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…

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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? πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ™‚

P.S. No, we didn’t find any aliens during my internship. πŸ™

Fall Break Fun (Plus Everything Since)

I’m running out of creative ways to start these entries. Generic greetings are so boring…

My shiny Charizard, Deimos. Named after one of Mars’ moons πŸ™‚

We left off last time right before fall break, so you’re probably dying to know what I did for that long, 4-day weekend. In short, I really didn’t do anything. I caught up on sleep, played Pokemon Y (I hatched a shiny charmander – if you know what that means, I know you’re jealous), watched some Breaking Bad, and took some time to just chill and forget about school. It was glorious, apart from being sick for most of the break. But thanks to my friends orange juice and NyQuil, I was able to bounce back pretty quickly.

My new bookshelf (well, CD/DVD/Spaceship shelf) from IKEA on the left, along with my new Gravity poster πŸ˜€

The only real exciting thing I did over the break was spend some time in Orlando on Saturday. After waking up at about noon, I read on Facebook that Buzz Aldrin was doing a book signing in Kissimmee at 1 PM – well it was 1 PM when I read that post! So I took the quickest shower of my life, hopped in my car, and booked it to Orlando. We called when we were at about downtown Orlando to see if it was still going on, and it wasn’t. πŸ™ I was pretty bummed about that, especially because his book is about the future of space travel (i.e. Mars). So since we were in Orlando anyways, we spent the day at IKEA, ate some cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory, and ended the evening playing some games at Dave N Busters – and I won a telescope. πŸ˜€ I have yet to see anything interesting with it though, it’s probably worth about $20; but still.

The week after a break is never fun. Especially the first couple days when you haven’t really recovered the motivation you left behind. But somehow I found the strength to get back into school-mode. Which was good, because I had my EP 501 midterm – and boy, was that an experience. I don’t think I’ve ever studied so much for a test in my life. Grad classes are scary because you have one exam and one final, so if you mess up the midterm chances are that your grade is doomed. I managed to scrape out a 90, which I’m very proud of (I would have hung the exam on my fridge except that my professor doesn’t give them back). Not to brag, but I’m 6 for 6 on exams this semester, which means this is my best semester yet – including freshman year! I have two more exams this week, in Spaceflight Dynamics and Thermodynamics, so hopefully I’ll be able to maintain the streak… fingers crossed.

Spring semester schedule. i.e. “Death by Physics”

Spring semester registration is now upon us! At least for the honors students – that’s one of our perks: we get to register before everybody else. So that means first dibs on the good professors. (I think I might be obligated to say that every single professor at Embry-Riddle is one of the “good professors.”) Of course it doesn’t really matter for me; I think I mentioned last time that every single class I am taking next semester only has one option, so my schedule is essentially made for me. Oh well, less work required on my part. This was also the first semester since I switched majors that I’ve been able to register online without it throwing an error at me for one or more classes and having to go sort it out with records! And the timings seem to work out very nicely – it’s just the classes that are going to kill me!

The new building is almost done and it’s beautiful – and it’s all mine! And, y’know, the rest of the physics/human factors/business/etc. students and faculty.

I also mentioned last time about the new College of Arts and Sciences building. All of my classes will be in there, and the lab I work in…. I wonder if I can just live there too? I am giving the presentation about our new lab to the Board of Trustees on Friday, so you’ll hear about that in my next entry.

Speaking of presentations, this past weekend I was asked to be on a student panel at the open house – so, any prospective students reading this, if you were there you probably saw me. I felt pretty honored to have been asked, which is why I was willing to wake up so early to be there (I don’t even wake up that early for classes!) I got to tell my story about choosing Riddle (my first entry – if you haven’t read it) to a whole bunch of people, so it was pretty cool. Then I went home and went back to bed for a little bit before lending my evening to freshmen who wanted help planning out their spring semesters.

My boyfriend and I with Echosmith (we are the two in the middle – it might be hard to tell because the band is our age!) They were really flattered when I told them we were at the concert specifically to see them. I suppose as openers they don’t get that a lot.

On Sunday I got to go to another concert! We went to see the opener, Echosmith. I’m pretty sure I talked about them in my entry about Warped Tour – they are all siblings that are age 14-20. And they’re awesome. The downside about them being the opener, is that we missed most of their set! πŸ™ Orlando had some carnival or something going on so a lot of the streets downtown were closed and we couldn’t figure out how to get to the venue. But we caught their last two songs, which were really good, and then got to chat with them a bit after they played – which is the upside of them being an opener. There were three other bands playing; the second was For the Foxes, who weren’t really my cup of tea, but one or two of their songs were pretty good. Then The Downtown Fiction played, who I’ve had on my iTunes library but never really listened to aside from just shuffling the whole library. But they did play one song of theirs that I really like, along with some other I recognized. I also got to meet them, and got them to sign an album for me. The headlining band was Tonight Alive, a band from Australia. They were awesome! It turned out to be a really fun show, especially since we just went to see the opener. I got a signed copy of Tonight Alive’s album too (so I now have 9 signed CDs in total, plus 2 signed vinyls).

There is another concert I want to go to this Saturday, In This Moment, but nobody will go with me so I suppose I’ll sit this one out and save the money. But I only say that because I’ve seen them before and they haven’t released any new music since then. It’s really awesome how many bands play Orlando – I’ve been to more concerts since starting school at Riddle than the rest of my life combined. And that’s not counting the ones freshman year I would have gone to had I had a car.

One of my Bitstrips from last night. Hehe.

I discovered this super entertaining Facebook app called Bitstrips, where you make a cartoon of yourself and can put yourself in little comics with cartoon versions of your friends. There are some really funny comic templates, and my Facebook friends are probably sick of me posting them, but I don’t care because I think they’re hilarious. Although my parents and aunts started making them too, and everybody knows that parents ruin anything cool on the internet.

I think that’s about it for my life nowadays. I haven’t made too much progress on my research, mostly because I’ve been spending a good chunk of my lab time working on the poster for the Board of Trustees presentation. I have to write a major research paper about software development processes for my SE 500 class, so I plan to get working on that soon… I haven’t written a paper in about a year so I’m actually kind of looking forward to it; writing is definitely one of my strong suits (and for some reason I decided to be a physicist.)

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but with all the prospective students who might start reading this, I’ll say it again: Ask me questions! I’m happy to answer anything about ERAU, especially about the Engineering Physics program. Or, y’know, just send me fan-mail telling me how awesome I am. Email me at, or you can probably find me on Facebook pretty easily. I don’t bite πŸ™‚

Until next time….