Week 10: An Ending That is Only the Beginning

Share This:

Wednesday, August 10, 2022


Taylor Overcast

1 summer, 10 weeks, and 1 million steps, and just like the internship has come to a close.


It is a little disorienting to think about returning to school and leaving DC and the internship. This place has become a second home and the people have become a second family. I was hesitant to have high hopes for this summer, but it has been the most influential summer and some of the best weeks! If you told me 3.5 years ago where I would be this summer, I would have thought you were crazy. If you had told me during internship application season (6 months ago) that this is where I would be, I would still be extremely surprised. This blog post is going to be long, so I have split it into parts to make it easier to navigate – hopefully, it’ll make it easier to read the parts you care about. I have a lot to share about how much this experience has meant to me, and this seemed like the best way to do it. 


This week was packed! 

On Friday night, a few interns went to dinner at Duke’s Groceries – another one of our favorite spots. We headed back to the Consignment for a night spent playing video games and eating Snickerdoodles – got to use up those baking goods! The interns are all lovely people, and I believe some of them will remain good friends long after this summer. On Saturday, Janessa, Emma, and I put on our tourists’ shoes and hit up quite a few Smithsonians – Saksham met us later in the day. We visited the Smithsonian Visitor Center first to make a plan. We walked through the Gardens, went to the Asian Art Museum, and then walked through the Hirshhorn.

We found an astronaut and had to take a picture:

Unexpectedly, the Hirshhorn is my favorite museum – highly recommend going to check it out if you are ever in the area:

The Sculpture Gardens has a wish tree at the moment – some will make you laugh and others have a much more sombering effect:

On Saturday night, I went to a jazz concert in Arlington with Lucy. The concert was in a quant park and was quite fun. Afterwards, we returned to the group to head back out on the town to explore.

Emma, Janessa, and I accidentally matched, but it made for cute pictures:

On Sunday, the group headed out for brunch at Crepeaway (highly recommended for good crepes on a small budget) and then headed over to the Art Gallery. We expected to be able to see more than one museum, but none of us realized how huge it is! We saw several eras of art and then headed back to the dorms to make food for our weekly potluck. We met up with all of the interns to eat and play games for the rest of the night. 

For the final few days of working, I had a lot to wrap up. This week I focused on collecting the rest of the data for STEP UP. I wrapped it up on Wednesday, and I even got to hop on a couple of Zoom calls with the STEP UP team on Tuesday and Wednesday. This data was a small part of the research that needed to be completed to begin a 4 year plan to distribute physics more widely in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. STEP UP is one of the organizations that I have loved getting to learn more about and work with. This specific project is to, hopefully, over the course of several years, make physics more available in urban areas. STEP UP addresses so many of the issues that I have become more aware of in the last few months as I have worked toward my research, and I appreciate the work they are doing. I look forward to seeing how the next few years of this project go!

In addition to data mining, I finished condensing my talk from Michigan to 8 minutes. The talk was roughly 40 minutes at Michigan, and it took a good bit of finagling to get it cut to 8 minutes without cutting out most of my data. On Thursday we had our practice presentations at ACP. It was exciting to see what everyone had been working on over the summer! All the interns have talked about our projects, but seeing the professionally delivered work was a completely different experience. On Thursday night we had a final potluck to get rid of all of our leftovers. It ended up being really weird nachos, but it was fun hanging with the interns and packing the communal boxes to send back to ACP together. 


The Final Day:

On Friday we had our final presentations! My mom came for the event, and was able to see where I worked, meet my fantastic mentor, and meet all the interns she had heard so much about! She was amazed by the amount of careers that were possible with a physics degree. It was fun hearing her opinions and amazement about everyone’s presentations. Giving the final presentation was a bittersweet moment. It was exciting to feel the joy of accomplishing something, but it was sad realizing that the summer was officially coming to a close.

Presenting the condensed version of “The Long-Term Impacts of Attending a Low-Income School”:

Some of us taking the opportunity to document the summer in slightly higher resolution photos – most of this summer was documented in low-quality photos of high-quality moments, but this one was slightly better:

After presentations we all packed a little bit and then headed to Quigley’s one last time with Brad. We had great conversations and tater tots, said some final goodbyes as some interns were leaving already, and documented the night with a final group picture:


After Concluding:

After Quigley’s I headed to pick up a college friend from the airport. She had never been to DC before, and we decided it would be a great opportunity for her to see the city. Once I collected her, we headed back to the Consignment to have a final night with the other interns. We played games, talked about our future plans, and said some goodbyes. On Saturday morning, Joy and I rode with Emma, Saksham, and Lucy to the airport, and then continued our journey to my cousins’ house. We got things squared away, picked up some family and headed back to the city for her to explore. She had the insider’s 48 hour tour of A LOT in DC – I managed to cram the Wharf, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial, WWI and WWII Memorials, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Smithsonian Visitor Center (so she could see the highlight reel), the Hirshhorn, the Sculpture Gardens, the Smithsonian Gardens, the Renwick Gallery, the White House, the Einstein Memorial, and lots of random places I hung out at in an on-foot tour of the city. 

Her first time to the White House:

On Sunday night I was able to spend lots of time with my cousins that live nearby. On Monday morning we headed out… I was grateful to have good co-pilots as the 10 hour drive got extended by some closures on the interstate. 

My family is pretty cute, if I may say so myself :)

Nothing like the first sunset back in Tennessee:

That’s a wrap on the internship stuff. The rest is a little more personal…


Now for a short story on my journey here.

I have known from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher – specifically a STEM teacher. However, I was encouraged to “do something better with my life.” I entered college orientation no longer really knowing what I should pursue. I was highly considering a double major in athletic training and mathematics, but physics had never ever really been on my radar for a career. However, as I walked out of my math advisor meeting during orientation, I happened to run into the chair of Union’s Physics Department. He had struck up a conversation with my parents by chance. I still do not know it happened, but somehow by the end of the conversation I had changed to a physics and mathematics double major. 

I would be lying if I claimed there have not been moments that I have wondered if I should have pursued athletic training or physical therapy. However, I had decided that medical physics is how I could combine these other interests with physics. I would go to graduate school and I would be “doing something better with my life than teaching.” As I was applying for internships for this summer, I chose to apply for 12 various ones – 11 were medical and then there was this one. All of the medical internships had 10 or more positions available and then there was 1 available here. 

January 15th rolled around… the due date for the application, and my second recommendation letter still had not been turned in. I was still home for winter break and had been unable to get into contact with my professor who was writing the letter. I had taken a trip to Jackson to see him for life advice/application advice the weekend prior, and he had the letter ready to go. After several emails over the course of a couple days (marked with highest importance), I gave up. I watched as the clock rolled to January 16th with a surprising discomfort about missing the due date. I didn’t want to be a teacher… Why was I disappointed? 

The next morning I started on more medical applications. As I was writing, I received an email that the due date had been extended! My professor emailed me that same morning apologizing for missing the due date. However, he got it in on time due to the gracious extension. I expected to receive an email that declared that I was not chosen for the position, but to my surprise, a couple months later I was offered an interview, but the interview was scheduled for the week that I had to tell all of my other options yes or no…

The week of the interview rolled around and I was excited? I hate interviews so I was surprised by that emotion. I had completed two other interviews by that point and felt better equipped for the types of questions that are usually proposed. However, the week of the interview was not a week that I want to repeat. We had a frisbee tournament that was located about 4 hours away from Union. As I was driving a car full of my teammates home, I found out one of my classmates from high school unexpectedly passed away. Even though we weren’t that close, it shook my perspectives on things. I had three exams that week and I was struggling to focus. I could not stop thinking about how some of the most influential people in our lives are our teachers – especially K-12 teachers. On the day of my interview, I had my last test. I walked out of the exam and went to my next class… I would have to leave it early to go to the interview. It was not until that moment that I really comprehended a) that I was about to have an interview b) I wanted the position and c) that I wanted to be a teacher. Being a teacher isn’t “wasting potential,” as I had been told so many times before. It is one of the careers that has the most influence and is the exact meaning of “doing something with your life.” 

My professor ended class early for me to Zoom into the interview (it was an advanced lab class with three people in it). I made the trek across campus to the library and the interview began. Mark and Kayla were the ones interviewing me. I only remember the last question from the interview… What are you most proud of in life? Hmmm, nope. I was not prepared for that question. However, words came very quickly… Not something that usually happens for me. 

I discussed attending a low-income school and being told on my first day of college physics that I was behind. I was confused by the fact that my professor already thought I was behind on day 1. Sadly, he was right. I spent many hours in his office attempting to understand things that my classmates had seen at least once in high school already. I was discouraged to say the least, but with the help of amazing professors, hard work, and about a year of time, I caught up to my classmates. The irony of my answer was not lost on me. I was applying for an internship that is trying to figure out how to decrease the opportunity gap that I had just described. The interview concluded, and I immediately called my mom. I told her that I had no clue how it went, but if I didn’t hear back in the next 24 hours I would have to choose out of my list of medical options due to notification due dates. I was discussing my thought process about which one I would choose with her when my email dinged. I did not believe it. I forwarded the email to my mom to make sure that I was still capable of reading, and sure enough it was an offer for the position. I don’t cry often, but I walked out of the library with a couple tears of joy on my face that day. Talk about a 180. I woke up that morning thinking I would be doing medical stuff for the summer (and probably my life), and I had just accepted a position to work with physics education.

I share this journey only because I hope that other people can understand that teaching is meaningful work. It IS doing something with your life! It took a while for me to get there, and I am so grateful for all the pieces falling into place for me to be here this summer. This opportunity has shown me the aspect of physics that I am truly very passionate about – teaching it to young minds and bridging the gaps. I think I have always known what career I should pursue, but it never felt okay to do so until now. Thank you to all the people that helped in this process! This internship meant a lot to me, and I will forever remember these weeks as I head off to teach in the near future.

This exhibit is quite fitting for this blog, so I will leave this here:

Signing off for good :)

Taylor Overcast