Week 1: Just the Beginning

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Monday, June 13, 2016


Dahlia Baker

This week has been amazing in many ways. This is the first time in awhile that I had to travel to a place I had never been, all by myself, with exciting opportunities ahead of me. So, when I was sitting in front of the Reagan National Airport with my very heavy luggage wondering how somebody was supposed to hail a cab, I felt that familiar knot in my stomach that meant I was about to leave my comfort zone, but for good reasons.

The morning of orientation arrived very quickly, and I found myself surrounded by 300 other NASA interns, all just as excited and nervous as I was to begin working. All I knew at this point was that my research was going to be about the cosmic microwave background and the instruments that detect it. We sat for the whole morning, learning a lot about the Goddard campus and rules and such. After receiving my badge and getting in touch with my mentor, I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet somebody who has had a huge impact on my life, even though I didn’t know it until now. At the American Center for Physics headquarters, the SPS interns had lunch with Dr. John Mather, a nobel laureate whose prize came from his research on the Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite (COBE).  At this lunch he had a lot of advice to give us about the importance of outreach and our role in forming science policy on capitol hill that will make differences for our future. Without his prize-winning research, knowledge of the CMB wouldn’t have been furthered, and I wouldn’t have a project to work on this summer.

After orientation day, I spent my time in the lab, learning all about microwave engineering, spatial filtering techniques, how to work MATLab, and plenty of other things that are going to be crucial to my research for the following nine weeks. My project is all about developing filters that only let certain microwaves from the CMB to pass through to special detectors. My mentor, Dr. Ed Wollack, is an extremely driven man with a large background in microwave technology. As a rising junior, I have just recently learned electrodynamics. To be working in a field that is entirely based on these concepts that are completely fresh in my mind is going to be a challenge, but I’m doing my best to learn quickly. I don’t know where else I would be challenged to learn high-level physics, engineering, and programming all at once, but I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to do so here in Washington D.C. I am still in awe every time I find myself walking around the NASA campus with a neat badge around my neck. I’ve been dreaming about being an astrophysicist since I learned what it meant, and now that it’s reality, I couldn’t be more excited for the weeks ahead.

I'm looking forward to completing my research and to live in such a bustling urban area, networking and making connections with the scientists I hope to be working with someday. This opportunity wouldn't have been possible if my school wasn't so active in SPS, and if I didn't have such a supportive group of professors to guide me. This internship is a life-changing experience and I hope to get the most out of my time at NASA.



Dahlia Baker