Week 10 - Into the Big Open Blue

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Sunday, August 9, 2020


Max Dornfest

I am listening to Sleep Walk by Santo and Johnny. The soulful riffs requiring hands to swing back and forth upon guitar necks reminds me of the rocking of a boat. The wistful lullaby melodies draw forth an emotion between painful longing and excitement for the future. Like looking at the sunset on the last day of vacation, the end of this internship is both a happy and sad moment. 


I really loved the work I did this summer. From reviewing a grant proposal, annotating Sen. Schumer’s Endless Frontier Act, developing a healthcare industry one-pager, and being principal investigator on my econometrics research paper; my experiences had me grow professionally and personally. This was a special moment in time, my cohort was great, the support from SPS was incredible, and my supervisors encouraged me to reach for the stars. For the 2021 SPS Summer Internship Cohort, I don’t know if you will be doing things remote or not. Therefore, I have come up with three points of advice I hope will be useful to each of you no matter what the circumstances:


First, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for what you need or to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. You were already selected for this program, SPS and your mentors want you involved and making something palpable out of your time! 


Second, try your best to hang out with your cohort. I think the one negative experience I continually had during this internship was an unrequited wish that I could have hung out with the amazing people who were both all around me and yet hundreds of miles away. Whenever us interns would share memes in the group chat or hang out on Zoom, I always thought about how much I would enjoy their company while at SPS events or exploring on our own. I am so grateful for the fun I got to have with them, and that other interns were engaged and open to the idea of forming friendships remotely.


Finally, I would recommend getting work done when it is assigned. This includes immediately responding to work emails. One of my supervisors had me come up with my own deadlines. Similarly, I was told it was established office culture to reply to all emails promptly. Now, I am used to college assignments/finals and long-term coding projects at LBNL and so this was my first time setting my own timetables for submitting work. I answered emails as they came in and always gave myself deadlines ~1-2 weeks out, but then finished the work within 72 hours, weekend or not. I did this because I was worried about the remote-work setting making me complacent. It earned me a huge amount of respect, breathing room to enjoy my summer, and the social currency to ask for a few days off for one week with zero guilt. 


Most of all Interns of 2021, I am telling you to be unabashed in your drive to make the most of this internship. Let me put it this way, May-August 2020 was a time of rapid change for the world, but my internship has still changed my world and myself even more. This is in no way to denigrate the changes others have made around me, far from it. Rather, this summer had the cumulative effect of seeing this change and finding my agency. I am working to publish a paper, I fundamentally changed how I delegated work for myself, and gained a lot of confidence knowing that just being myself led to supervisors happy to write me a letter of recommendation. Thank you SPS and John Mather for providing this opportunity for growth.


I am now listening to the Vitamin String Quartet’s cover of The Scientist by Coldplay. I wonder what I will be listening to a year from now when I read about the next generation’s experiences and moments of eureka? I can not wait!



Max Asa Albert Dornfest


Max Dornfest