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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

In Their Own Words (Part 2) by Paul B. '11

The dog days of summer.

Continuing my last entry with even more tales of what my friends and fraternity brothers are doing this summer.

Lawrence Barriner ’11 (Course 6, of Skullhouse, formerly of Senior Haus): “This summer I will be an intern at the Love At Work (LAW) missions camp. The camp, founded in 1993 by Killearn United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, Florida, began as an effort to provide repairs and basic necessities to homes of impoverished families in Gretna, Florida. Over time the project evolved into a multi-dimensional effort to help the residents of Gretna in all areas of life, not just housing. LAW’s core mission is now the encouragement of spiritual growth in youth through service to others. The people of Gretna have repeatedly expressed their undying gratitude to the ‘kids who roll in every summer to help us out.’

As I stated earlier, I will be staffing as an intern at LAW this summer. More specifically, I will be the multimedia specialist. I will be responsible for filming the work being done on each job site and the participants of the camp interacting with the local families and children. I will also be responsible for managing the technological aspects of the fellowship session each night (slide show, video editing, sound equipment, etc) and managing the camp website. On a more personal note, this camp means a lot to me (and that is an understatement if I’ve ever seen one), as I’ve attended LAW as a camper since I was able to and it has changed my life each and every time I’ve gone. I am ecstatic to come back to LAW as an intern to glorify God and to show children that mission work doesn’t have to be done across the world because there are areas in our own country that need help too.”

Harrison Bralower ’11 (Course 2, of Putz): “I’m working in the Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group on a new version of their flagship musicBottles demo. It’s pretty much an art piece…you have these glass bottles sitting on a pretty glass plate and they’re RFID-tagged (and there’s an antenna sitting in a pan that holds up the glass plate). When you take out the stopper from the bottle music plays, which ‘releases’ the music trapped inside the bottles. Apparently this demo has been constructed several thousand times so officially it’s musicBottles 3.0 but it’s more like version 9 or 10. Eventually I’ll probably be done with that and will work on other Tangible stuff, or so I hear.”

Emily Conn ’11 (Course 2, of Simmons): “I’m off to be a girl scout camp counselor in Plymouth, MA – I’ve always wanted to go to summer camp. I’m excited to work with the girls and besides all the traditional camp activities, I’m particularly looking forward to a program on roller coasters: campers learn about the engineering behind them, ride them, and build a model of one themselves. Little do my campers suspect that they may actually be in for a crash course on some of 8.01…yay!”

Caroline Figgatt ’11 (Course 8, of Senior Haus): “I’m spending the summer UROPing on campus, working in a lab in the Center for Ultracold Atoms (a part of MIT’s RLE). The CUA is headed up by 2001 Physics Nobel laureate Wolfgang Ketterle, whose office and lab are just down the hall from my lab. My UROP advisor is Prof. Martin Zwierlein, an assistant professor who was my TA for 8.012 during the fall semester. Over IAP, I attended a number of lectures put on by the Physics Department. One of them was given by Martin; afterwards, I asked him if he’d be interested in a UROP student for the summer, and a few days later I got an email from him confirming that yes, he would love to have me and had stuff for me to do. Lo and behold, I had a summer job.

So far, that “stuff” has consisted of building components, mostly boxes containing electronics of various sorts. I’ve only been working for a week and already I’ve built a 15V power supply, an integrated power supply with three different voltage options, a light sensor, and started working on a temperature controller for a laser. It’s pretty fun; I’m getting a lot of experience soldering and cutting holes of various sizes in metal sheets. Martin (yes, we’re on a first-name basis :D) and my grad students have been feeding me theory along the way, too. The ultimate goal of my UROP is to help construct these components so that they can be put together to form a laser array that will cool atoms to mere millionths of a Kelvin; after that, evaporative cooling takes over and reduces the temperature further to only a few billionths of a Kelvin, hopefully inducing the atoms to form a Bose-Einstein condensate.

Logistically speaking, I’m working full-time (40 hours a week), and hours are flexible; when you’re working in a lab where the grad students and prof tend to work from about 10am to 12am or later, they really aren’t too inclined to be especially strict about timing. I’ve elected to work a pretty regular schedule of 10am to 6pm, Mon-Fri. This works nicely because I can go straight from lab to Z-Center to do the day’s weightlifting workout for varsity track, and then go home and have dinner afterwards. I also elected to get paid for this UROP by the UROP office (as opposed to receiving credit), so they’re giving me $9/hour, which is campus minimum wage.

The people in my lab are all fantastic; Martin is good-natured to the bone and genuinely passionate about his work, and both characteristics are quite contagious. His graduate students – Andre, Christoph, Cheng, and a few others – are all very nice people. Besides the interesting mix of hands-on components engineering and physics theory, the summer is also proving to be an interesting experience because not only am I the only woman in my lab, I’m also the only American and the only
native English speaker (Martin, Andre and Chris are all German, and Cheng is Chinese). So I’ve also been helping Cheng learn the grammatical difference between “work” and “job,” and explaining to Martin and Chris that although that plastic-y stuff around a wire does indeed isolate it from electrical charge, the word they really want is ‘insulation.’

Also, I’m cat-sitting for the world’s most adorable little tabby. I shall miss Kiki dearly when I must return her to her proper human at the end of the summer, a fellow Senior Haus resident and ’11 who is out of town for the summer. But till then, I shall enjoy having a cute, friendly, snuggly kitty. =)”

Laurie Hakes ’11 (Courses 5 and 8, of Senior Haus): “This summer I am being awesome. Luckily, in addition to this full-time job, my powers of awesomeness allow me to also:

  • play frisbee with my dog;
  • go rafting;
  • work at my hometown’s local observatory part-time (We have one 16-inch scope that we use
    to take pictures of interesting objects, like globular clusters, nebulae, galaxies, and other Messier objects. My job is to run the imaging software, operate the telescope, process photos (learning how tomorrow), and keep people company (who wants to be alone at 2 am in the middle of nowhere?). I’ll be sending you some processed photos soon; they are the shiznit);

  • see movies with my peeps (I’ve seen Prince Caspian and Iron Man already, and I’ve only been home for a week. Next stop: Indiana Jones);
  • buy glasses (OMG MY NEW FRAMES ARE SUPA-FLY);
  • read (HP7 today, but I’m planning on getting through Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd and Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach before going back to Beantown, and hopefully The Feynman Lectures before the summer is out);
  • live at Fenway House for the summer;
  • work full-time in Dr. Field’s lab when I return to Boston in mid-June (They’re studying metastable triplet species of acetylene, which are really cool because their lifetime is long enough to allow them to undergo collisions/energy transfers, unlike their singlet species counterparts which fluoresce before
    they can do anything interesting. Basically, there are LASERS and VACUUMS involved, so I was on board);

  • hang with my peeps in Boston.

Angel Irizarry ’09 (Course 6, of Skullhouse): “I’ll be doing a software engineering internship at Intuit in Boston.”

Grace Kane ’11 (Course 2, of Fenway House, formerly of Tetazoo): “Unfortunately, nothing more exciting than Being In Scotland. Which would I suppose be exciting and awesome if I didn’t, y’know, live there. Hope you’re having a good summer. Try not to spend all of it blogging. :P”

Liz Maroon ’10 (Course 12, of Burton Two): “I recently went to an orientation for my NOAA Hollings scholarship in Silver Spring, Maryland, last week. It was fun; I met with the other scholarship recipients (mostly majors in meteorology, atmospheric science, environmental science, and related fields) from all across the country. We listened to NOAA officials discuss various work that NOAA does in anticipation of the NOAA internship we’ll receive in summer 2009. (I could be working anywhere from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to Norman, Oklahoma, to Hawaii in any NOAA site. :D) I’m home this week chilling and finally catching up on sleep. In a week I’m heading to Dayton, Ohio, where I’ve got an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates – think of it as an NSFt-funded UROP) at Wright State University. As for exactly what I’m doing…well…I’ll find out soon!”

Louis Perna ’09 (Course 16, of Skullhouse): “I’m in Pasadena, CA (just outside LA) working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. My job is to take flight hardware for Mars Science Laboratory (the next rover being sent to Mars) and test it to make sure it will hold up in space and on the Red Planet. I spend most of my day in a clean room with the actual rover parts and with exact duplicates (for testing). I really like it!”

Shawn Westerdale ’11 (Course 8 and 22, of Random Hall): “I’ll be working on a UROP with Peter Fisher and Jocelyn Monroe. The group I’m working with goes by “The MIT Dark Matter Group.” Basically, we’re working to detect dark matter. The part that I am specifically working on is related to finding the z-axis projection of the dark matter through the detector. I will be programming part of the detector to reconstruct the tracks, and I will putting the different parts together so that they can all communicate properly (basically getting the data acquisition set up and running). This should help us weed out background noise in the detector and also give us a good understanding of the path of the dark matter wind through the detector (along with where it might be coming from).”

12 responses to “In Their Own Words (Part 2)”

  1. Jeremy '12 says:

    Wolfgang Ketterle is the man, and the CUA rocks my socks!

  2. Ty'12 says:

    WOOOOOOTTT!!! (you know what for)

  3. Paul says:

    Ty: For PHYSICS!? wink

  4. Ty'12 says:

    “Pasadena, CA (just outside LA) working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. My job is to take flight hardware for Mars Science Laboratory (the next rover being sent to Mars) and test it to make sure it will hold up in space and on the Red Planet. I spend most of my day in a clean room with the actual rover parts and with exact duplicates (for testing). “


    (you know what for) = Physics =P

  5. Lauren '12 says:

    Hey!! I’m doing the same thing as Louis Perna – working at JPL this summer. Cool! We should get in touch. Haha.

    Anyway, thanks for posting what everyone is doing with their summers! Very awesome.

  6. Harrison says:

    I recently found out that musicBottles is destined for the Museum of Modern Art in New York after completion and should be installed at several other art galleries around the country soon after…

  7. Ty'12 says:

    WOW. I didn’t know bloggers read minds.
    MIT-ers are cooler than I thought, a revelation that is surprising in itself.


    … WOW.

  8. Ty'12 says:

    Oh, and I had (and still have but magnitude X 100 now) thought MIT-ers were HELLA cool already, just to put that out there =)

  9. Anonymous says:

    I echo Ty on the Mars rovers.
    Actually, I’m jealous of most all of these people.

    But that one is the most.

  10. Stanislav says:

    harrison, that’s pretty badass.

  11. Caroline '11 says:

    well, jeremy, i sure expect to see you around here next year. =)

    and paul, thank you for posting this. makes me happy. =)

  12. wisdom says:

    It is interesting to see what your classmates are up to this summer. Some of them sound pretty similar to what I am doing as well.