Week Two: Ocean City

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Sunday, June 19, 2016


Maria McQuillan

It has only been two weeks since I moved to the DC area and I have to say I’m loving it. There are free museums, beautiful monuments and memorials, street performers, great places to eat, and it’s within a few hours’ drive of so many different states. This weekend a few NASA interns and I ventured up into Maryland to go to the Ocean City Air Show.

We saw it all there, sting rays being caught at the pier, a sea of umbrellas and sunbathers, a carnival, an endless boardwalk and as a special treat, this weekend was the Ocean City Air Show. We found a spot right where the beach met the water and watched the biplanes and jets perform amazing feats in the sky. The final act was by far the best, the Thunderbirds. The formations and stunts they performed were spectacular! It was like synchronized swimming on steroids. The five jets did a combination of formation flying and crazy stunts that left me gasping for breath. I can’t imagine the amount of skill and trust that comes with flying in such precise formations.

My time with NASA this week has been very informative. I spent a large portion of my week collaborating with another intern to locate and analyze events in the solar wind. We worked together to identify what we believe was a Co-rotating interacting region(CIR). This occurs when fast solar wind interacts with slow solar wind. This interaction causes high speed particles to be propelled in the direction the CIR is propagating. One cool thing about interacting wind is that it generally doesn’t mix. Solar wind is actually just chunks of plasma expelled from the sun. This plasma has a frozen in magnetic field and is composed of many charged particles flowing along the magnetic field lines and since they are ionized they cannot cross magnetic field lines. So when two different plasmas interact, it is difficult for them to mix because the magnetic fields cannot simply mix, and thus the particles in the plasma can’t simply jump to different plasmas.

Other than my studies at Goddard, this week I attended a seminar about a genetic engineering tool called CRISPR. This new discovery has the potential to edit the genome! For example, it can cure diseases such as HIV and even wipe out malaria. How you might ask? CRISPR is able to slightly alter DNA in organisms, such as the human T cells. These cells have receptacles that allow HIV to infect the carrier. CRISPR can alter the shape of these receptacles so that the virus can’t attach to the T cells! There are a few people in the world born with these special T cells, but with CRISPR we could all be immune to one of the deadliest diseases. 

Maria McQuillan