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. :(

Closing Things Up

This week I felt very close to home with the technical seminar we had this week at work. The guy presenting talked about using gloves to communicate in extreme environments. My research at ERAU has to do with testing usability of space suit gloves. On top of that, I am the president of the Human Performance in Extreme Environments club on campus. It is amazing that I saw a presentation combining both of those areas from work they are doing here at SPAWAR. Since this project was ongoing, it leaves me with a desire to come back and work with this team. So, I talked to the guy presenting and gave him my information. Hopefully, this leads to some cool work opportunities in the future.

I was welcomed this weekend by some other Embry-Riddle students. There was a competition this week at SPAWAR for robot submarine vehicles. There is a giant pool-like structure that can be used for testing these vehicles. High school and college students from all over came to test and compete with their vehicle designs. There was an EMBRY-RIDDLE TEAM! They were from the Daytona Beach campus, too! I was very proud to see my university being represented at a competition with other highly respected schools. You go ERAU RoboSub Team!

I am moving to the end of my internship. Only 3 more weeks until I fly back to Florida and begin my final semester at ERAU. I can’t believe that I was walking down Doolittle hall to my dorm room 3 years ago. I remember everything very clearly. My first impression of ERAU was vastly different from how I see it today. At first, I felt out of place and insecure living with people I had never met before. It didn’t take long for that to change, and now I feel more at home here than anywhere else I have lived. Living on this planet for 21 years, and having moved to many different places, that is saying something!

I wrote the final paper for my internship and turned it in early this week. I cannot believe I was coming in for landing 4 months ago wondering what my internship would be like, where I’d be living, and who I would meet. Now I am summing that all up into 5 pages and handing it back to school. I wouldn’t say this internship went by fast, but I definitely made the most of my time here. The internship gave me a chance to learn a lot and explore my field, but outside of it, I was exploring a new city and trying things I may never have the chance to do again. It’s important to say yes to as much as you can, because in the end you will see your experience as a successful one.

My final paper almost finished

My final paper almost finished

One of the first people I met at my internship is Christian. Although he annoys me like there is no tomorrow and is essentially my adopted, pesky brother, he is one of the most important people I met here. He has helped me with my work and guided me through a major project, introduced me to a great program for new employees, and has invited me to every get together he hosts. He introduced me to his girlfriend, Desiree, who also became a great friend. We actually went on a “girl date night” this Thursday. She invited her friend and I invited my fellow intern, Brittany. We all went out and painted pottery. It was so much fun that Brittany and I went out the next night to do it again. It is relaxing, but it also gave us the chance to make going away gifts for the people we have grown to adore here. I made a cup for my mentor and a plate for Christian and Desiree.

Desiree, Brittany, and me

Desiree, Brittany, and me

For my boss :)

For my boss :)

She likes flamingos!

She likes flamingos!

A llama painting for my friends.. that's not weird at all

A llama painting for my friends.. that’s not weird at all

This week was Brittany’s birthday. She turned 21 on Sunday and I definitely had to make a fun day for her. On Friday, I baked cupcakes for work since we were having a branch meeting. The night before I had made the discovery that we did not have a muffin pan. So I poured the batter into cake cups and laid them out on a flat pan. I was assuming they would hold up ok. I assumed wrong. The cups spread out making the cupcakes shape into this weird oblong figure that looked like the elliptical path the Earth makes around the Sun. So I told my coworkers it was this new style or that I got them from the bakery and they bought cool, new pans. They all picked up a cupcake, gave me a dirty look, and walked away. It doesn’t matter how it looks, because everyone loved them and they tasted great! Brittany was happy someone remembered her birthday, especially someone like me!

We celebrated her birthday by taking a tour of a brewery up north, drinking her first beer, and taking her first sip of wine. She hated it. Not really surprised there. Stone Brewery is famous in San Diego. During Comic Con, they had Wil Wheaton, Drew Curtis, and Stone creator Greg Koch get together to brew their own beer creation. If you are just turning 21, it would be the best place to try your first taste of beer. But you will hate it the first time you taste it. Afterwards, I took her and her fiancé, Jeff to Outback so she could eat and try a mixed drink. That was not very tasty to her either, though. For many people, a 21st birthday is both the best and worst day of their life. Be warned, and be careful!

First time getting ID'ed. She was very excited

First time getting ID’ed. She was very excited

Trying out horrible tasting drinks :)

Trying out horrible tasting drinks :)

How they brew

How they brew

The end of the tour.. it was hot!

The end of the tour.. it was hot!

The extra fluff gets poured out into this big bucket

The extra fluff gets poured out into this big bucket

This weekend I had brunch with my roommate and her brother. We got to see the area he just recently moved to and planned out a fun night for us to use the amenities. He moved to an apartment with a pool, fire pits, and a view of the bay. So we will have the roommates and friends get together before I leave for Florida for s’mores and fireworks. I also went with them to shop in an area close by called Old Town. There was a Mexican market going on this weekend, so I was able to pick up a few gifts for my siblings and mom. Everything there was so colorful and hand-crafted. It’s much nicer than sending them a “Wish you were here” postcard.

Old Town

Old Town

An old hotel bar

An old hotel bar

After that I went to my friend, Christian’s barbecue. It was supposed to be a fun picnic outside, but the clouds that day decided they would rain for the first time in 4 months. What good timing; thank you sky, you are so considerate. That’s the only thing that bugs me about San Diego. On the days I have to push my bike up a mountain to get to work, it is sunny and in the high 70’s. On the weekends when I would like to be outside, it is cold and cloudy… or raining apparently. That didn’t bother us because we just packed all of us into his small apartment and played games. And the food was glorious! There were bacon wrapped peppers and sliced peaches. I made mini cupcakes which were gone 5 minutes after being on the counter. At least they were better than the orbit cupcakes I made earlier this week.

RAIN?!!?

RAIN?!!?

Corgi! I almost stole it

Corgi! I almost stole it

Playing games at the Barbecue

Playing games at the Barbecue

 

#SDCC

Taco Tuesday was my favorite day this week. Although I normally hate Tuesdays, on this particular one I happened to find the best fish tacos in all of San Diego. I was delighted to eat lunch with my coworkers and network with some fascinating people before I leave for Florida. But anybody who really knows me, knows that my brain orders everything in a hierarchy. At the top of the list is food, next comes sleep, after that is Foo Fighters, which is followed by maintaining healthy social interactions with the people around me. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably noticed that a large portion of them are dedicated to what I ate that week. So instead of talking to these incredibly intelligent co-workers at this lunch, I ignored them and stuffed my face with tacos and hot sauce.

I would like to mention another important accomplishment this week. I paid for my last semester of classes! Yes, I saved up some money from my internship and used it to pay off classes for the upcoming semester this fall. I am expecting to graduate this December, a whole semester early because taking this internship knocked off 6 credits I would normally have to take. I feel like an adult! I actually refrained from blowing all of my money, and used it toward something productive. Coming from me that is a huge deal. This also means I will not have to take out loans to cover what my scholarships and grants did not. That means lower payments in my future. I will use that money to buy a Corgi.

This week also had an exciting event from my internship. In order to keep the interns coming back, the people running the program arranged for all interns to get a ship tour. Since there are about 100 students interning this summer, we signed up to go on different days. I was supposed to go with my friends last week, but I had another meeting to attend at that time. So, I essentially knew nobody on this tour, but made friends with another intern who was a San Diego local! So not only was I not bored the entire time, but he told me all the best places to go in the area. Even if I had no one to talk to, the tour would have been just as enjoyable.

The ship we toured was called the USS Harpers Ferry and has an amphibious transport dock. This means that the back half of the ship can sink below the ocean surface, as the water moves to the back of the ship it picks up the vehicles or packages in the lower deck of the ship As the ship proceeds forward, the payload is carried out by the water. It was fascinating to see how it all worked. We went on the deck where they were doing some kind of test along the side and were told we needed to back up. We saw the room they use for planning missions, the equipment they work with, and where the crew eats. So we walked around all of the main areas of the ship and even up to the bridge. It was amazing to see how many people can work there to operate this ship. As the tour guide talked about all of the equipment and procedures, my only friend who happened to be a gear head asked if he could take us to the engine room. Normally, he would not run everyone to this part of the ship, but we were a lucky bunch of people.

I remember climbing through at least 8 portholes to get all the way down to the engine room. It was beautiful! I wish I had been able to take pictures of this giant engine. I know my fellow Riddle gear heads and I could stare at it for hours. This engine had 16 giant cylinders and was two stories high! One of the guys working down there opened up the cover so we could see inside the 4 stroke cylinder. AND THEY HAD 4 OF THEM!! The engines were not in use, but the room was still hot and so loud we had to wear ear plugs. I was so excited to see this ship, but was even more excited that I was on the same military base used to test the new Orion capsule. If I wasn’t on a bus with all of the other interns I would have stayed behind to see it. The good news is, I can get on the base using my cards from work, I just need to find a ride there!

Although I had a very exciting week, the weekend was the best part. On Friday my roommate, Sharelle, invited her friends over for a game night. We stayed up until 2 in the morning playing card games. The best part was the food we had out… of course. I tried a famous Hawaiian dish called musubis. Sharelle is a born and raised Hawaiian, so she is obsessed with Spam. I know, right? Spam? I had no idea people loved it so much. Well they basically cut Spam into slices, put it on a seaweed wrap, top with rice, seasoning, and soy sauce. And when you wrap it all together it’s like heaven in your tummy. Try it, you’re welcome.

This get-together was really meant to plan the big event this weekend. San Diego Comic Con is biggest event of the year! It is the most famous Comic Convention, and is held just 10 minutes down the road. It is incredibly hard to get tickets to go to the actual event itself (if you watch Big Bang Theory you know what I’m talking about), but there are plenty of things going on downtown. So I essentially spent all day, everyday in downtown San Diego people-watching. There were so many detailed, realistic costumes. People work on what they will wear all year long, and this work pays off! #SDCC

The crowds waiting to cross the street

The crowds waiting to cross the street

Assassin's Creed course, similar to Ninja Warrior

Assassin’s Creed course, similar to Ninja Warrior

The "playground" of Comic Con

The “playground” of Comic Con

Found him!

Found him!

Aside from the 100,000+ people visiting for the convention, there is a lot going on around town. There was an Assassin’s Creed obstacle course, free laser tag, and zombie displays all around town. There was even a section for food trucks, panels, and carnival rides. The entire city was a playground. There were people outside of hotels with pens and paper waiting for cast members to come out. When I was walking along the sidewalk in front of the convention center, I did notice a face I thought looked familiar. So, as soon as I realized who it was I ran back to find him. It was Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters. Nobody else was noticing him, I guess because he wasn’t wearing a beret. I asked if I could take a picture, and he kindly said “of course!” It was so cool to meet someone I learned so much from as a kid. I told him, “Thank you for all you did. You taught me the scientific method. I’m a huge scientist now!” Jeez, what a doof I am! Oh well, I was happy to see him, and was even more happy to be in a great city at the perfect time of year! Stay tuned for more goofy stories next week!

Maleficent

Maleficent

I got them to pose with me!

I got them to pose with me!

Close enough

Close enough

Transformers.. They didn't want to take pictures with me because I made them look short.

Transformers.. They didn’t want to take pictures with me because I made them look short.

JAMIE HYNEMAN!!

JAMIE HYNEMAN!!

So Long, Sayonara!

Last week (almost sadly) was my last week working in the Special Olympics office. It was a bittersweet moment but I was happy not having to get up at 7:30 a.m. 3 days out of the week and being there from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. I got a lot of experience interning for SOKS and also got to learn a lot about myself. I definitely did something I would have never gotten to do otherwise and very much appreciate those experiences.

Right now, I’m still working on a few SOKS assignments from home, in addition to the final paper I’ll submit about my internship. It feels so much better to work on my own schedule, one of the very things I’ll miss in the real world.

As time is nearing until the fall semester starts, I’m also working a seasonal job at Under Armour Factory Store in Kansas City, KS. It’s a great job and I’m enjoying it so much. I think I love it more because I work evening shifts and I can sleep all day. Plus I get a really awesome employee discount! I’m pretty sure I’ll come back to school with as much Under Armour as I have Tri Sigma shirts. Also, Under Armour may be signing Kevin Durant (OKC) for a $30 million/year deal. Apparently his contract with Nike expired last week and he missed the meeting to renew.

Under Armour’s new UA Women campaign is something I’m really hyped about. They’ve teamed up with Misty Copeland, Lindsay Vonn, Sloane Stephens and a few other women and come up with the “I Will What I Want” campaign. I love it. It’s empowering women to break beyond the standards and the stereotypes. I personally love Misty Copeland because I wanted to be a ballerina when I was younger. Copeland surpassed all odds and was even rejected at a ballet school. She was told her body, posture, and feet were wrong and not up to par. Now she is a soloist for the American Ballet Theatre. In 2007 she became the first black female soloist for the American Ballet Theatre.

Go to YouTube and search for “I Will What I Want” video starring Copeland. I’ve watched it maybe half a million times and I follow her on Instagram.

With this being my last week in Kansas City, I’m doing quite a bit but just enough to keep me interested. I’ll be flying to Columbia, South Carolina next week to stay with my dad before school starts. That, I’m SUPER excited about!! And then… FALL SEMESTER STARTS!!!! I’m soo beyond excited to start my SENIOR year and see all my friends and classmates again. August 25th can’t come fast enough!!

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

My first 5 day week in 3 weeks

I FINALLY FINISHED A PROJECT!!!! Monday I felt incredible. I was productive and finally saw an endpoint to something I had been working on for weeks. That is a great feeling. So, as a result I was trying to finish up many projects. Some people are good at multi-tasking. This person is not. Amongst the many projects I have needed to complete, I have also needed to start finishing things up for the end of my internship. Not to mention I have a big move coming up that will take me across the country. So things are starting to close out for this internship, and they seem to be coming together at the same time. Next week I have a final paper do explaining everything I have done for my internship. Oh my God! I just wrote do instead of due. What is happening to me? Didn’t I tell you to not to multi-task?

 

On top of the many things coming together at once, my boss also came back this week. Most people would see this as a stressful, terrifying situation, but this is not the case. My boss is way cooler than the average boss, mostly because she is not the average boss. She is older, but her sense of humor is much greater than mine. Aside from her being a amazing person, I feel as though she is not giving me the experience I was expecting out of an internship. When I would hear about the experiences of students as an intern it was mostly that they were told to fetch coffee and not given the time of day from their advisor. My boss not only knows how to make her own cup of coffee, but she sets aside time everyday to talk to me. And if there is a time that she is away, she makes it a priority to set me up with things to do and responds to any questions that I have. As a branch head in the government, that is rare! So I wanted to make sure that the stereotype of internships changes. It’s not always what people make it out to be, whether in a good way or in a bad way. You can set out expectations, but you will certainly be surprised.

 

At the end of my internship I am supposed to present a poster to the commanding officers where I work. This will be a big deal! So, for my presentation, I am showcasing the projects going on at my branch. This works well because during my time here I have helped in some shape or form on a lot of the projects. If I am presenting on each of these projects I need to become an expert in what I will be talking about. So, I went to each person and asked about the details of the projects they are leading. I also gave them all a questionnaire for another project I am doing. So it looks like there is data analysis in my future! Please try to contain your excitement.

 

My roommate had a few friends come over at the end of the week. I am rarely a host and after doing it this weekend, I am pretty sure I don’t want to do it again. The reason being the fact that I am lazy and I would rather someone else clean up after me than vice versa. Oh that sounds bad, doesn’t it? Well I know you’re thinking the exact same thing. It was a good thing I didn’t have to be around the house much the next day.

 

Saturday morning we all went to the beach. Sharelle and I, as well as her co-workers played football, tossed around a volleyball, and congregated around the Pacific. We looked at the ocean, but barely went in. The beaches are covered in giant seaweed and the water I think the water is infested with ice cubes. It was FREEZING! I could barely go past my knees. Ditching the ocean was a good decision. Because what came next was a giant burrito. It was about the size of a newborn baby and filled with eggs, cheese, and bacon. I bet I know what you’re making for breakfast tomorrow. Of course this was enough to satisfy me for about, oh I don’t know.. 15 minutes. Sharelle and I walked to a store down the street to get ice cream sandwiches. You could create it yourself! Why don’t they have these stores in Florida?! They should be as common as a Starbucks.

Trying not to touch the water

Trying not to touch the water

Playing football

Playing football

Burrito baby

Burrito baby

Cookies and cream cookies surrounding cookies and cream ice cream.. did I mention cookies and cream?

Cookies and cream cookies surrounding cookies and cream ice cream.. did I mention cookies and cream?

I was dead asleep within an hour after that feast. Which I needed for the next day. It started out as a roommate date day. I went with my two roommates to a diner at the closest beach. Which is the first one I have been to in months. California doesn’t have the number of diners that Florida has. In fact, I don’t think anywhere has the same density of diners we have in the Sunshine State. Then we grabbed my roommates brother and friend and headed off to the San Diego Pride festival. There was a parade just a day before, but I was too busy eating to see it. It was the most colorful event I have been to while in San Diego, or probably ever. There were tents for food, support, information, local attractions, and many others. I paid $20 to get in, but probably made double that in the amount of free items I got from tent vendors.

The many, many, food tents

The many, many, food tents

At the Pride fair

At the Pride fair

 

The most exciting part was seeing a tent for NASA! I touched a moon rock that was over 3.5 billion years old. I also got to try on gloves and a helmet and see the food they eat in space. The best part was that this was held on the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon! I had my picture taken in a EVA spacesuit model. Later on, as we were walking around a notification came up from a former student of one of the classes I was a teaching assistant for. It said “Carolyn, you’re featured here!” I figured it was something from my department at ERAU. But I was so excited when I saw what it really was. The International Space Station Facebook page had shared the picture of me in the astronaut suit! It was incredible that a friend of mine all the way in Daytona saw a picture and noticed it was me before I even looked at anything. Yay! I feel like a real astronaut now. It’s funny because I never had an interest in space until I met my advisor, Dr. Kring. His classes got me very excited in everything from moon to Mars, and now I am addicted. I have definitely become a space geek since coming to Embry-Riddle.

Touching old rocks

Touching old rocks

Astro food

Astro food

Shared by the ISS!

Shared by the ISS!

Vegas Baby!

When I started this week, I was lost. Not the good, fun kind of lost; the confusing, I need to re-adapt to my surroundings kind of lost. For the past 3 months I had been sitting in the same office with the same set-up everyday. My office was on the second floor with a stunning view of San Diego bay! It always had a nice breeze coming through the window and I had plenty of room to take secret naps behind a closed door. Today, was not the same. I was ALL THE WAY on the other side of the hallway. No I don’t mean a full 15 second walk down the hallway, I mean take about 4 steps and you’re in my new office. Oh no! No more view of the bay! No more naps! No more loud chewing on food all day! I have a new office mate around. And folks, when that happens you need to act like a normal human being… apparently. This was not the case, though. I was moving in with the other intern from Embry-Riddle, Brittany. Ever since moving in I have been as happy as a hippo (not sure how that analogy works).

Everyday we get to chat back and forth and show each other funny pictures or videos. I love having her desk right behind mine. Aside from the awesome office mate, I get an even better breeze and kept my same comfy chair. Not to mention I don’t have to hear those pesky otters in the bay barking all day when I actually try to get work done. This new office is also a lot darker than my old one, so taking naps is easy and less obvious. Not that I’m promoting to interns that you should nap at work! Because, you know, that’s bad.

It is better getting work done when someone else is around you doing the same. Having an office mate is good to keeping me focused throughout the day. At least now, I want to seem like a professional that doesn’t get off track all day long looking up funny videos of baby polar bears or people running into trees. So, thanks to having someone around I finally got a lot of work done! Particularly on the website I have been designing at work. I had two meetings this week, one to discuss a few fixes, and the other to present my website to the project lead (umm.. which is terrifying). She liked it, though, and I was given a few more tasks to do during the next week.

This week went by fast. Although it was a 4 day work week for us, it was a shorter week than usual for me. My roommate, Sharelle, and I have been planning a weekend vacation for a while now. And this weekend, we were finally going to VEGAS!!! Yayyyyy!!!! I finally got a chance to act like a childish adult. I know, saying I am going on vacation when I work in the beautiful city of San Diego entitles me to have an angry mob. I can’t complain about where I work, but when I was this close to Las Vegas at a time where I could afford to go, I certainly wasn’t going to turn it down.

Trying to get a view from the Ferris wheel

Trying to get a view from the Ferris wheel

Fountains at Bellagio

Fountains at Bellagio

So, on Thursday I left work little earlier than usual. I know I seem like a slacker, but I had been working an extra hour everyday for weeks before this weekend. So it was excused. My roommate picked me up from work, we got our suitcases, and called a taxi for the airport. Airfare was extremely cheap! We flew out and I stayed at the airport a little longer because I was waiting for another friend’s flight to come in. My friend Antoine had just recently graduated from the ERAU Human Factors Masters program. He is now working at Honeywell in Phoenix. Since he was also so close, he decided to meet us for the weekend in Las Vegas, as well. It was so nice to have friends, new and old, together for a long weekend in a great city.

Gambling at penny slots

Gambling at penny slots

Both of my companions had been to Vegas previously, so I was the only newbie. I did not know what to expect, but boy was I surprised. What I had known about Vegas was what I had seen in movies like Ocean’s 11 or Vegas Vacation. And this was one of the few times, where I could honestly say it was much more incredible in person than what you see in movies or pictures. With the amount of money this city takes in, it actually has the ability to keep their attractions and hotels looking brand new. The night I got there, I was squinting at the intensity of lights. It was probably more bright at night than it was during the day, and that is saying a lot for the desert.

 

We walked around the strip, and stopped to get dinner in this playful restaurant that had the most extravagant deserts you would ever find. There was a sundae priced at $1,000!! Why? Because there was shavings of gold sprinkled on top! If you want to eat gold, this is the place to go. After that we saw a show at the fountains in front of the Bellagio hotel. This was the first of many times, because that was probably my favorite part of Las Vegas.

I love food, but not that much!

I love food, but not that much!

I also gambled for the first time, and successfully lost all of it. Over the next few days we saw everything! The Venetian hotel had a river inside with gondola rides. The ceiling was painted to look like the sky, and it even rained in one section of the aisle. There were shops, clubs, casinos, or buffets in every hotel. I saw a mock-up of the Eiffel Tower and a bar that was inside of a chandelier. I ate crepes, gelato, and the best macaroni and cheese in the world. There was so much to see and do I could have spent a week there.

The giant chandelier

The giant chandelier

The pool at our hotel

The pool at our hotel

Gondola rides at the Venetian

Gondola rides at the Venetian

To see the entire city was impossible, but I did just that. The world’s tallest Ferris Wheel was right across the street from my hotel. It took a little over 30 minutes to go all the way around. It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Since we did it at night, the lights looked spectacular. Since we were staying at The Mirage, we were able to see a show they did every night at the entrance. It had a “volcano,” so basically had water flowing from a mini-mountain surrounded by giant explosives. The giant balls of fire did not help the nearly 100 degree days. The pool downstairs did, though. It was a giant pool, and had an even bigger waterfall on the side. I actually sat in the water with a cool drink and soaked in the intense heat. So, let’s just say I was not ready to go back to work that week. This looks like a good place to stop writing as well, seeing as how I am sitting at work daydreaming about another vacation.

I met "overly attached girlfriend" if you have any idea what I'm talking about

I met “overly attached girlfriend” if you have any idea what I’m talking about

July 4th with America

Well, I did it. I am now an adult! That’s right, I was approved for a credit card. So I guess it’s time I recognize my impulse to buy chicken wings and illegal zoo animals, and buy them anyway! Just kidding government, I don’t do that. I just sell them. Just kidding again.

Also kids, apparently it’s not good to buy whatever you want with credit cards. That’s your lesson for the day. The rest of this post will be pure nonsense.

I didn’t do much on Monday. I continued working on all of the pages of the website I am helping design for military training. Tuesday, I made the website look stunning. By the time I was done with it, you could switch between different pages of the website and interact with all buttons and icons that were on the display. I may not be programming, but I am getting the same result. I also made a survey on surveymonkey to send out to the project leads at my branch asking about what they were working on.

On Wednesday, I presented the progress I made on a website to a very scary person on the opposite side of my workplace. He is the type that is about 5’3”, but incredibly intimidating. Coming in to the branch where there are many computer scientists, it was very hard to prove to my co-workers that I was capable of creating something. And this computer scientist in particular was very anti-human factors. In other words, he didn’t quite understand what I could offer to the project, and was a skeptic to the importance of human factors input.

As one of my mentors and I walked down to give the presentation on what I had created since our last meeting, I was a little nervous. We walked through the giant, heavily locked doors in the basement of the building and I got my computer ready to present. He sat down, looked at the home page, and said, “You guys did this?” My mentor replied, “No, Carolyn did this.” He looked at me surprised, and said “This looks very nice, great work!” He went through the rest of the website I had created and picked a few things on each page that should be fixed. At the end, I had a list of little details that needed adjustment, but overall he was impressed with the quality and the number of pages within the website I had created in the previous week. The feeling you get when you prove someone wrong is comparable to that awesome feeling you get when you sneeze or when you punch a shark. It’s the best feeling in the world.

The weekend started early because of the fourth of July. My roommate, Sharelle, and I went to two malls that were really close to our apartment. We had to go shopping for some shoes and clothes since we will be spending next weekend in… VEGAS! That’s right! I had to spend Friday morning shopping for new shoes and a nice shirt, or two. What a bummer!

When we came home I dropped off my 57 shopping bags and ran over to the park across the street. It is a long, dog/human park that runs along the bay, and had tons of people flying kites, playing games, and talking with friends. Some of my co-workers were there along with all of their friends. They were having a barbeque, so I hung out for a while eating watermelon and throwing water balloons at people I don’t know. Then the other intern (Brittany), her fiancé, and I went to the San Diego fair. It was not that far away, but it took us an hour and 15 minutes to get there. There were so many people there that we were stuck in traffic on the exit for an hour. Yes we went 1 MILE AN HOUR! The line to get tickets was even longer, but when we finally got in to the fair we went crazy with food. I got a giant turkey leg and was the happiest kid in the world.

Co-intern/ERAU master Brittany Swigert with her dog, Shae.

Co-intern/ERAU master Brittany Swigert with her dog, Shae.

Fun at the park across the street

Fun at the park across the street

This cute little kiddo who wanted to pet Shae. Looking very American!

This cute little kiddo who wanted to pet Shae. Looking very American!

ME WITH MY TURKEY LEG! As big as my face

ME WITH MY TURKEY LEG! As big as my face

A goat standing on a table. Not sure what else to say about this...

A goat standing on a table. Not sure what else to say about this…

The real reason I went to the fair on the fourth of July was for the band that was playing that night. They are called AMERICA; can you think of a better band to play on independence day? On top of them perfectly fitting the celebration, I love the band itself. I have been watching videos of them for years and listening to their music for as long as I can remember. They are really old, were popular in the 70’s, but people still know the songs they wrote today. “Horse With No Name” and “Sister Golden Hair” are some of their bigger hits. Ohhh, now you know who I’m talking about, right? No? Alright, I have an old person’s taste in music. Anyways, they were PHENOMENAL! These guys have been singing for 40 years and can still sing higher than I can! It was an incredible show with incredible fireworks and an incredible turkey leg. When everyone was putting their hands up during the songs, I was putting my turkey leg up. So, I think it’s safe to say they definitely saw me in the crowd. Even if it was as the crazy girl dancing with a giant stick of meat.

The awesome band America at the Fab Fair in San Diego. Playing the awesome song, "Sister Golden Hair."

The awesome band America at the Fab Fair in San Diego. Playing the awesome song, “Sister Golden Hair.”

Me, with Brittany Swigert, and her famous fiance from UCF, Jeff Abrams with America behind us.

Me, with Brittany Swigert, and her famous fiance from UCF, Jeff Abrams with America behind us.

Representing turkey legs at the concert

Representing turkey legs at the concert

The next day, I stayed in to get ready for another big night my roommates and I have been planning for a few weeks now. We invited some of our friends and all got dressed up to go to this place called Café Seville. It was a dinner/show where a singer and guitar player performed older Spanish music as three people did Flamenco style dancing. I ate so much which usually makes me happy, but this particular day was not the best time to eat a lot. Towards the end of the show, the two female dancers walked around the tables and they each grabbed one person to pull up on stage. I was not paying attention, and instead thought that they were just dancing around the audience. I was wrong.

The flamenco dancers at Cafe Seville, incredibly talented and beautiful

The flamenco dancers at Cafe Seville, incredibly talented and beautiful

I turned around to smile at one of the dancers and then she told me to stand up and come with her. So, I  agreed not knowing I was being led up to the stage. Yup, I embarrassed myself. I danced on stage in front of a load of people I don’t know, and even worse, some people I do know. Well now they know me a whole lot more. I was given a flamenco dancing lesson for the entertainment on others, and boy was it entertaining. I should only be dancing in a small dark room with nobody but myself.

To finish the night we took a cab ride around town. This was not an ordinary taxi, though. In San Diego, they have pedicabs where 1 person pulls up to 5 or 6 people on a bike! And here I am complaining about riding up hills to work. The people who drive them decorate them in all kinds of lights, fabrics and sometimes put roofs on them. I got to pick the music as we drove along the “Gaslamp District.” When you play the right music, people walking along the sidewalks will sing along with you as you go by. We got a tour of the party district without having to walk (which is great when you’re wearing heels). Even though I was very lazy and paid some poor guy to pull me along on his bike, I still slept for a good 12 hours when I got home that night. I think that’s only necessary for what’s coming next week.

Pedicab ride around town with some fantastic ladies

Pedicab ride around town with some fantastic ladies

Taking selfies with the pedicab driver while driving... causing accidents and stuff

Taking selfies with the pedicab driver while driving… causing accidents and stuff

The Secrets to Staying #ERAUFit: How to Stay on TOP of Your College Life.

ERAUfit2

“Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do.” – Rumi

Location: ERAU

When I first came to college, there were a ton of various activities going on. Freshman year was so exciting yet so overwhelming because I was so thrilled about classes, flight, events, joining clubs & organizations, you name it! It wasn’t actually until my sophomore year that I realized things were buckling down; I had to prioritize. So what is the first step toward college success? Confidence. You can’t expect to succeed if you aren’t feeling determined!

TIME Magazine asked several students on what their secrets were to success in college- it’s probably not what you’d think! Leading off the confidence note, college is here to inspire you, to nurture you and to grow you. It’s up to you to determine your college experience. Let that soak in!

In that case, it’s important to pursue passion, not A’s. Wherever your passion takes you, you’re sure to succeed. If you go into a class with the wrong mindset, it can truthfully determine your success in that class. Ambition and innovation secede grades every time. Go into a class with curiosity, interest and attraction- not just a simple willpower to pass or make a good test grade. There is no substitute for the joy of doing something you enjoy and doing it well.

Get comfortable with failing. Sometimes, you’re going to have a bad test score, that’s ok. Actually, sometimes failing can be the best educator. You learn from mistakes and move on.

Set goals and make them real. If you really want to manage your time wisely, set realistic short term and long term goals, and give them a deadline. This will motivate you to work toward your goals without excuses. It will also help you develop a crystalized vision.

Make a personal connection to your studies. Leading off the growth aspect, it’s important to view your studies as something that is going to benefit and cultivate you as a young professional. College is a time to develop into you and who you want to be. Learning is about you. If you look at it this way, you’ll be sure to work harder and gain much more than just facts and concrete information; you’ll be able to see things in other perspectives and all different types of angles and be able to apply it to your everyday life.

Be active. This doesn’t mean just physically, but mentally as well. It’s important to indulge yourself in all the facilities and amenities your college offers such as a physical fitness center, tutor labs, study groups, clubs & organizations, etc. Expand your web network through Alumni associations (www.ERAUAlumni.org) or clubs on campus. Utilize tutor labs when you are unsure of a topic in class. Stay active at the fitness center (http://bit.ly/1sjI1UY) or join an intramural team and choose healthy options in the dining areas (www.eraudining.com). I couldn’t stress enough how much this will help you to flourish in your college career!

Find a way to contribute. Whether it be through an eco-club, a job, or even helping out a fellow classmate, find a way to give back to your university. Not only does this help you get out of your comfort zone, but it allows you appreciate the community around you and it grows your networking web. Try it!

Manage your time. I really stress this one because when I was a freshman, I wanted to join everything. First semester can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you’re coming from across the country like I did. Let your first semester be a trial phase on what you are truly interested in. Be picky about which clubs/organizations and activities you would like to partake in. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too selective with my time, and I ended up being slumped by spring semester (side note: Sophomore slump is a real thing, google it!). So choose activities that truly interest you and will benefit you. Also, take time to plan out your schedule around your classes e.g. when you will be studying, working out, eating dinner, hanging out with friends, etc. and stick to it! The earlier you learn these tactics the better off you’ll be in the long run. Form good habits now!

Go after what you love. You’ve already decided you want to go to college, now what could stop you? Sometimes, between the general education requirements and prerequisites, a must-do for any major, it’s easy to get caught up in the routine of everything and lose sight of your intellectual interests and gifts. If you see this happening, try to take at least one class that really sparks your interest every semester. Ever since I started college at Embry-Riddle, I’ve always had at least one class each semester that has made me super excited to learn more! Don’t forget why you’re at college in the first place- to find, learn, and ripen the thing(s) you are so passionate about. If you have the passion, use it. That’s how dreams are achieved.

photo

(For more tips, email: giannotw@my.erau.edu)

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