on the floor, but having the chance to meet with the Representatives and facilitate their meeting with Dr. Mather made the whole day very worth it.

Thursday marked my final work on the committee floor with a Markup on harmful algae blooms (HABs). I would like to point out that I have followed this bill since day one when it was but a hearing…but a glimmer in the eye of Congress, and as such it made a very fitting end to my time on the Hill. Though very similar to our previous full committee markup, things did get heated near the end and the vote was postponed for an hour so that other members could meet their obligations to the Judiciary Committee. Because of this postponement I was unable to watch the final vote as I took my lunch hour to go to a James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Lunch and Learn. I was able to see just how much progress has been made on the JWST as well as the interest of many of those who attended including, for a time, Rep. Holt.

After the Lunch and Learn, I was off to meet with two interns from the National Academies to discuss my experience on the Hill with them. It was a great experience to speak with other interns about my experience in science policy on the hill and hear about their experience working off the Hill on much the same thing. Therefore I have concluded that last week was the week of “T” days since those were by far my most busy.

So with that my second to last weekly journal entry draws to a close. I imagine that there are still many questions left unanswered and for that all I can say is I will see you next week for the final installment of this epic saga…

Friday, July 22nd

Week eight…this is the third to last journal entry for me. Well, let’s finish this strong then, shall we.

This week was originally supposed to be a recess week, but with the impending financial crisis fast approaching, the House was unable to justify taking a week off. Of course my committee doesn’t really have much to do with that - that joyous task mostly falls under the purview of the Appropriations Committee, so instead we had a full committee markup on cybersecurity.
This was quite the markup, like some of my past hearings I highly recommend going to the committee website (just type science committee into Google) to watch the proceedings. There was a great deal of debate and it was a great chance to see many of the members I don’t get to see on many occasions.

After this I went to an AIAA luncheon on the NASA CCP (Commercial Crew Program) with representatives from across the industry including Boeing, ULA, Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin, and SpaceX, just to name a few. It was really good to hear from the commercial space industry and their prognosis of commercially viable LEO (low earth orbit) vehicles, especially in light of that morning’s landing of Atlantis and the end of America’s ability to put humans in space. The general consensus from the panel was that the 2015 timetable for the first manned launches was completely reasonable, of course pending adequate funding. Being a huge space buff, I found all of this incredibly interesting and look forward to mid decade when these vehicles will hopefully be sending astronauts back into orbit.

Later on Thursday, all of the interns met up at RFD Washington for Anish’s Science Café with Dr. James Gates. I went to some other science cafés so know that I mean no offense, but this was the best science café I have ever been to. Dr. Gates was very interesting and engaging and the venue couldn’t have been better. I think I learned more about string theory that night than in the rest of my life. Afterwards we all had dinner with Dr. Gates and inducted him into Sigma Pi Sigma.

On Friday we had the final presentations for the internship. I must say, that they were all fantastic and the event was a lot of fun. It was great to have all the people from AIP and others not only watch our presentations but also ask questions that showed that we were able to keep them engaged. For my own presentation I had several great questions and I would gladly give it again. I would go into detail about the presentations of the other interns, but I will instead direct you to read their journal entries. Enjoy.

Friday, July 15th

Seven weeks, it has been seven weeks; all I can say is wow. I must admit there was a bit of a lull in activity the past couple of weeks, but this one really set things going again. Of course two hearings and two markups over the course of three days certainly helped. So why such accolades you surely must be asking yourself, what about this past week could have made it overshadow the previous ones? Well I’m not going to tell you…okay I will.

Tuesday was the first hearing of the week on NASA SLS (space launch systems); now for those of you who don’t know me (which I don’t imagine are many of those reading this) I love space. I want to see man not only return to the moon but go far beyond that, so you can imagine my excitement at being able to see the NASA Administrator, Gen. Bolden, testify to congress on the future on manned spaceflight only days after the final launch of the shuttle program, STS 135. I won’t bore you with the details of the hearing, but I will tell you that the committee members are very much for manned space flight and are aggravated that they have yet to see the plan for the future of manned space flight despite promises that it would be before them in spring.
Additionally, some members expressed their displeasure at the budget zeroing of the James Webb Space Telescope, a sentiment that rings true for me as well.

This past week I was also able to see my first markup and they are short! We had one last all of 15 minutes, so take that people who say that congress is slow. Also we got the new camera in this week, and I am happy to report that it takes pictures when I press the button and not whenever it feels like it. Additionally it has higher resolution and better optical zoom so I can get those close-up shots that I am famous for*.

On Friday I did not go to work on the hill again, but went to visit NSF in Virginia. I really enjoyed being back in a state whose laws I am at least somewhat familiar with. I know that may be a strange sentiment to have, but it is oddly comforting to know what my non-national rights are (okay I may have spent a bit too much time on the Hill). NSF was an interesting experience, usually we have to go to the various speakers with whom we meet, but here they came to us. I must say I was impressed and the people that worked at NSF genuinely seemed to enjoy what they and the agency do, I just wish I could get some of that funding myself, but so far all of my funding has come from other sources. Therefore thank you other sources of funding and hopefully a future thank you to NSF.

As is customary I am sure that I have left some crucial detail or event out of my journal entry and for that I can only say “oh well, maybe next week”. I’m glad that some of you have kept with me from the start and will hopefully stick with me until the end, which is oddly the same day that the debt ceiling needs to be raised, so fingers crossed.

*hyperbole under creative license statute 416b**
**may not actually exist.

Friday, July 8th

June is over and July is now upon us and with only about a month left, I am not alone in being a little shocked by how quickly the summer is passing by. I suppose I would be remiss not to mention that we were warned, but nevertheless it is hard to believe that this is journal six. As I am sure everyone is well aware, this past week was marked by the Fourth of July. Being in DC, we were obligated to go see the fireworks on the Mall and boy did we, getting there about five hours early we were able to obtain seats right next to the Lincoln Memorial. After a few hours of contending with increasing crowds and the constant threat of rain we finally got our 17 minutes of fireworks in what I like to think of as the long American tradition of trying to blow up the sky once a year.

Of course, fireworks were not the only thing to happen this week; at work we had a hearing on E15, which is an ethanol blend with 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. I found the general gist of it was that the auto industry, as well as many other industries affected by ethanol, are not fans of the change from E10 to E15, nope not big fans at all. I also went to an ARPA-E luncheon where the director Dr. Majumdar gave a fascinating talk about the revolutionary work being done by ARPA-E. I won’t bore anyone with too many details, but I highly encourage anyone interested in future energy technologies to go to the ARPA-E website and read up on the multitude of projects that they have funded.

I hope that those that have been with this journal from the beginning are still enjoying it and that any new arrivals are feeling welcomed. Have a good week and until next time, adios.

Friday, July 1st

Week five, and what a week it has been. I should mention that this week saw me in the midst of a summer cold, a rather gargantuan annoyance during such an eventful week. This was another relatively slow week at work, being recess, which worked out for the best affording me time to attend to my other internship duties.

Monday, I had capitol tour training all afternoon. I learned more about the capitol in those few hours than I had ever before; I also learned that if you want a capitol tour you have two options: you can get a tour with one the tour guides in the big groups or you can contact your congressman and get a staff led tour. One thing that I found particularly striking was how small the capitol is inside, I am not trying to be disrespectful to the capitol, I just expected it to be far larger based on the outside. However the rotunda is beautiful, especially the dome, which is made of wrought iron (oh the little tidbits you learn in training).

On Tuesday I went to see Colin Powell speak on the House Floor as part of the intern lecture series. I found his talk to be very enlightening as well as quite funny. Oddly enough, he was very non-alarmist especially with respect to the nuclear programs of nations like Iran and North Korea and the rise of Chinese prominence, which after spending any time on the Hill or even just listening to the news is a rather remarkable tact to take on those issues. If you can’t tell, I enjoyed this lecture immensely.

Thursday we all went up to tour ACP with the exception of Binayak who had some training to do at NIST. The tour took up the bulk of the day as we went from floor to floor and department to department to find out what the other interns have been up to as well as just what exactly goes on at ACP. After this we traveled up the road to the University of Maryland where we took a physics knowledge quiz; I need to brush up on a few things. Then we attended a great bbq where I was able to the Dr. Mather again and to meet his wife. By this point in the day my cold was starting to get better, which helped to make this the highlight of the day for me.

Friday, was me and Courtney’s day to give tours of the capitol and our respective places of work and I have to say we knocked it out of the park and if you don’t believe me, just ask me again. I was really surprised by the amount of questions everyone had, especially about committee work. It is always fun to see people interested in what you are doing and it’s even better to be able to answer those questions.

Well that just about covers everything, thank you to those who have kept with me for these five weeks and I hope you return next week for even more.

Friday, June 24th

I can’t believe that June is almost over, I feel like I just got here, but this really is the fourth journal entry. This was another exciting week on the Hill, not as exciting as last week with its four hearings, but still a good week. We only had one committee hearing this week on the NOAA Climate Service, and with climate being the debated issue that it is, the hearing proved to be a very passionate one. If anyone is interested in watching to see what I mean you can find the webcast on our committee website. Further, despite continued camera issues, I was still able to get some very nice shots for the website. I assure you that I am in no way compensated for my shameless plugs for the committee website.

This week there was yet another science café, this time located up in Maryland. Unfortunately I was only able to catch the end of the café after taking a very lovely, though longer than desirable, walk from the metro station. Nevertheless, from what I heard it was a very interesting café.

I was also able to meet with Jennifer and David on Thursday for lunch in the Ford Cafeteria. As was to be expected we had some very lively discussions on my work as well as the nature of life on the hill. As you can tell I have been learning the fine art of being vague, so you will have to excuse me while I try to find the balance in this.

Other than that not too much, with the Thursday mark-up getting postponed it was a pretty quiet week after Wednesday. Despite next week’s recess, I am fully expecting to have a very full week with two tours and capitol tour training and the approaching Fourth of July I imagine my next entry will have a great deal more to tell. So, keep coming back or risk missing the excitement.

Friday, June 17th

So, journal entry number three, I feel like I just wrote journal number two. This has been quite a week. We had four hearings in the committee this week and I got to go to every one. My job at these hearings is to take pictures for the website and any other uses the pictures may be deemed useful for. After getting to spend so much time in hearings this week, I feel much more intimately acquainted with the committee room. I am now starting to feel less like I’m imposing on the proceedings and more like I am part of them, just a part that doesn’t speak during them that is. Overall, I really enjoyed seeing congress at work as well as seeing my work from the last week come to fruition in these hearings.

On Monday we all went to another science café, in DC this time, about what annoys us. I had a lot of fun, especially considering that I arrived late; I suppose I was making up for being so early to the internship lecture last week. Still, it was only a few minutes late, just enough for all the seats to be taken, though Kendra was kind enough to find some space for me. A couple days later, Courtney and I went to a happy hour with other science policy interns. Before this however, we went to a NASA reception where I met an astronaut who is actually from the same area as I am. I even had my picture taken with him, and I will post it somewhere as soon as I can get it from Courtney.

Most recently I went to the Newseum, it was very good and well worth going to. They did a very good job of not only telling the story of American journalism, but also highlighting the successes and failures of the United States. I highly recommend this museum, especially if you have a wristband that gets you in for free, yes another reference to last week’s internship lecture.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s entry and I assure you next week’s will be even better.

Friday, June 10th

Well another week has come and gone here in DC and I must say it was quite a week. Last week I mentioned that I didn’t have a lot to do at work during my first week, being new and all. Well this week was very much the opposite of that. Even though the House is in recess this week, there is still a lot of work to be done; the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has four hearings next week alone. As such there is a lot of prep to do for these hearing and I have been fortunate enough to be able to help with two of the four. All I can say is that I know a lot more about certain subjects like clean energy than I used to; any more than that is privileged information and I’m not at liberty to discuss it at the moment (I really do enjoy saying that). One really great thing about the House being recessed is the dress code, that’s right, no tie and the top button open and while that may not sound like much, I invite you to visit DC in the summer and say that again. And one thing to any future interns in Ford, if you go to the cafeteria there, get the daily grill special, so far it has been really good.

On a less work related note, Tuesday we (all the interns) went to a science café down in Arlington. It was an interesting experience and I think that it had to be really helpful to Anish and the SOCK girls. On the whole it was nice to get out with everyone and see the AIP people again since I don’t go up there too often myself.

Wednesday we had an internship seminar, I was the first to arrive, not only of our group, I helped set up chairs and remove tables that’s how early I was. It was a good lecture, not too formal and a good amount of information to boot. I say good amount because some of the information was common sense, like don’t dress poorly and be careful using work email. After that some of us went out to Thai, I wasn’t originally going to get any food, but that Thai food is so alluring.

Thursday was the first day we didn’t have anything to do after work so I finally had an opportunity to go to the gym where I am pleased to announce that they have racquetball. So obviously Anish, Courtney, Erin, Amanda, and I played racquetball and while I may not be the best at that game, I sure do enjoy it.

Friday I had a meeting with Kendra and Jennifer about my internship at a very nice restaurant, I had the pasta. Friday was also Capitol Steps night, where I had the pleasure of meeting members of the Executive Council and seeing a very funny show. After that we went to a really nice bar by Union Station, but by that point in the week I was far too tired to do much beyond simply be there. As such I think I will put some more effort into this sleep thing.

Well thank you for coming back to read my semi-humble journal, I hope you enjoyed it and will return in the coming weeks for more tales of the Capitol.

Friday, June 3rd

As week one draws to a close, I have the opportunity to write the first of many journal entries about my internship in DC. Living as close as I do to the District of Columbia I was the first intern to arrive on Sunday and as such I spend much of my day trying to help the other interns get moved in, especially with the last minute change of check-in from Amsterdam to Marvin, but in the end we all got moved in, with the exception of our one missing intern who will be joining us later.

Since we didn’t have to go anywhere on Monday, we all went out Sunday night and Monday seeing such important sights as the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials and less important sights like Target and Trader Joe’s. I have to say that it was a lot of fun having this opportunity to get to know the other interns and spend time around D.C.

On Tuesday we all took the metro up to College Park for the AIP orientation where we had the opportunity to meet with the staff at AIP as well as Dr. Mather, who is graciously supporting my internship at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democratic Staff. After lunch with Dr. Mather, Courtney and I went down to our respective buildings on Capitol Hill to meet with our offices.

Since Wednesday I have been working in the Ford Building or as it is affectionately known “Siberia” mostly because of the four supplemental congressional buildings we are the most removed, have no congressmen offices, and are not connected via the underground tunnels. Nevertheless, I actually enjoy working in Ford; it feels special being in the oft-forgotten fourth building.

I was actually lucky enough to go to a subcommittee hearing on my first day on HABS (harmful algae blooms) and get my own desk and account on the House network. Things have been slow for the first week, hopefully next week I will have learned enough to start being more useful. So far the biggest challenge has been the phones, you wouldn’t expect them to be but when you have ranking members of the Committee call, you really don’t want to accidentally hang up on them.

Well that’s all for this week, I’m sure that I forgot quite a few things but this is the first entry after all, so improvement await. Be sure to tune in next week for more adventures.

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Name Cabot Zabriskie
Old Dominion University
Mather Policy Intern:
US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Follow SPS on: Twitter Facebook YouTube Photobucket The Nucleus Email and Share
Final Presentation

US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

This past summer I worked as one of two Mather Interns on Capitol Hill. I spend my time working for the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology performing a myriad of tasks ranging from research to photography all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. This opportunity has been enlightening, providing insights into the true workings of Congress and the hard work of those behind the scenes. My work this summer was funded through the generosity of the John and Jane Mather Foundation for the Arts and Sciences.

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