Light at the End of the Tunnel

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Friday, July 27, 2018


Daniel A Morales

"I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” - Thomas Edison


Continuing from last week and the bumps I met in the road, I began questioning the progress of the 6-7 weeks I spent learning theory. I began to question if my ability to even conduct research was up to par with my peers and mentor's expectations. I understand this blog's purpose is for my friends and family to keep up with my progress, but more so this is for the future SPS summer interns, and while each week I have been here has been a blessing, I cannot allow the idea that any of our projects are "easy" or go as well as they may seem to be through the words of these blogs. I spent most of the week working late in the lab to produce data useful for a presentation, yet as an antithesis to my work and dedication to the project, I was not able to submit a poster for judging next week. It seemed as if every time my mentor and I studied what I produced, more problems arose from the cracks in the walls of the data. Relationships between parameters of my models were not lining up. "Is it the boundary conditions? What is the relationship between the length of the model and the size of the EM wave entering the guide? What frequencies can this module even function at? Where do the field lines reflect and WHY on earth is this effective dielectric constant looking so funky? Better check that mode again and make sure your ports are integrating along the correct paths." To say the least, too much caffeine has been indulged to keep up with the week and its demands. But this is exactly what I expect from research! If everything were to go swimmingly within the internship I do not think the work done would be nearly as rewarding.


Now as I am writing this blog post, I was in a huddle with my mentors around my computer throwing ideas into the ring to contest what the issue is with this software. Mentors like these are hard to come by, they are able to challenge me to a proper level of thinking and do not give out handicaps easily. I expect of them to not hold anything back when they are concerned with ideas I haave and I expect the same from them. This type of environment is perfect for my suiting, I love the ups and downs of the research. We all get frustrated with each other if things do not add up, so for future purposes when discussing issues with physicists: USE NUMBERS TO SUPPORT YOUR IDEAS. As of Thursday night, I had no idea if I would be able to even present a poster at the rate of this data not computing properly. But, as of today, MODELS ARE FINALLY RUNNING PROPERLY! It is such a nerd mentality that the best thing I have seen all day is my model matching with expectde values for characteristic impedance and effective dielectric constants. My model is lossless as a perfect electric conductor, and I now have good data to present on COMSOL's abilities in this RF module. I feel like within this last week, I have mastered Excel and its plotting abilities through the 50+ plots created this week for my project. A wave of relaxation has rushed over my body, almost to the point where it can be mistaken for laziness. 


One thing that kept me grounded this week at work was actually spending time away from work. By going to the NIST tour, I was able to think about other things rather than focusing on my propagation constant being complex and lossy. Jesus set up a great tour of NIST, it *almost* made me jealous of his home site (but my true love is still with NASA). NIST and their labs reminded me of my research last summer in Florida: working with SEM's, spectrometers, thin films, vacuum chambers, all that good stuff. 


This week reminded me of why I love science and research: it will check you when you get too comfortable. Now that my plots are looking like something to be proud of, I am going to end this blog and finish my poster.


- Daniel M.

Under the Newton Apple Tree at NIST
Visiting the rocket garden at GSFC

Daniel Morales