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Katherine Stankus

Portland State University, AIP Mather Policy Intern

As an AIP Mather Policy Intern, Katherine is spending her summer at Capitol Hill with the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The primary purpose of the AIP Mather Policy Internships (supported by the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts) is to promote awareness of and interaction with the policy process in Washington D.C. for undergraduate physics students.

View Katherine's Final Presentation

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Week 1 | Week 2& Photoblog | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Final Reflections

Final Reflection

This summer internship with the Society of Physics Students has been a wonderful experience. As a Mather Public Policy Intern, I not only learned how science policy is conducted at the national level but also furthered my career interests.

My internship with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology allowed me to learn first-hand how things are done on the Hill. More specifically, this was through our participation in conducting written informative research for staff members and attendance at hearings and markups. From my internship experiences, I learned the importance of not only being an involved citizen but also being an informed citizen. In addition to my internship duties I also had the opportunity to meet several different representatives, go to various receptions and luncheons held on the Hill, and meet some influential people in society.

Overall, the Society of Physics Students summer internship program was a fantastic experience. The different summer internships helped to demonstrate the different career paths a physics student can pursue besides academia and research. In addition to the internship, students participating in this program were able to meet other physics students from across the country and live in Washington DC for the summer. Coming from the West Coast, I was excited to be able to work and live in Washington DC. On the weekends, the other interns and I were able to explore many of the different DC tourist attractions such as the Mall, Smithsonian museums, and monuments. Some of the most memorable events of the summer included the 4th of July fireworks at the Mall, going to a Nationals Baseball Game, going to a classical music concert at the Kennedy Center, seeing the band “She and Him” live, being invited to breakfast at the U.S. House of Representative Dinning Room with Rep. Bill Foster an Dr. John Mather, meeting Bill Nye, and going on a Segway Tour of the city.

As a recent graduate, I plan to work for a couple of years in my field. Since returning back to the Pacific Northwest, I have begun to apply for several different jobs related to my interests in environmental issues such as atmospheric science, climate change, clean energy technologies, and policy. This internship experience has not only helped me learn more about science policy but has also helped me solidify my desire to find a career that is both meaningful and will help contribute to finding solutions to global environmental issues.

Through this summer internship program, I have met some wonderful people and have had some great experiences. Therefore, I encourage all undergraduate physics student to apply for the Society of Physics Students Summer Internship Program.

Week 9: End of a Great Summer Internship
August 5-9, 2013

The beginning portion of this week was dedicated to wrapping up my internship experience with the Society of Physics Students (SPS) at the American Center of Physics (ACP). The commute out to College Park was a lot longer than my usual commute to the Ford Office House Building since ACP is located in Maryland. Monday was set aside for practicing our final presentations and for receiving feedback from our peers. Tuesday was the day of our final presentations where we all presented our internship experiences to our mentors, friends, family, peers, and the ACP staff. All the presentations went very well and it was great to hear about the other SPS interns experiences and what they learned during the past 9.5 weeks. My presentation was last and was followed by some excellent questions like, "How do you meet with your representatives?" Following the presentations, my family and I had lunch at the Mather Internship Table, which was composed of Dr. John Mather, Jennifer Greenamoyer (AIP mentor), Pamitha Weerasinghe (Science Committee mentor), and Nikki Sanford and her family.

Later that day all the SPS interns went to the State Department for a tour where we met with a couple of physicists and astronomers working there. They talked about how they use their science backgrounds in their work to create policies and showed us another career that a person with a physics background can do. Wednesday was the final day our SPS internship which we spent filling out evaluations, signing thank you cards, and going a tour of the different societies located within the American Center of Physics building. More specifically, we went to the Niels Bohr Library, the Archives, and met with the directors of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). The rest of the day was dedicated to packing and hanging out with the other SPS interns before we all head out on our different paths.

This has been such a wonderful internship experience. I gained valuable insights into how science policy is conducted at the Capitol and clarified my careers goals. I also met many wonderful people ranging from new friends to professional contacts. I look forward to using the skills gained from this internship and from my education in my career.

Week 8: Last Week Working Capitol Hill
July 29-August 2, 2013

Nikki, Katherine, and Bill Nye
Selfie with Bill Nye

Not only was this week the last week for Nikki and I working at the Science Committee but it was also the last week before Congress goes into its’ August Recess. Therefore, there was quite a bit of work that had to be done. There were two hearings scheduled (The Frontiers of Human Brain Research and EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment – A Factual Review of a Hypothetical Scenario) along with a Full Committee Business Meeting and Markup of H.R. 2850, EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study Improvement Act. In addition to helping prepare materials for and attending these hearings and markups, I completed my on-going research project for one of the Staff members.

Eddie Bernice Johnson
Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson and I

Some other exciting events that happened this week was the Google Hangout Session on Monday. During this Google Hangout, Nikki and I talked about our experiences working as an intern at the Minority Science Committee and how physics has played a role. You can find the hangout on YouTube.

I was also able to meet with Representative Suzanne Bonamici this Wednesday. Ms. Bonamici represents Oregon's 1st Congressional District which includes part of the Portland area which is where I went to college. It was great to meet another representative who was also on our Committee and from the Pacific Northwest. That evening, all the interns went to the NASA's One Year Anniversary of its Curiosity Rover on Mars in the Hart Building on the Senate side. At this event, I met and had my picture taken with Charles Bolden, the current Administrator of NASA, Bill Nye, and of me wearing an astronaut suit.

Since Friday was our last day, the interns were all bought lunch and were also able to meet with Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson. It has been great working with the Minority Science Committee and I cannot wait to share my internship experiences with everyone back home.

Week 7: An Environment and Energy Hearing, NASA on the Hill, and the Society of Physics Students (SPS) Capitol Tour
July 22-26, 2013

Astronaut Suit
At NASA Technology Day on the Hill

The beginning of the week was dedicated to preparing materials for the upcoming hearings on Wednesday and Thursday. As the point-intern for Wednesday’s Joint Environment and Energy Subcommittee hearing entitled, Lessons Learned: EPA’s Investigations of Hydraulic Fracturing, I helped Staff with research and helped write questions to gain a better insight on what the witness’s views were on the subject matter. At the hearing, I took photos and later uploaded them onto the Minority Committee’s facebook page.

It is always interesting to compare how you think the hearing will go by reading all the materials (charter, memo, and witness testimonies) and learning background information on the topic to how things actually unfold at the hearing. Members dictate how the hearings will go by focusing on certain topics and asking the witnesses specific questions to clarify or supplement their viewpoint. For this particular hearing, it got pretty heated during the questioning part when Members asked the witnesses if they could give a “yes” or “no” response to whether they could prove that hydraulic fracturing contaminated water resources and if so to cite a specific example. Most of the witnesses gave a vague response because they did not have the data to support a claim on hydraulic fracturing effects on water resources.

SPS on the Hill
The Society of Physics Students Capitol Tour

After a long day of work (two hearings on Wednesday) all the interns went to the NASA Technology Day on The Hill held in the Rayburn Lobby. The event included lots of interesting exhibits for space exploration. For example, companies were there promoting their new designs for astronaut suits & gloves, rovers that explored underground pits and caves, 3-D printing in space, and heating pad materials of a space craft for launching and reentering the Earth’s atmosphere. It was quite fascinating to learn about all the space exploration inventions that are currently being marketed.

Friday afternoon, the other Society of Physics Students (SPS) Interns came and visited the Capitol. The tour included lunch at the Library of Congress Cafeteria, a 13 minute movie introducing the Capitol, an official tour of the Capitol led by a red-coated tour guide, and a tour of the Minority Science Committee Office.

This weekend was also very busy for me too. On Friday night, Fiona and I went to a Washington Nationals Game. It was my first professional baseball game and was a ton of fun. On Saturday, I went on a Segway tour of DC and then on Sunday, the other Science Committee interns and I went to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (the other Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum) by Washington Dulles International Airport.

Science Committee Interns
Annas Rahman, Joe Flarida, Pamitha Weerasinghe, Nikki Sanford, & Katherine Stankus

Week 6: Another Busy Week
July 15-19, 2013

On the Hill
Dr. John Mather, Katherine Stankus, Nikki Sanford, and Representative Bill Foster

The main event this week was the markup of H.R. 2687: NASA Authorization Act of 2013 on Thursday which began at 11:15am and lasted until 5:30pm. A total of 38 amendments were proposed. In addition to preparing materials and helping out at the markup, I worked on a couple of research projects for staff and did some transcription edits.

On Friday, Nikki and I met Dr. John Mather and Representative Bill Foster for breakfast at the Member’s Dining Room. It was nice to meet with Dr. Mather again and to meet Representative Bill Foster and learn about his transition from physics to politics.

In the afternoon, Nikki and I made the commute to Shady Grove for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) tour that one of the other Society of Physics Students (SPS) interns planned for everyone. We went to several different labs within the facility and learned what the mission of NIST is and how it differs from the National Labs. To conclude, Friday evening consisted of going to the Food Truck Festival located by the Navy Yard metro station. The selection of foods to choose from was slightly overwhelming but the atmosphere was a lot of fun. Also, next to the Food Truck Festival was a Nationals baseball game. As a result of the surplus of people at the Nationals Game and the Food Truck Festival, the metro ride home was the most crowded I have been on since I’ve been here.

Science Committee Interns
All of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) Interns in front of the Newton Apple Tree Clone at NIST

Week 5: Hearings & Markups
July 8-12, 2013

Representative Kilmer and I.

This week has been the busiest week so far. Our committee had two markups (Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013 and the NASA Authorization Act of 2013) and two hearings (Strategic Planning for National Manufacturing Competitiveness and Oversight and Management of DOE National Labs and Science Activities) so by Friday, everyone in the office was pretty exhausted. A more in-depth break down of the week: preparing materials on Monday and then attending/assisting at the different markups and hearings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Also, on Tuesday afternoon, Nikki and I did our Capitol Tour training. Since we hardly ever go to the Capitol Building, finding the training location site was our first challenge. While we went on the practice tour we learned a lot about the different statues and other history trivia facts about the Capitol. Our tour for the other Society of Physics Students (SPS) interns should be pretty great!

Another exciting thing that happened this week was that I got to meet my representative, Mr. Kilmer. Mr. Kilmer is on the Science Committee so I was able to meet him at our Space Subcommittee Markup and got my picture taken with him.

In addition to work, I went to a couple of lectures and receptions on the Hill. Also, I went to a “She and Him” concert on Thursday evening at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Northern Virginia which was a lot of fun.

It is unbelievable how fast time flies – I am already half-way done with my internship. However, it only seems like it was yesterday that I landed in DC. I have learned so much since then and am excited to see what else is in store for me in the next couple of weeks.

Week 4: Congress out of Session and an Extended Holiday
July 1-5, 2013

This week Congress was out of session so work in the office was a little slow. Since there were no hearings to attend, most of the staff members were either finishing up on some work before the 4th or were already on vacation. In the beginning of the week all the interns went to a “Hood and Emergency Training” where we learned all the safety procedures for different scenarios that the Capitol may face.

Going Running
Nikki and I going for a run after work

For the 4th, some of the other SPS interns and I went to a BBQ in Northern Virgina. Our hostess was very generous and had a beautiful house with a swimming pool and pool table. The food was fantastic and the company was great. We spent the majority of the day there and then returned back to DC for the fireworks. Most people I had talked to about watching the fireworks from the Mall had said that it would be super crowded, however, when we arrived at the Washington Monument, there was plenty of room for us to sit down. We ended up getting a spectacular view of the fireworks being shot over the Reflection Pool. It was a great way to celebrate the 4th and was very patriotic.

This was only the beginning of our 4-day weekend. The next couple of days were spent doing various activities around town. On Friday, I ended up at the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. Originally, I had gone in to get out of the hot and humid weather, however, I found myself wandering around the museum for 3 hours. The collection was endless but fascinating to look at. Also, Fiona and I went to the Folklife Festival on Sunday. I had gone to the festival the previous weekend but it was nice to see some new tents and displays that I hadn’t seen before.

Week 3: Getting the Hang of Things and a Busy Week of Evening Receptions
June 24-28, 2013

Me sitting behind Congresswoman Edwards during the hearing

I feel like this week has gone by so quickly. Spilling over from the end of last week and the beginning of this week, I was busy preparing materials for the Hearing on “Restoring U.S. Leadership in Weather Forecasting, Part 2″ by the Subcommittee on Environment. For this particular hearing, I was the primary intern which meant that at the hearing I assisted staffers instead of taking photos. The focus of this hearing was on weather forecasting and in particular NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). This hearing was a continuation of a previous hearing on the same topic, but this hearing included more witnesses that could testify more accurately on the topic. The Witness Panel included a representative from NOAA, two representatives from the private industry, and a representative of academia. A recording of the hearing can be found at:

In addition to my intern duties at the Science Committee, I went to two different receptions on the hill. The first one was on Tuesday, 6/25 and was the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Science Policy Conference. At this reception, we were able to meet up with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) interns. Then on Wednesday evening, 6/26 I went to the 2013 User Science Exhibition where I got to learn about different technologies being produced. Also, I met a previous SPS intern (Jenna Smith, a 2005 SOCK intern) who is now currently pursuing a doctorate degree at Michigan State.

On both Thursday and Friday evenings, the other Mather Intern and I traveled to ACP and attended the evening receptions held for the SPS interns. On Thursday evening, 6/27 we met with members on the AIP Development Board where I was able to meet Dr. Mather. At the reception, I was able to meet and talk with lots of wonderful people, all supporters of the sciences. On Friday evening, 6/28 the other SPS interns and I will be meeting with the SPS Executive Committee and then going to a musical comedy performance at the Regan Building.

Week 2: Photoblog of the Duties of a Science Committee Intern
June 17-21, 2013

For my second week working for the Science Committee, I decided to create a photo blog to better illustrate what my duties are as an intern (available on the sidebar on the right). The first couple of photos show what my daily commute from Foggy Bottom to the Science Committee Minority Office located in the Ford Building is like. Next photos of the office are shown along with some of the things I do as an intern: replacing the newspapers in the morning, answering phone calls, doing research work for staffers, creating binders for the different hearings, and picking up and delivering mail.

The next segment of photos illustrates what my duties are when I attend a hearing. Hearings are located in Rayburn and the Science Committee prepares materials for both Full Committee and Subcommittee Hearings. For this week there were two hearings: a Full Committee Hearing on the Department of Energy Science Technology Priorities and a Subcommittee Hearing on the NASA Authorization Act of 2013. My duties at the hearing included making coffee for the Congress members, placing paperwork and materials out for the Minority, and taking photos of our members and of the witnesses.

Overall, my internship experience with the Science Committee so far has been wonderful and very informative. Hope you enjoy these photos!

Week 1: First Week in DC
June 10-14, 2013

Arriving late due to my school being on the quarter system, I hit the ground running. My first day of my internship included commuting with the other interns to the ACP (American Center of Physics) building in Maryland. Once we arrived, I met the AIP staff, had a mini orientation, and finished up some paperwork with HR. It was a nice way to start because later there was a bbq and talent show for the entire building. In the late afternoon, I headed over to the Capitol and met everyone in the office (Minority House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology)  I would be working with for the next couple of months. I got a tour of the office area, walked to some of the other buildings we commute to, and received my official ID badge.

The next day was my first real day of work. I commuted on the metro with the rest of the DC workforce. The morning consisted of more training and an overview of what an intern’s duties are for the summer. Later that afternoon I was given my first couple of assignments – research related work, dropping off transcripts to the Majority House Committee office in Rayburn, and picking up the mail.

It’s amazing how fast time flies by, I have been in DC for three days and feel like I have already been working here forever. It’s hard to believe that earlier this week I was finishing up on finals, moving out, and getting ready to fly to DC. This has been an eventful week and I am excited about what’s in store for next week – we will be having two hearings.


Katherine Stankus
A Day in the Life Photoblog:
Duties of a Science Committee Intern

My name is Katherine Stankus and I am originally from Port Townsend, WA. I just graduated from Portland State University with a degree in Physics with an environmental emphasis. I am interested in applying my physics degree to help solve global environmental issues such as policy, energy resources, and sustainability.

In addition to my physics studies, I studied Mandarin throughout my undergraduate career and also studied abroad at Nanjing University as a 2011 Undergraduate Boren Scholar. Although I have a technical degree, a complementary goal of mine has been to become fluent and literate in Mandarin I hope to utilize both my technical knowledge and my Chinese language fluency in my career.

Along with my studies at Portland State University, I worked in the Atmospheric Physics Lab measuring methyl chloride concentrations of water samples using stable carbon isotopes. Furthermore, I was the treasurer for the Recreation Clubs Council where I oversaw the budget for all University rec clubs.

This summer, I will be a Mather Policy Intern and will be working with the Committee of Science, Space and Technology. I look forward to working in DC and seeing how science and policy can be applied together to address global issues.

Also, in my spare time I like to run, hike, camp, play soccer, go to different events around town, and go to the theater and ballet.

Katherine Stankus

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