About Lynsey

Senior

Engineering Physics

Major: Engineering Physics, Accelerated track
Minor: Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Astronomy
Hometown: Twin Cities, Minnesota
Career Goals: To become involved in the space industry and our pursuit of the final frontier.
Why I chose Embry-Riddle: Its reputation, specialty, and community.
Activities: Sigma Pi Sigma Honor Society, The Avion Newspaper, Crew Team

That’s a wrap, folks!

1470133_10152371397308719_2856600370498912047_nSo tomorrow is the penultimate (that means second to last in fancy talk) day of my internship at SETI.

It’s crazy how fast the time here went, and at the same time I managed to pack so many amazing things into ten short weeks. I’m pretty sure that I can say this has been the greatest experience of my life. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, I still have a couple weeks of adventures to write about!

Since my last entry there has been less fun stuff and much more work – not that we skimped on the fun stuff at all. Shortly after I last wrote, I had to give what’s called a Journal Club talk, where we were each assigned a published research paper and then expected to give a fifteen minute presentation to the other interns and a handful of scientists that found the time to attend. This allows for skill-building both in reading scientific journal articles and in presenting scientific work. The paper that I was assigned was titled “Time Evolution of Viscous Circumstellar Disks due to Photoevaporation by Far-Ultraviolet, Extreme-Ultraviolet, and X-ray Radiation from the Central Star”, and was written by my mentor. It provided a really good foundation for understanding my own project, because I was using a lot of the same methods/modeling techniques. All-in-all I would say it was a successful experience.

The dome of the Lick Observatory Great Refractor telescope at sunset.

The dome of the Lick Observatory Great Refractor telescope at sunset.

The next big event for us was a trip up to Lick Observatory for a tour and star party, which was way cool. We got to see the 3 meter telescope – and stood outside the dome at sunset as it rotated around… what a view! While waiting for the sun to set completely, we were given a really cool history lesson about James Lick and the observatory. He’s definitely a really fascinating dude, look him up sometime. Then once it was finally dark we went inside the dome of the Great Refractor, the original telescope built in the late nineteenth century, and each got a chance to look at a few really cool celestial objects through it. And telescope or not, the sky up there was gorgeous – we could see the Milky Way once the moon set!

Five of us were asked to participate in an interview for a documentary called Madame Mars.

Five of us were asked to participate in an interview for a documentary called Madame Mars.

After the Lick trip the rest of the week was spent by some of us frantically working to get abstracts written and submitted to AGU (The American Geophysical Union), in order to attend the Fall Meeting in December – which is one of, if not the, biggest conferences in the country. I am one of the two or three SETI interns that submitted an abstract, which is titled “An Investigation of the Streamline Geometry of Photoevaporative Winds from Planet-Forming Disks” and can be read here by anybody who is interested! Another cool thing that happened that week was that I got interviewed for a documentary called Madame Mars, which is about women scientists studying Mars… more about that project here.

Whoever thought to put an amusement park on the beach had the right idea!

Whoever thought to put an amusement park on the beach had the right idea!

A lot of work always gets done as the deadline approaches, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t find time to have fun. For our penultimate Saturday a few of us took the train/bus journey down to Santa Cruz to check out the campus of UCSC, which is gorgeous by the way. Most of us are getting to the point where we need to start picking grad schools, so it was definitely a good trip to take. Then we spent the evening at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which – get this – is an amusement park… on the beach! We had a blast. Sunday I slept until noon and didn’t change out of my pajamas all day – which was much needed as I hadn’t had a single day without something planned since arriving.

Taking a very expensive selfie with my fancy new camera!

Taking a very expensive selfie with my fancy new camera!

My next big piece of news is about my big purchase – I’ve acquired a Canon 60D DSLR camera that is totally awesome and with which I am in love. I wanted to treat myself to a big purchase with some of my internship money (I mean, paying off my credit card debt was fun, but who wants to just pay bills all summer? I needed a new toy!) and after throwing a few different ideas around I think I definitely made the right choice. The thing I’m most excited about is astrophotography. I’m sure you all heard about the “super moon” last week, well I got an awesome picture of it. Just from my camera on the ground, no telescope or anything. I also got a cool photo of the big dipper – you might need to click on it and view the full size photo in order to really see it.

My photo of the super moon. Gorgeous, ain't it?

My photo of the super moon. Gorgeous, ain’t it?

My first try at long-exposure astrophotography - the Big Dipper!

My first try at long-exposure astrophotography – the Big Dipper!

My dad sent me a hand-me-down telephoto lens, and it is awesome. I totally feel like a paparazzi.

My dad sent me a hand-me-down telephoto lens, and it is awesome. I totally feel like a paparazzi.

Project-wise, I spent a lot of time during my final few weeks just de-bugging my model. That thing did NOT want to cooperate. Luckily, I finally got it working last night at about 11 pm, just in time to get some results for this morning’s presentation. But I’ll talk about that later.

Took a selfie with Echosmith!

Took a selfie with Echosmith!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last weekend was the last one before I fly back out to Florida in a few days, so I sought to make it epic. First off, there was no way I was going a whole summer without a concert – and by a stroke of luck, Echosmith was playing a free show in San Jose last Saturday! How cool is that? The best part about a free show is that I could actually take photos with my camera – concert venues tend not to allow DSLRs, which is a bummer, because I love photographing concerts. Then Sunday I spent all day at the San Francisco Zoo! I love the zoo. And I love taking pictures of animals, which is exactly what I did. My final photo count for the day was 1063 RAW photos, at about 22 MB each – needless to say my memory card was plenty full. I got some AMAZING shots, which you can feel free to peruse here. I’m still working on processing most of them, but I have a good number of great shots done and online already, and I’ll be adding more to that album as I get around to it. And for those of you too lazy to click the link, here are a few below…

1471911_10152370181498719_8458714252087793851_n 10568906_10152370180948719_1664403270343568912_n 10626553_10152370182388719_4671954672780335049_n

A few of us at our last Indian Lunch Buffet outing... :'(

A few of us at our last Indian Lunch Buffet outing… :’(

As the weeks started to wind down there have been a lot of “lasts”. We had our last lunch outing to the awesome Indian lunch buffet that is five minutes from the Institute. Tonight I went to my last yoga class of the summer (oh yeah, I’ve been doing yoga. It’s neat.) And Friday is our last day. It’s very surreal, and also very bittersweet. This week the work is (in theory) done, and it’s been mostly presentations every day. Yesterday we had to do what are called “Lightning Talks”, in which each student has 3 minutes and 3 slides to get up and talk about their project. These talks were open to the public as part of SETI’s colloquium series, and also filmed and put on their YouTube channel here. Mine starts around 7:35, if you’re interested in watching.

Suited up and ready to give a talk!

Suited up and ready to give a talk!

In addition to the lightning talks, we each have to give a fifteen minute presentation of our project in much more detail. I gave mine this morning and I think it went pretty well, but I don’t have a video of that one for you (darn, right?) Giving talks like that is nerve-wracking, but there’s something I do enjoy about getting all dressed up in my snazzy suit and talking about smart sciencey junk.

I’m not going to talk much about the details of my project right now, I’ll save that for when I have it all done and ready to show at AGU – and I’ll have a poster to link as well! But to give a basic overview (this information is all in the lightning talk video linked above), I worked on modeling circumstellar disks, which are the regions around young stars that planets form. Basically, the gas in these disks gets heated by the star and blows outward due to pressure changes from the temperature increase – fluid mechanics knowledge came in handy. This causes the disk to disperse after a few million years, which is why you don’t hear about new planets forming in our solar system nowadays: the disk is gone. My project specifically dealt with modeling the flow of these winds and generating a lot of plots using different cases, in order to determine how the geometry of the wind affects the disk. Simple, right? ;)

Selfie with the one and only Dr. Jill Tarter, who is both an amazing scientist and an amazing person, and I'm so fortunate to have gotten to meet her.

Selfie with the one and only Dr. Jill Tarter, who I’m so fortunate to have gotten to meet.

All in all, I’d just like to wrap up this entry by saying again what an amazing summer I’ve had interning at the SETI Institute, and I’d give my left kidney if I could participate in the program a second time. I’ve learned so much about my field and my interests, I’ve gotten career guidance, seen some amazing sights, lived in a part of a country that’s as close to paradise as I’ve ever seen (I really hope to move back here one day!) and, most importantly, I’ve met some really awesome people, both in the scientists at SETI and the other students. So I just want to say, for anyone relevant who may be reading this, how truly grateful I am to have had this opportunity to have done everything I’ve done, learned everything I’ve learned, and met everyone I’ve met.

I want to close out this entry by directing you to Dr. Tarter’s TEDtalk here. I hope you all understand how awesome and important SETI really is as a scientific endeavor, and that it’s not a bunch of crazy people with foil hats looking for aliens. :)

P.S. No, we didn’t find any aliens during my internship. :(

Alien-Hunters Just Wanna Have Fun

Hello, and welcome to the next installment of “I’m having the best summer ever and you’re jealous!”

The third week of my internship at SETI was spent up north at Hat Creek Radio Observatory and Lassen National Park, about six hours away by van. That was quite the adventure. Of course one of the strangest things about being on a radio observatory is that you’re not allowed to turn on your cell phone! The wireless signal interferes with the collection of data from the telescopes (that means no WiFi either – luckily we had ethernet in the cabins) so it was airplane mode all week. Which, in this day and age, was a much bigger deal than it seems. Have you ever noticed that if you get into arguments, you just google and find the answer? Try having that taken away from you – it’s really a culture shock.

One of the coolest thing about being out in the middle of nowhere was the sky. You could see so many stars, satellites flying past, and even the Milky Way! We spent the whole first night just laying outside and looking up. It was breathtaking.

Some of the radio telescopes at the Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek

Some of the radio telescopes at the Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek

The first two days at Hat Creek were spent learning about the observatory and doing some neat experiments with the telescopes. It was very cool to be sitting in SETI’s radio observatory and listening to Dr. Jill Tarter and Dr. Gerry Harp talk about their search for extraterrestrial radio signals. Oh, and we got to watch Contact with Dr. Tarter, which, if you weren’t aware, is pretty much based on her. I get serious bragging rights for that in the science community. She told us neat things, like which characters were based on real people and where the scientific inaccuracies were.

The Cinder Cone at Lassen. WHICH I CLIMBED.

The Cinder Cone at Lassen. WHICH I CLIMBED.

Our third day was spent at Lassen Volcanic National Park where we hiked the cinder cone to learn some geology. And I should emphasize, I hiked to the top of the cinder cone! If you’ve never seen a cinder cone, it’s basically a steep mountain where the entire surface is made of loose gravel – for every step up you lose about half of it just sliding back down. It was a major accomplishment for me, and the view at the top was totally worth it.

Does this view make it more impressive that I climbed it?

Does this view make it more impressive that I climbed it?

Cave selfie

Cave selfie

We learned some neat things about volcanos, rocks, and how much water you should drink when hiking in 105 degree sunlight. Hiking really is rocket science: the more water you bring, the heavier your bag becomes, meaning it’s more work and you need to bring more water. Sound familiar, aerospace engineers? After the cinder cone we walked through Subway Cave, which is a big lava tube. It was amazing how quickly the temperature dropped about 50 degrees as we walked down into the cave. And man was it DARK without headlamps.

Gorgeous view from the top of the cinder cone - and check out the gravity waves in the sky!

Gorgeous view from the top of the cinder cone – and check out the gravity waves in the sky!

The sulfur pits at Lassen's Bumpass Hell

The sulfur pits at Lassen’s Bumpass Hell

Thursday we were back at Lassen where we hiked at Bumpass Hell – named after a guy who decided to stray from the trail, causing him to fall into the hot sulfur pits and lose his limbs, oops – which is a lot like Yellowstone, if you’ve ever been. We learned about bacteria that can survive in those harsh conditions, and how that relates to astrobiology. It was a very cool landscape, albeit kinda stinky.

Driving the boat on the lake. I'd never driven a boat before, but my inner-Minnesotan took over and knew what to do.

Driving the boat on the lake. I’d never driven a boat before, but my inner-Minnesotan took over and knew what to do.

Friday we went up to Burney Falls, where we spent most of the day out on the lake. We rented a kayak and a patio boat, and had a nice, relaxing day that didn’t involve much hiking or climbing of mountains. It was a good end to the trip before we all piled back into the vans Saturday morning.

This is the one photo we managed to get of our entire REU group (plus a few extras)

This is the one photo we managed to get of our entire REU group (plus a few extras)

We wanted to see how many people it took to fit around the largest tree in the park. It was like 9 or something.

We wanted to see how many people it took to fit around the largest tree in the park. It was like 9 or something.

But the fun didn’t end there! Since we couldn’t take the vans back until Monday anyway, we spent all day Sunday at a few destinations along the California coast. The morning was spent at a state park with some giant redwoods, and the afternoon on a few different beaches. The beaches here are a lot different than the ones in Daytona – it was July and I was in a jacket! Very brisk wind, and a lot more rock than sand. So if you’re looking for a nice tropical paradise to relax and get a tan, definitely stick to Florida. All in all, it was a really great trip, and we got to know each other really well. Definitely a good bonding experience for the beginning of an internship.

Most of the group

Most of the group hanging out on a giant tree.

Major League Soccer!

Major League Soccer!

The weekend after Lassen my boyfriend flew in to visit, so I had to be a good host and take him sightseeing. The thing I love most about California is that there’s so many different things to do! Friday night we went to see the San Jose Earthquakes soccer game (by the way, Orlando’s getting an MLS team next season!) after spending the evening checking out some neat little shops and restaurants in downtown Sunnyvale. Saturday we ate crepes in downtown Mountain View, watched the world cup third place game, and then took the train up to San Francisco for the rest of the day.

 

World famous ice cream sundae at Ghirardelli Square

World famous ice cream sundae at Ghirardeli Square

First stop in SF – Ghirardelli Square! Where you can sit on the bay and have a giant $10 ice cream sundae that is worth every penny. We then walked over to Fisherman’s Warf, where we took a boat tour around the bay at dusk. That was really cool – we got right up close to Alcatraz, but my phone died so I don’t have photos. :( The rest of the evening was spent walking around the Warf and popping into all the neat little shops – and then realizing we were late to catch the last train out of the city! Don’t worry, we made it.

 

 

Got a signed copy of Dr. Zubrin's book - The Case for Mars

Got a signed copy of Dr. Zubrin’s book – The Case for Mars

So as you can see, the fun never stops when you’re a professional alien hunter in California. We’ve also had a lot of awesome colloquium speakers both at SETI and at NASA Ames. My favorite has been Dr. Robert Zubrin’s presentation on colonizing Mars. As far as actually doing the internship part (it seems more like summer camp here than work!) my research project is coming along nicely, which has essentially just been writing a lot of Fortran code. I’ve made a lot of progress on the model, so with four weeks left I’m hoping to be able to produce some very cool results. I have the possibility of presenting my research at the AGU conference in December, and, depending on what we find, maybe even being a co-author on a publication! Really crossing my fingers for that.

These are my internship peeps. We have deemed ourselves "The Jaguars"

These are my internship peeps. We have deemed ourselves “The Jaguars”

It’s crazy to think that I’m already past the halfway point of my summer adventure. This has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I’m really going to be sad to leave. My advice to you: do internships! And really check out REU programs, there are a ton of them throughout the country. If you have any questions about applying to programs like that, especially anyone in or considering the Engineering/Space Physics program, do shoot me an email! I’d be happy to share my advice and experience with you. And I would definitely recommend applying here to SETI, if that is your cup of tea. They won’t let us come back for a second year (unfortunately!), so I can say that without having to worry about having you as competition. ;)

P.S. Happy belated Cow Appreciation Day!

P.S. Happy belated Cow Appreciation Day!

Until next time!
-Lynsey

Hunting Aliens in California

Greetings, Earthlings!

First off, I apologize for being so tardy on this entry. I’ll try to be more timely for the rest of the summer. Anyways…

10460212_10152259266303719_86456628812285147_nI am writing to you from sunny Mountain View, California, home of the SETI Institute! For those of you who aren’t familiar, SETI is the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, a.k.a. professional alien hunters. You may think that that sounds like science fiction, but they are a legitimate research institution doing real science, which covers topics including geology, astronomy, biology, and everything in between. And it’s the coolest place ever! Mountain View is basically paradise on Earth – sunny every day (we were told not to expect rain all summer), temperatures in the low-60s in the morning when I leave for work with daily highs in the mid-70s, and NO FLORIDA HUMIDITY.

California is a neat place, with a lot of differences that I’m still getting used to. One of the first things I learned about the Bay Area is that grocery bags cost money – you have to bring your reusable bags or specifically ask to buy paper bags. I was very confused on my first grocery run when the cashier just piled my $60 worth of groceries at the end of the counter and then asked me if I needed a bag. I certainly wasn’t going to carry them all in my arms!

Riding the CalTrain up to San Francisco!

Riding the CalTrain up to San Francisco!

The thing I like most about this area is just the environment and culture. You walk through downtown Mountain View, and it’s all family-owned restaurants (lots of different ethnic cuisines), used book shops, bike stores, and small cafes with people sitting outside on their laptops. It’s gorgeous and feels totally safe and welcoming. Plus being in Silicon Valley, I get to drive past places like Microsoft, Google, etc., which is way cool. Not only that, but there are like four or five performing arts centers in the area – hate to bash Daytona, but it is certainly lacking in that regard! Another great thing is that you can get anywhere via public transit – which is certainly comforting, considering my car is currently parked 3,000 miles away. I’d never ridden a train before, so it was a new adventure for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s also very bike friendly here; I bike to and from work every day: 2.5 miles each way. And the weather’s perfect for it – especially first thing in the morning. In California, bikes are considered cars, so I bike on the roads, stop at stop lights, and use turn signals (and here everybody thought learning those hand motions in drivers’ ed was a waste of time!) It’s kinda scary to be in the road with the cars, but it’s also really neat.

Oh, and I forgot to mention… I may not be working at NASA this year, but I do live at NASA. We are all provided housing in dorms on site at NASA Ames. So hey, that’s pretty cool. SETI and Ames work very closely, in fact most of the SETI scientists also work at NASA.

Some of the cubicles at SETI. Every wall and surface in the office has a poster about space on it.

Some of the cubicles at SETI. Every wall and surface in the office has a poster about space on it.

My first week as a SETI intern was filled with presentations and lectures on all topics of SETI science. It was very cool to hear about all the different things going on here, and to meet science celebrities like Dr. Jill Tarter and Dr. Frank Drake. If you don’t know who they are, you should. The office itself is a lot like a university, minus the classrooms and students. Lots of offices with research posters covering all the walls, scientists walking around in attire ranging from those dressed more professionally to the ones in shorts and sandals, and free coffee all day in the break room. The thing I like most about this program versus an internship at a big, corporate company is just how chill it is. We dictate our own work hours (to an extent; you still have to work them out with your research mentor), wear whatever we feel like (though I’ve been trying to be a bit above my usual t-shirt and jeans fashion), and everybody is just really cool and friendly. It’s a great environment.

This is a plot of 2D temperature distribution in a protoplanetary disk.

This is a plot of 2D temperature distribution in a protoplanetary disk.

The scientist I’m working with this summer is Dr. Uma Gorti, and my project involves modeling the dissipation of protoplanetary disks, which is the astronomical phenomenon that forms planets. Basically what we’re investigating is how fast these disks are going away, and whether or not planets will form before they do that. So not directly hunting aliens but definitely still applicable – the aliens need planets to live on, y’know. I’m very glad I was selected for this project because it’s actually really similar to my work back at ERAU. These disks act a lot like our atmosphere as far as the fluids physics is concerned, and it will be great to have had the modeling practice when I begin working on the model for my thesis in the fall!

I’m also really excited because there’s a good chance I’ll get to present my research at a conference this year, and maybe even get a paper published depending on what kind of results we get. So crossing my fingers for that…!

The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

The first couple weeks here have been jam-packed with fun. In addition to the lectures and beginning our projects, we’ve had a lot of opportunities to explore the area. On our first Saturday, we all went up to San Francisco to see some of the big tourist attractions: Lombard Street, China Town, and the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is a wonderful city, and I’m sure we’ll be up there again because there’s so much to see and do. And it doesn’t feel icky or scary like some big cities do. Plus it’s just a $7 train-ride away from Mountain View!

One of the views from the Stanford Dish Trail

One of the views from the Stanford Dish Trail.

On Sunday a large group of us went to the Stanford Dish Trail for a hike. Well, sort of a hike – it was a paved road, but very hilly nonetheless. That’s another neat thing about California: there’s so much elevation, not to mention the mountains! Mountain View is very aptly named, because you literally see them in every direction. Florida is flat as a pancake. Which is good in its own way, but the scenery here just can’t be beat. But I digress. Anyways, this trail was really cool because it went past some of Stanford’s radio dishes, and from the top you get a fantastic view of the whole Valley and could even see San Francisco in the distance. It was also really cool to hike because in the biography of Sally Ride that I’m reading there’s a picture of her running that same trail. There’s just something neat about having been to the same places as such awesome, famous people.

A few of us interns outside the SF Giants stadium before the game.

A few of us interns outside the SF Giants stadium before the game.

Our second week of work was split by a company outing on Wednesday to see the San Francisco Giants play the San Diego Padres. For those of you who aren’t very sports savvy (like me), that’s baseball. And we totally kicked their butts – it was a no-hitter! Which means that the other team never even made it to first base. Ha. It was a lot of fun to hang out together, get the day off of work, and spend it in downtown San Francisco. The stadium was right on the bay, so we could see huge ships out in the water, which was way cool.

IMG_7017

“Make your meanest Kahl Drogo face.”

For the second Saturday, a handful of us went up to Oakland to volunteer for the Evolution Expo: a SciFi/science convention in its first year. And boy was that cool. I spent the day working at the photo booth, where fans would pay to stand next to celebrities and have their picture taken. Well, let’s just say the expo wasn’t very well attended, so we ended up spending a lot of time just chatting with the actors and astronauts, and taking some silly photos of our own. Some of the big names I got to meet are Jason Momoa (Kahl Drogo from Game of Thrones), John Rhys-Davies (well-known for Gimli in Lord of the Rings, but I knew him as the professor from Sliders), Tim Russ and Garret Wang (both from Star Trek Voyager), and Amanda Tapping (from Stargate, which I’ve never watched, but I just want to note that she was such a cool person!) They were all really cool. It’s funny to see actors as people and not as their characters. Amidst the actors we also got to chat with astronauts Joe Edwards and Wendy Lawrence. All in all it was a really cool experience, and I’m very glad I woke up at 5 am to do it.

The Sunday after the expo we all packed up into two big vans and headed up to Hat Creek Observatory and Lassen National Park, but I’m going to save that adventure for my next entry… :)

Until next time!

-Lynsey

From Spring to Summer

Wow am I tardy on writing! Sorry about that – I promise I’ll keep up this summer, especially because I’ll have plenty to write about.

Spring semester went out with a bang. The Semester of Death has been vanquished, and not a moment too soon! I had four final projects to do, four final exams to take, and my senior thesis proposal to write. Combine that with moving to a new apartment and putting on a musical and you get one stressed out future-rocket scientist. But as I am writing this from the end, I’ll skip ahead and tell you that it all works out okay.

I figured I’d tell you guys a little bit about some of the cool final projects I worked on in my junior year at ERAU. For Optics we designed a satellite-based camera that can take pictures of Mars rovers from orbit around Mars. This was done using some math and some CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software, and the end result turned out excellent. In my Microcomputers class we had to design, build, and program a sun sensor with a ton of other features. That one didn’t turn out amazingly – you know how it goes, it works great for you and then you present it for the professor and it just decides not to work for no reason – but it was definitely a very cool project. I also wrote and submitted the proposal for my undergraduate thesis, which you can read here if you’re interested.

I was also inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma – the national physics honors society – this semester! So… yay!

3D

3D CAD drawing of the telescope lenses used in our camera design for Optics.

A picture of our sun sensor. It may not be pretty, but you can see how complicated and totally awesome it is.

A picture of our sun sensor. It may not be pretty, but you can see how complicated and totally awesome it is.

Hitting the books for finals! This was the stack on my desk for a couple weeks.

Hitting the books for finals! This was the stack on my desk for a couple weeks.

 

Back behind my saxophone to put on a production of Jekyll & Hyde!

Back behind my saxophone to put on a production of Jekyll & Hyde!

Oh, I mentioned I played in a musical. The Riddle Players Theatre Company put on the first musical in like 9 years or something along those lines…. Jekyll & Hyde! The story of the aspiring scientist who splits into two personalities: one good and one evil. It’s a great show; I’ve been addicted to the soundtrack ever since. I got to play my saxophone in the pit, and it was a ton of work but a ton of fun. We put on a fantastic production, and I loved having the opportunity to get back into playing some music, which really doesn’t come too often at ERAU, unfortunately. It was also cool to see a bunch of engineers/scientists/pilots/left-brain people put on a musical, and do such a great job of it – we really have a lot of undiscovered talent hidden within all of this math and science.

I’m not going to write a ton of words in this entry. I’ll just throw a bunch of pictures at you to show some of the cool things I’ve been up to….

 

I moved out of my own apartment and into a two-bedroom with a friend of mine. It's cheaper, and she makes me breakfast sometimes. So no complaints there. It's also much nicer - same complex but new appliances, cabinets, and I have a giant bathroom and closet.

I moved out of my own apartment and into a two-bedroom with a friend of mine. It’s cheaper, and she makes me breakfast sometimes. So no complaints there. It’s also much nicer – same complex but new appliances, cabinets, and I have a giant bathroom and closet.

Sally the Space Hamster is still doing well. She likes to watch me do homework and climb all over my books and notes.

Sally the Space Hamster is still doing well. She likes to watch me do homework and climb all over my books and notes.

 

These are the kind of problems we did in Classical Mechanics. Quite whimsical, but they lose their fun once you start to work through the math!

These are the kind of problems we did in Classical Mechanics. Quite whimsical, but they lose their fun once you start to work through the math!

With school being done, May is a fantastic time of year to hit the beach in Daytona!

With school being done, May is a fantastic time of year to hit the beach in Daytona!

 

My roommate and I made a Pi Pie after finding rhubarb at the Daytona farmer's market. Strawberry rhubarb - it was yummy!

My roommate and I made a Pi Pie after finding rhubarb at the Daytona farmer’s market. Strawberry rhubarb – it was yummy!

I drove my boyfriend up to Savannah, GA for his internship with Gulfstream and stayed up there for a couple days. It's a neat place. But I think he's going to write a blog so I'll let him talk about that!

I drove my boyfriend up to Savannah, GA for his internship with Gulfstream and stayed up there for a couple days. It’s a neat place. But I think he’s going to write a blog so I’ll let him talk about that!

 

Back home in Minneapolis for a couple weeks. The longer you spend away from home the more you appreciate it, even if growing up you thought it was the worst place ever and wondered how anybody could ever live in such a frozen tundra. But now I'm like "hey, the summers aren't death, and the city is shiny and pretty."

Back home in Minneapolis for a couple weeks. The longer you spend away from home the more you appreciate it, even if growing up you thought it was the worst place ever and wondered how anybody could ever live in such a frozen tundra. But now I’m like “hey, the summers aren’t death like Florida, and the city is shiny and pretty.”

My little brother graduated from high school this weekend! I guess he's not so little anymore. I tried to recruit him to ERAU, but he wasn't interested - darn!

My little brother graduated from high school this weekend! I guess he’s not so little anymore. I tried to recruit him to ERAU, but he wasn’t interested – darn!

 

I head out to Mountain View, California on Sunday to start my summer at SETI, so you’d better believe I’ll be writing about that. I just wanted to pop in and give a quick update on all the things I’ve been doing since my last entry. As always, feel free to shoot me an email or comment on this post if you want to ask questions or just chat with an awesome Riddle student.

Until next time!
-Lynsey
10360686_836087949745551_7923553601583597970_n

The Final Stretch of Spring Semester

Hello hello!

I left my last entry on a “will Lynsey get a summer internship?” cliffhanger, so I think I’ll address that first… I will officially be spending my summer in Mountain View, California (AKA the most awesome city in the country – look it up) with an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates – the science version of an internship) at The SETI Institute! (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) I’ll be working with one of their scientists to study the formation of planets around different types of stars, and investigate how these planets could form to support life. I’m very excited for this opportunity, and pleased to announce that I will be blogging again this summer, so you’ll get to hear all about it!

The beach near Ft. Lauderdale. Beautiful, turquoise waters.

The beach near Ft. Lauderdale. Beautiful, turquoise waters.

Spring break came and went, and it was really awesome. Being at Riddle is great, because all of the major spring break destinations are really just a few hours away by car. I cruised down to Ft. Lauderdale at 90 mph down I-95 and spent the week there, where my boyfriend is doing an internship with Spirit Airlines this semester. He spent the days at work, and I spent them swimming, sleeping, relaxing… oh, and gambling. Ft. Lauderdale is on the Seminole Indian Reservation, so there are lots of casinos! One of my guilty pleasures is blackjack; in Minnesota the gambling age is 18, so I used to go down to the casino every couple weeks, and I usually had a pretty good turn out. Over the break I went to a couple different casinos (mostly in search of a good $5 blackjack table, which are not as common here as they are back home), and over four trips I ended up winning twice, losing once, and breaking even the last time. It’s dangerous to my finances that the casino was only 20 minutes from where I was staying – probably a good thing we don’t have any up here in Daytona.

Ville Valo of HIM at their concert in Ft. Lauderdale - we had a great view of the stage, this is an iPhone picture!

Ville Valo of HIM at their concert in Ft. Lauderdale – we had a great view of the stage, this is an iPhone picture!

While in Ft Lauderdale, one of my favorite bands, HIM, had a concert at a club downtown (a great coincidence!), so we got to see them. They’re the first band I’ve seen three times, and in three different states for each tour, and they put on a really great show – a very long set, and a good mix of some of their really old music and their newest album. This was also my first concert as a 21-year-old, and let me tell you, it ain’t cheap.

On another music-related note, The Pretty Reckless launched their new album a couple weeks ago and it’s great. That is all.

Picture of some reef fishes taken with my underwater camera in Key Largo!

Picture of some reef fishes taken with my underwater camera in Key Largo!

One of the highlights of the break was snorkeling down in Key Largo. They take you out into the ocean about 30 min by boat – to the point that you really can’t see any land – and toss you in the water, equipped with a wet suit, mask, snorkel, and fins. And the water was so nice. There is a shallow reef of the coast of Key Largo, so you swim out to the reef and get to see all sorts of really cool corals, fish, and even some jelly fish and stuff. It was an awesome experience, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the opportunity. The coolest part was having an underwater camera – pictures below! I’m doing everything I can to do “Florida things” while I’m living in Florida. Overall, this was definitely the best spring break in my three years of college. It was a great escape, and just what I needed to get back into the swing of the whole school thing, after feeling pretty burnt out the last few weeks.

10 25 24


There’s less than a month left of Spring semester, and frankly I can’t wait for it to be over. I mentioned a couple times that this semester had earned the title “semester of death,” and I think I have to agree. So I wanted to pass along a lesson that I’ve learned to any and all of you reading this, especially those of you sitting in high school having never gotten anything below a B+: college will test you. You, most likely, won’t get out of an engineering degree with a 4.0; not to discourage you from trying of course, because I certainly have been, and I’m, of course, not giving up. But I’ve had a bit of a mid-life crisis (well, quarter-life, I suppose) about my grades this semester, and I’m finally starting to learn some things:

  1. Always give your best, and realize that you can’t give more than that.
  2. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t get the A.

I’m a huge perfectionist/over-achiever/etc., and I focus so much on grades. I remember when I got my first few B’s in high school, and it felt like the end of the world – I was convinced that I wouldn’t get into the colleges I wanted to. Well, I love my college, and now I don’t even remember what my GPA was in high school. So my words of wisdom are: grades aren’t everything. Put in your best effort, learn as much as your brain can hold, and that is what makes you successful, regardless of the number on your transcript. Don’t have a mental breakdown over a poor exam grade – take that as a lesson, and improve on it in the future. Stress never helps.

Speaking of the future, I’m beginning to figure out mine. Every EP student has to complete a senior design capstone project, which you start planning during the second semester of junior year and then work on throughout your senior year. Well, I was asked to be the Guinea pig for a “senior thesis” option, aimed at students looking to go to grad school, in lieu of a group design project. I’m really excited about it, and I even have a topic, as of last week. I’ll be developing a one-dimensional atmospheric acoustics model in FORTRAN and MATLAB with flexible atmospheric parameters, which means that the model will be able to run for any planet. Then for my master’s thesis, I’ll use this model to do some scientific investigation into the propagation of atmospheric acoustic waves in the atmospheres of Venus, Earth, and Mars – three very different planets. This project will be a good mixture of planetary science, atmospheric physics, and development of a scientific tool.

Doing some homework with Sally the Space Hamster

Doing some homework with Sally the Space Hamster

That’s about it for this entry. Lots of cool stuff on the horizon, and still a lot to do before this semester comes to a close. I have three final projects and a thesis proposal to do, as well as third midterms, final exams, and standard weekly homework assignments before I’m free to go hunt aliens all summer. I’m also looking forward to having a nice long visit home before I start at SETI mid-June. And because I only needed a one-way ticket between here and home (since I’ll fly right from Minneapolis to San Francisco on SETI’s dime), and because the tickets were surprisingly cheap, I get to fly first class! That’s one to cross off the bucket list.

Oh, one more thing. ERAU does some really cool events, especially with all the different student organizations on campus. The week before spring break one of the fraternities hosted a fundraiser where you could pay $5 to sit in a pen full of puppies for 30 minutes. Who doesn’t like being climbed on by adorable puppies?

1966811_10152051337258719_1588526867_n

1509863_10152051340423719_1506823963_n

Excuse the extreme Florida-ness of my hair in this picture.

Puppy selfie! Excuse the extreme Florida-ness of my hair in this picture.

School, Space, and Stuff

Oh man, I’ve really been neglecting my dear readers – it’s been a while since my last post! Luckily I have plenty on which to fill you in!

Beautiful shot of the new COAS and new Quad, courtesy of my friend Johanna Petrocelli.

Beautiful shot of the new COAS and new Quad, courtesy of my friend Johanna Petrocelli.

Spring semester is well under way, and I certainly understand why they call it the “semester of death” – five 300-level EP classes together aren’t easy! I’m learning things from designing camera lenses to programming microprocessors to how to design a satellite form the ground up, and boy is it a lot of material. College always has a point where it really hits you what your major is, which is usually around the third year. The first couple still feel pretty high-schooly course-wise, with general calculus and physics, maybe delving into some advanced mechanics like solids or fluids, but overall it’s very general. Once you start taking 300-level classes like Spacecraft Systems Engineering, you really start to get a look at what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life… and you better hope you love it! Which I really do.

It’s crazy to think that I’m almost done with my third year of college. My advisor has been dropping words like “thesis” and “GRE” and I’m just like, yeah but that’s way later – except it’s not anymore! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about grad school lately, and I think I’m going to do a PhD in Planetary Science, and have even started looking at some schools – really leaning towards UC Boulder; they have a great program, and Colorado is gorgeous. Nonetheless I still have two years left here at ERAU, so I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself.

Time does fly though, we’ve already started registering for fall classes. I’ll be taking three undergrad courses: Space Physics, Electricity and Magnetism, and Senior Design, as well as two grad courses: Advanced Planetary Science (excited for this one!) and a PhD course titled Computational Atmospheric Dynamics that my advisor teaches and talked me into taking (nervous for this one!) He says that PhD classes aren’t much harder, but he already has his PhD, so how can I really trust that? :P Nonetheless, it’ll be good knowledge to have for when I write my thesis, which will be on computational atmospheric dynamics, so I can see why he wants me in the class.

My work in the lab is going well. I’ve been working on learning FORTRAN to make some changes to our 1D wave model (yes, people do still use FORTRAN!) The other day I was able to successfully implement a feature that allows multiple simulations to be run in a row, without having to come back and reset the parameters. For example, we can run a 1 meter wave, a 2 meter wave, and a 3 meter wave all in a row, and then just get all the results at once to compare, rather than having to go back to the lab in between just to change one number and hit start. I’m very proud that I was able to get that working – FORTRAN is a very different beast from the modern-day programming languages I’m used to working with!

My parents and I at KSC!

My parents and I at KSC on my birthday

So what else has been going on with my life in the last couple months… Well, I turned 21 in February, and celebrated by (can you guess?) a trip to KSC! My parents came down to both visit me and escape the frozen wasteland, and it was a lot of fun. We did the Cape Canaveral: Then and Now tour, which was about 3 and a half hours of bussing around to different historical buildings and launch sites. We even got to go into a couple of the intact control rooms from which they controlled some of the first manned launches! It was a very cool tour, and a very fun birthday. And totally more fun than waking up the morning after your 21st birthday and not even remembering it (though I did go at midnight on my birthday for a long island iced tea at Applebees, so I didn’t completely ignore that right of passage.)

Me with Sally the Space Hamster

Me with Sally the Space Hamster

For my birthday I got a 1/200 scale model of the Saturn V rocket from my parents, which looks gorgeous next to my 1/200 scale model of Space Shuttle Discovery. I also got a lot of birthday money in the mail, which I used to purchase a new furry hamster friend (living alone gets lonely.) Her name is Sally, named, of course, after Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, and she is hilarious and adorable. I built her cage out of a plastic bin (trust me, I’m an engineer), and decorated it with lots of fun space stickers… which she keeps eating, but we’re working on that.

Some of the stickers that I have up in her cage

Some of the stickers that I have up in her cage

She likes her spaceship :)

She likes her spaceship :)

Teaching her to eat my homework

Teaching her to eat my homework



 

Obligatory picture of my boyfriend and I with Disney ears in front of the castle - that crane thing kinda ruined it though >:(

Obligatory picture of my boyfriend and I with Disney ears in front of the castle – that crane thing kinda ruined it though >:(

I also got to visit Magic Kingdom for the first time in February, and it’s name is well-deserved. It really is pretty magical, and very well-done. It was a super fun trip. I’ve also gotten to see a couple more launches in the last month – one from KSC, one from campus – and attended a really cool colloquium about weather on other planets. Planetary atmospheres are incredibly interesting, I could definitely see myself doing that for my PhD.

Me with Eric Whitacre! Composer extraordinaire

Me with Eric Whitacre! Composer extraordinaire

For those of you who don’t know me, beyond being a total space geek I’m also an avid musician. Well, used to be… my one dislike about ERAU is its lack of any music program. So, unfortunately, my saxophone sits neglected in my closet. Nonetheless, in high school I was in every possible band – music was my life (I even have a saxophone tattoo.) But I digress. Last week, my favorite band composer was in Orlando giving an informal Q&A at UCF, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a ticket. Eric Whitacre! He’s unbelievably cool – and I told him that at the end when I got to meet him. His talk was both funny and inspiring; he told us stories of how he got inspiration for some of his pieces, and had a lot of advice for aspiring musicians. It was a fantastic evening, and really made me miss band. And I got him to sign one of my favorite band pieces. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: living so close to Orlando really presents a lot of opportunities! Because EVERYONE visits Orlando at one time or another. And it’s only about an hour drive.

Well, I guess that’s all I have for you guys for now – I’ll try to write more often, sorry about that! I’ve got some cool projects on my radar that you’ll definitely get to hear about once they get going. I’m still waiting to hear back about my internship applications to NASA and SETI, so maybe in my next entry I’ll have some good news to share. *fingers crossed*

Until next time!

And feel free to email me, I don’t bite. :)
schroel2@my.erau.edu

Welcome to 2014!

Hello again, dear readers!

I hope you all had a great holiday. I will be blogging about my shenanigans throughout spring semester, so tune in here for that! Shall we begin?

Two days down of the “semester of death” (named so by previous generations of Engineering Physics students), although most of the classes sound less intimidating than their reputations. This semester I’m taking 15 credits, consisting of the following… My first course Monday morning is called Electro-optical Engineering, which is basically just a whole semester of optics (i.e. designing telescopes and such so that we can look at neat things in space, or really really small things.) After a three hour break, which I’ll probably spend working in my lab doing SCIENCE, my last course of the MWF day is Classical Mechanics, which I call “physics I for grown-ups.” Essentially you take all the mechanics from physics I and do the problem in the real-world rather than making assumptions, such as that a falling box is not just a single point with no air resistance, or calculating the air speed velocity of a swallow without assuming a spherical swallow in a vacuum.

Why does my EP 391 book have a lion on it? What’s electrical about a lion? Textbook covers are so random.

Tuesday/Thursday is my longer day, starting bright and early at 9:45 am (early for me) with Spacecraft Systems Engineering. This course is about every single different system of a spacecraft, such as the cooling system, power system, optics system, etc. The professor told us that we will basically be learning a new system every week, resulting in net learning of like a bajillion things – in fact I already have four pages of notes just from the first day! (Disclaimer: In college, you usually don’t get a free “get the syllabus and learn everybody’s name” day.) Next up is my junior design class, which preps us for working on our final senior design projects that will take all of next year. Those tend to be like developing a numerical model or building a small satellite or something super cool along those lines – looking forward to it! Last, but almost definitely not least, I have Microcomputers and Electronic Instrumentation, which is more circuits and electrical engineering. Most of the class is a lab where we will be building some crazy electronics.

The coolest thing about this semester is that the new building is up and running… mostly. I know my lab currently lacks a desk, and a few of my classrooms got temporarily moved because the room is missing a wall… but I’m sure everything will be sorted out soon! I spent a good chunk of time yesterday wheeling a cart of very expensive computers over from the Lehman Building – good news is I didn’t break any of them! Once all of the moving and settling in is done, I will pretty much be spending all of my time on campus in that building – every single one of my classes plus my job. I wish they’d put a cafeteria in the first floor so I wouldn’t have to leave. The building is pretty fancy schmancy though; I should’ve taken some pictures but I didn’t get around to it – sorry!

-20F with -44F windchill. And this wasn’t even the worst of it. I was certainly happy to be sitting here in Daytona that day :P

My winter break was pretty great. I spent about 10 days back home in good ol’ Minnesota – and managed to avoid the worst of the winter weather! It got down to about -50 wind-chilll on Monday; the entire state was pretty much shut down due to the fact that you will get frostbite in 5 minutes at that temperature. Uffda. And here in Florida it was actually below zero at night, and in the high-30s/low-40s the next day – I was sitting at the mall and I heard a woman say “it’s so cold out there, it’s unbelievable.” And I’m sitting there in a t-shirt because I had just spent almost two weeks in single-degree daytime temperatures. I guess it’s all relative. Nonetheless those single-degree temperatures didn’t agree with my new-found Floridian-ism, and I arrived back home with a 102 degree fever and a nasty cough. Probably not the greatest moment of my winter break.

Our new doggie Helen :)

Highlights of my winter break include seeing The Phantom of the Opera live in downtown Minneapolis, which was amazing! Live theater is always so great, it’s too bad it’s not a big part of our society anymore. We also got a new fur baby! She is a three-year-old rescue doggie named Helen, and is thought to be a mix of hound and terrier. She’s the sweetest doggie ever, loves to be around people and is super well-behaved. Everybody in the family has fallen in love. I’m definitely her favorite – my mom says she was whining and kept wanting to go in my room after I left. Awww.

I wanted to take her to Florida with me but the rest of my family just wouldn’t have it. I’m sure she would’ve liked it better here though because she can’t stand the cold!

 

Cooking! If I ever make smoothies and they somewhat taste like curry, this will be why.

Other winter break events included sleeping 20 hours a day, playing some Pokemon and Zelda on my 3DS, and basically just doing nothing and loving it. School is hard – it’s nice to have some time to chill and do literally nothing for a whole day. One thing I did do was attempt to make some Indian food from scratch – like actually start from spices, veggies, and water, not just cut up some chicken and add it to a jar of sauce. It actually turned out pretty good, although the spices were a bit off. I’m going to try again this weekend. That is like my crowning culinary achievement though, because usually my idea of cooking is Shake ‘n’ Bake. This took three hours, which included bawling my eyes out chopping onions, measuring a ton of different spices (and forgetting the difference between TSP and TBSP), and blending everything together into a curry in my fancy new blender. It was 11:30 PM by the time we ate – just in time for the new year!

That’s about it for my Spring semester update. This should be an eventful semester, so check back every couple weeks to read all about it! Also, my birthday is in less than a month, and I expect a present from each and every one of you.

And as always – my metaphorical email door is always open! schroel2@my.erau.edu

-Lynsey

P.S. More new doggie pictures…

Fall Semester Comes to a Close

Greetings, everyone!

It’s official: Fall 2013 has ended and winter break is upon us. Although here in Daytona Beach it certainly doesn’t feel like it, with temperatures continuing to hover around the low-80s. Everybody back home loathes me this time of year, when they’re starting to get the big snow falls and I’m just wishing I could wear a sweatshirt. I suppose nobody is really ever happy with the weather they have. I got this photo from my aunt, taken outside her window:

and responded with this one, taken outside mine:

Usually my Facebook posts about the weather aren’t well-recieved. But it’s just so much fun. ;)

My last post was right before Thanksgiving break, so I suppose I can start there. I had a good time spending a few days back home, even though I spent a lot of the time working on homework and final projects. The end of the semester was poorly timed this year, because the week after the break was the last one, so everything is due. I don’t know what the general opinion is, but I think that the last week of classes is way more stressful than finals week. Finals week is actually pretty chill – you only have to go to school for finals, and have a lot of free time. Which is, of course, deceiving, because you really *should* be studying, and not staying up until 5 am playing Pokemon Y or anything along those lines. But I digress. Nonetheless, it was nice to see my family and friends back home, even though I’ve adapted to Florida and spent the whole three and a half days perpetually cold. It’s only funny to make fun of them for the weather when I’m not there, I suppose.

This is what was happening in my simulations for my Spaceflight project – the blue is the orbit of the Earth and the green is the orbit of the moon. Which isn’t so much an orbit, but a beeline straight out of the solar system.

I got back to Daytona early on Saturday, and had a massive homework assignment due at 11:59 PM that night. So much for having a break. I think I turned it in at like 11:58:43 or something like that – oops. Then it was final projects, papers, and exams for the next week and a half. My biggest project was probably the one for my Spaceflight Dynamics class, which involved simulating a three-body orbital problem in MATLAB. It was going well until I made some calculation error and was flinging the moon straight out of the solar system. But I ended up fixing that, woo! Aside from that and the ten page paper on black holes that I had to crank out in one night, everything else wasn’t too bad. I had finals in thermodynamics and astronomy that I thought were pieces of cake (not that I didn’t study, mind you.) The only thing that gave me real trouble was my EP 501 final exam – I only needed a 62 on the final to get an A in the class, thanks to my midterm exam and homework successes, and I was legitimately worried I didn’t even get that. But I managed to pull off a 78 (don’t even know how I scored that high, to be honest) and thus managed to secure my 4.0 Master’s GPA for another semester. Still waiting on grades for my undergrad classes, but from my calculations I am looking at straight A’s! Not to brag :)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch as seen from campus!

Another cool feature of last week was SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch, which scrubbed on the first two launch dates but went off the third time. And I got to see it from campus! It was super cool; we went up to the top of the AMS building where there is an observation deck for watching planes go in and out of the airport, and got a really great view. Even saw the stage separations of the rocket!

Stage separations of the rocket as it went up into space!

This week I’ll spend some time helping pack up the labs to move over to the new College of Arts and Sciences building, and then I’m homebound on Wednesday for about a week and a half. It’s crazy how quickly this semester went; I feel like it just started yesterday. But that’s life I guess!

That’s all I have to talk about in this entry. Haven’t gotten word if I will be writing again next semester, but I hope to be able to continue to share my stories with you! Feel free to always email me questions, or just to say hey, and I wish you all a happy holiday season and a successful rest of the school year!

Also before I close out, I’d like to dedicate this entry to my dog, Skip, who passed away last Friday. We got Skip as a rescue in April of 2001, when he was thought to be 2-4 years old, so he had a long life, and was always very happy and full of energy. He was a really great dog, and we all miss him very much.

My brother and I with Skip, 2004

 

 

What a Week for Space!

Hello readers!

They had all sorts of MAVEN stuff up at KSC this weekend – loved it!

Boy was last week a great time to be a space-enthusiast (and a Kennedy Space Center season pass holder)! I hope you’ve all heard of the MAVEN mission that is en route to Mars as of last Monday. It’s a NASA mission that will be studying the evolution of Mars’ climate and atmosphere – Mars Atmospheric Volatile EvolutioN. And because my research interests are the Martian atmosphere, I’m looking forward to seeing what it brings us. But more exciting were last weekend’s festivities down at the Cape. All weekend they had speakers and specialists giving cool presentations about the mission and other aspects of NASA science, and I was there Saturday and Sunday to see it.

My lame tourist photo with Atlantis

Saturday morning I was up bright and early (legitimately early, I’m talking about 6 am) to head down to KSC with the Honors Student Association. I’m not member of HSA (though apparently I’m *technically* an “inactive” member just for being in the honors program), but they let me come just because I’m friends with the whole executive board and my season pass gets them free parking without costing them a dime on admission. So, y’know, it was a win-win. Of course the first thing we did was head over to the Atlantis exhibit, as none of them had seen it yet. It’s still just as breath-taking the second (and third) time around. After that we went over to listen to a NASA speaker, who was the director of astrobiology, give a presentation about MAVEN. It wasn’t super technical, but very cool all the same. The most entertaining part was the group of probably 5 or 6 year old kids who thought they knew the answers to all of her questions: “Why are we interested in studying Mars?” “Because it’s so hot? Because it’s the only planet without life?” Kids these days, am I right? (I assure you, my children will be completely educated about the universe and its workings before they are even toilet-trained.) They also kept asking about the astronauts on the MAVEN mission; I suppose “un-manned” just doesn’t make sense at that age. But I digress. After the talk I went over to speak with NASA’s director of astrobiology, because I never pass up the opportunity to schmooze a NASA employee. We chatted a bit and I expressed my interest in Martian science, and she gave me the name of somebody to contact asking about possible internships. No word back yet, but she’s probably pretty busy with the launch and stuff. We’ll see I suppose…..

Beautiful photo I took of the rocket garden at sunset.

Bill Nye the Science Guy in the flesh! Bow-tie and all.

Sunday afternoon I was right back down at the Cape to see their featured speaker, who was none other than…. Bill Nye the Science Guy! He gave a fantastic talk about why space exploration is important. Which was really cool to see in person, considering my American public schooling in science consisted pretty heavily of his show (I know you all can relate! Or at least those of you in the USA – my boyfriend, from India, didn’t even know who he was! :O) It was another great day at the Space Center, aside from my car almost running out of oil for some reason and having to stop at a Sunoco in the middle of nowhere to put three quarts in. And trust me, I can tell you the physics of how an engine works, but I certainly don’t know my way around one!

We couldn’t see him super well from where we were sitting so mostly watched the screen. Still cool!

MAVEN’s smoke trail in the sky, seen from near campus.

Monday was the big day – the launch! Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to go down to the Cape to watch, but I did go out to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse that is about half an hour from campus to try and see. We had a clear view of the coastline where it launched from, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see it take off. It was okay though, because I had a live video feed on my iPhone that way cooler than watching a bright dot in the sky. And when the clouds moved out we were able to see the smoke trail it left behind. MAVEN has been on its way for about a week now, with only 9 months and 2 weeks left to go until it arrives!

I really did take this with my iPhone. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Oh, I forgot to mention, as if spending the day at KSC and seeing Bill Nye on Sunday wasn’t cool enough, I got to spend some time on the university’s telescope to do some moon observations for my astronomy class. It was exactly the night of the full moon, and what a sight it is through a telescope! By the way, if anybody tells you that you can’t take pictures by holding your iPhone camera up to the eyepiece of the telescope, they are very, very wrong. I took what are probably the coolest photos ever taken with an iPhone camera, hands down. I’m very excited to get our new telescope next semester, which will be the largest in the state of Florida! Hear that, prospective students? If you’re interested in space, ERAU is definitely the place to be. :) See below for some up close photos of the moon’s surface, taken by an iPhone camera….

 

 

Well, the semester’s winding down faster than I expected. Last week I spent a lot of time working on homework and projects, hoping to have some time to relax over Thanksgiving. I’m getting on a plane Tuesday afternoon to head back up to Minneapolis for the break (unfortunately there’s no snow to greet me). Which fell at a terrible time this year, because we get back next Monday and that’s the last week of classes! I’ll probably be working most of the break, since I still have some final projects to finish up and exams to study for.

My gorgeous new space book :)

I almost forgot – this week was also the 15th birthday of the International Space Station. And Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It was definitely a big week for space! Also, I won a really awesome space book in a raffle at Cookies & Craic (a bimonthly get-together for the ERAU Physics department, where you get to eat free cookies and chat with faculty and students.) It is leather bound and has gold page edges and a cloth bookmark and beautiful color photos. I love it. :) Also, NASA has started posting summer internships, and there is a planetary science position posted for Ames Research Center that I really really want. So pray to whatever deity you worship and cross all your fingers for me to get that – thanks!

Beautiful on the inside too

That’s all for now folks, tune in next week for my exciting recollection of Thanksgiving break and final project panic mode! Because I just wouldn’t be a proper college student without the latter.

And email me! I promise I don’t bite. SchroeL2@my.erau.edu

-Lynsey

New Building, Homecoming, Weekend Shenanigans, and Neutron Stars

Greeting, readers!

It seems like it’s been forever since my last post – I’ve got a lot to cover!

Me with my poster, standing in what we think is going to be a chemistry lab.

First things first, I should talk about the Board of Trustees tour in the new COAS building that I’ve mentioned was coming up. It was pretty anti-climatic actually. We stood in a lab next to our posters (each lab had a poster) and the board walked past without much more than a glance – it was over in about ten minutes! A couple stopped to ask questions, but most just commented on the name of my lab (ECLAIR – brilliant, right?) and asked if we were excited for the new building. Nonetheless I got to walk around and take some pictures of the new building (at least one hallway on the first floor), and I talked to an astronaut on our board of trustees. Any day I get to talk to an astronaut is a good day. Not that we talked about space or anything, but still. Pictures from inside the building below!

 

Picture of a really cool ribbon dance at the Diwali show.

That weekend I went to the Diwali show put on by the Indian Student Association, which was super cool. I am preparing for a trip to India in May (and just got my Visa today!) so it was really neat to see some of the culture. Also did some shopping at the Halloween store – the best time of year is right after Halloween when all the cool stuff at the Halloween store is half price. Plus that weekend was “semi-annual time travel night” AKA daylight savings (c’mon, which sounds cooler?) so we all got an extra hour of sleep! Best night of the year. As a result, a bunch of clocks on campus (and in my apartment, because I can’t be bothered to change them) were running an hour ahead that week and my internal clock was very confused.

Last week was homecoming week, which doesn’t mean much to me because I’m not a sports person, but it’s a pretty neat week around campus. Different clubs on campus make big sculptures of random stuff (“spirit signs”) and do some really cool chalk art drawings out on the sidewalk. Unfortunately it rained before I could get pictures of them :(. There is also a concert, a carnival, and a comedian every year. I didn’t attend the first two things (nor the homecoming game – to be honest I don’t even know which sport it was this year…), but I did go see the comedian, Demitri Martin, and he was hilarious. Riddle always manages to get some pretty big names for comedians and bands and such for events like this. In the last couple years we’ve had Bo Burnham and Jim Gaffigan for homecoming comedians, and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and All American Rejects for the spring concert.

I don’t have enough pictures for this entry, so here’s a giant cookie I made this weekend. Just because.

I had a fairly productive three day weekend. The end of the semester is nigh, and as a result I have a big pile of projects. The last month or so of the semester is always crazy. I keep telling myself I’m going to start working on things before the last week, so we’ll see if that actually happens. Though I did already do some research for my software engineering research paper, which is a big head start! My advice for college: Don’t procrastinate on end of the semester projects! You will have sleepless nights and you will regret it.

Also this weekend I went to see the new Thor movie, which was awesome. I definitely recommend it! Any movie that has spaceships AND medieval sword-fighting stuff gets two thumbs up in my book.

In other news, I’ve been starting to talk about my thesis with my research advisor, which is crazy. But definitely exciting at the same time. I will probably continue my work with Martian atmospheric gravity waves. We have definitely had some success with the vertical wind calculations over topography – and Mars certainly has some interesting topography! As far as a topic goes, I really have no idea. I will just have to see what comes to me I suppose… good thing I still have a couple years ahead!

The next couple weeks are definitely going to be busy, but Thanksgiving break is just around the corner, and I’m fortunate to get to go home again this year. It will be nice to escape and get some time in the snow (hopefully)! Though the weather has been great here – it’s finally starting to cool down. Once you survive the heat of April – October, the rest of the year in Florida is fantastic. Plus if you come from somewhere cold, everybody back home gets super jealous in December and January.

Photograph by National Geographic Channels/ Nate Evans
CGI IMAGE: The Neutron Star sucks up the Earth in bits and pieces.

I didn’t talk much about academics this post, so allow me to share some cool stuff that I’ve been learning in my astronomy class… So after a star dies it sometimes leaves behind what is called a neutron star, and these stars are super dense – they basically pack the entire mass of the sun into an area smaller than Colorado. If you had a piece of neutron star the size of a paperclip, it would be so heavy that, not only would you not be able to pick it up, but it would fall through the ground and out the other side of the Earth. Then it would turn around and fall back the way it came. It would keep doing that until the Earth was essentially destroyed. Cool, eh? In fact, last year National Geographic did a show about what would happen if a neutron star was headed toward Earth and we had to save the human race – and part of it was filmed here on campus! Here is a link to a local news article.

Speaking of space, this weekend I’ll be going down to Kennedy Space Center to see Bill Nye give a talk about space! How cool is that? And thanks to my season pass it won’t cost me a dime.

That’s all I can think of to talk about this time around. I should mention that I got my first ever email from a reader – so I know that at least one person is actually reading my random ramblings. Which is awesome! If there are more than one of you, the rest should definitely feel free to email me any questions you have about ERAU. Give me some ideas of what you’d like me to write about in these entries. Or, y’know, just send fan mail. :D

Until next week, folks!

-Lynsey

SchroeL2@my.erau.edu