Week 8: Words of Wisdom

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Thursday, July 27, 2017


Samantha Pedek

There are moments in life where I just have to take a step back and marvel at the things human beings can do. I have mentioned several times this summer the importance of meeting and networking with people, primarily because I struggle with mustering the courage to reach out to people, especially well known physicists. On the very first day of the internship, Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather dropped by the American Center of Physics (where our orientation was being held) and had lunch with us. I did not get the chance to properly introduce myself, and I was left feeling as though I didn’t jump on an opportunity to connect with Dr. Mather. Once realizing that I work at the same facility as him, I sent him an email asking to talk over coffee, which was scheduled for this past Monday.

As the meeting came closer and closer, I wondered what kinds of things I could possibly ask Dr. Mather. The wealth of knowledge and experience he has is incredible! I am a first generation college student, and I only know a handful people who have been to graduate school, and even less who have received their PhD in physics. Getting the opportunity to talk to Dr. Mather about his life experiences was invaluable. His is incredibly accommodating and willing to offer advice, and his journey is inspiring.

Later in the week, Dr. Mather gave a talk to the entire intern cohort at NASA Goddard about his work and the technical aspects of what he does. Within the next year, the James Webb Space Telescope (led by Dr. Mather) will be launched from French Guiana. It will be the successor to the Hubble Telescope and has the vast potential. Overall, it was extremely interesting to be able to see the human side, as well as the technical side of Dr. Mather.     

Also this week, Kristine and I met with Dr. Earl Blodgett, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and member of the SPS Executive Committee, who happened to be in DC for a conference. Dr. Blodgett is incredibly passionate and driven, and is always a pleasure to talk with. For the entire time I have known Dr. Blodgett, he has always been readily available to help students and offer advice. Though brief, it was wonderful meeting up with him.

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by genuinely good people. People who go out of their way to help others, whether by offering advice, lending a helping hand, or by creating opportunities for others. Thank you to all the people who have helped me along the way. Whenever you help someone, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you, it may play a huge roll in someone else’s life. For those of you reading this who also struggle with networking and asking for help, Dr. Mather shared with me a wonderful piece of advice. Do not feel like you are burdening people by asking for help. People will help you for their own personal gain. That gain being pure the satisfaction of helping others, and being able to make a difference.    

Dr. Blodgett, Kristine and me outside the restaurant where we had dinner and caught up.

Samantha Pedek