Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Day is Almost Here...

Today was much less intense than the past couple of days. We began with a lecture from a well known particle physicist, Rick Van Berg. Rick primarily designs detectors for particle physics experiments. He has done a lot of work in the Cern Laboratories in Switzerland, home to the smartest scientists of this age and the best particle accelerator in the world. Lately, he has been working in the SNO facilities in Ontario, Canada. SNO stands for Sudbury Neutrino Observatory and it too is one of the best research facilities in the world. His lecture was actually all about Neutrinos, which is a basic particle that usually travels close to the speed of light, can pass through most matter unaffected, and is electrically neutral. He discussed the origins, discovery, and research of neutrinos and it was all fascinating. For instance, the SNO facilities are basically giant clean rooms, much like facilities in which they produce computer chips in. Professor Van Berg told us that if even a teaspoon of dust were to be introduced to the facility, every project would be ruined. I always find the stipulations that are put on certain research environments interesting. I like seeing all the effort that scientists and researchers are putting in to reduce their possibility for error as much as possible. Professor Van Berg covered one of the more difficult and complex lectures, but his was much more understandable than some of our other lectures.

After lecture, we continued with our presentations. I was very excited to watch these demonstrations because I wanted to see what kind of work my friends and peers had been doing for a week. I was also anxious to see how our data and experiments would stack up against theirs. When it came down to it though, our topic was quite different than most of the other groups’. While most of the other groups were doing experimentation for the majority of the week, we were being given lectures about radio astronomy and the tools used to study it. This was completely understandable though. Although we did not do many experiments, we needed to know how everything worked before we could understand what exactly we were doing before we could actually do it. This really made our presentation stand out because our data section was short, but our general and background information was much more extensive than the other groups’. Mary told us at the beginning of lunch that she though our presentation was a nice change from the rest and that our information was plentiful and well-organized.

Following lunch, we split into four groups to tour different labs around DRL. I didn’t realize that there were so many different kinds of research going on in the DRL. We visited medical labs, cosmology labs, and even soft-condensed matter labs, which deal with matter that has both the properties of liquids and solids. Mostly, we spoke to grad students that were doing research in the lab. They were able to tell us all about the projects they were working on. One of the most interesting projects we saw (in my opinion anyway) was a machine that was being developed that would use near-infrared waves to sense tumors. The research was mostly focused on improving scans for breast cancer, but it was also applicable to scanning other tumors and also brain activity. It was truly amazing work. Of course each of the labs was showcasing the best of what they were working on and each of them told us why their specific field of research was one of the best. It was interesting to hear about the different research styles and opportunities that all of these grad students have. It was even better to hear that undergrads are also allowed to study in these labs and perform research. Our visits to these labs were truly enlightening because it gave me an even better glimpse of what kind of research opportunities I could potentially have in college.

Sample data collected by grads and undergrads

Professor Van Bern discussing ATLAS, another project he worked on

After class, I continued packing a little bit. I’ll finish tomorrow before the room check, but it’s definitely not something that I am looking forward to. Once 6:00 came around, my floor and our RC, Carlos, went out to Bobby’s Burger Palace for a group dinner. Apparently the Bobby, after which this restaurant is named, is THE Bobby Flay. I didn’t realize this until we walked inside and there was a whole section of the counter dedicated to Bobby Flay marinades, spices, and cookbooks. The food was amazing as well. It was just a burger and fries, nothing too extravagant, but it was just so delicious. The burger was cooked to perfection and the fries were perfect. I couldn’t imagine a better way to come together as a floor. We all took a group picture out front, but we only had time for one shot because we had to be back at the quad as a group before a certain time. Unfortunately my camera was not the one used, but my friend and floormate Sachit’s. He will be uploading the picture to Facebook soon and I will be sure to use the shot in my reflection blog.

Everyone approves of Bobby's

We returned to the quad and got as much of the group together as we could. Since this is our last full night here at Penn, we wanted to enjoy our final moments hanging out in our lounge-like dorm. Although Fred, Abheek, and Julia were busy, Alison, Brian, Onur, and I still had a great time. We talked, we laughed, but most importantly we just enjoyed each other’s company. Being together in the dorms and lounges is what I’m going to miss the most about being at Penn. These nights were often the highlights of my days and I will always treasure the moments I’ve had in our little family of seven. The end is near.

One day remains.

A different take on Vettriano...

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