Bubble Tea, Pho, & Sharknado

What do these three things have in common?

Well, I spent the last week of May in Silver Spring, MD for the NOAA Hollings Scholarship orientation.  I arrived on Monday the 28th to check into my hotel (they gave out warm cookies when you checked in).  I met up with another scholarship recipient from Juniata for dinner and we ended up meeting a super cool group of people I can now call friends.

Tuesday

I woke up early to meet everyone for breakfast at the hotel before we headed over to the NOAA Science Center.  It was only a 15 minute walk through Silver Spring from the hotel.  Once everyone was checked in, the program began.  We first were welcomed by the Deputy Director for Higher Education, who was followed by RDML Tim Gallaudet, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.  He discussed his journey and gave advice about how to make the most out of our experiences.  He definitely made us more excited than we already were about being part of NOAA’s mission.  The next portion of the morning was set aside for information about the scholarship.

We finished the last portion of the morning session by beginning our introduction to the line offices.  First up was National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  Dr. Cisco Werner presented and gave an overview of the diversity of work the Fisheries Service can do.  The field opportunities are endless and this office is definitely on my list for next summer.

After the morning session, we took group photos and dispersed for lunch.  If you’re curious, we got Chipotle.

Photo May 29, 6 30 15 PM

After lunch, we continued our session.  Next was the National Weather Service.  Although I do not think I will work with them, I find their mission and work incredibly interesting.  Dr. Leticia Williams, a Social Science Post-Doctoral Student, explained their mission to provide Impact-Based Decision Support Services.  This is something I have always found interesting.  The way you explain something to someone changes their perspective of it.  In terms of weather, they mentioned needing to improve their forecast reports not to just give percentages, but also to provide specific information to those interested about how their day will be impacted.

National Ocean Service (NOS) was the next presenter and, by the end of the presentation, I was ready to sign up.  A lot of my interests in coastal management and restoration fall under this office.  They also provide a lot of field work.  This speaker was also very personable.  Like other presenters, he discussed how his career began, but he also included how he focuses on his family life in addition to his work life.  This became a theme among many of the NOAA presenters, which was reassuring to hear as a young person who wants to start a family one day.

The last presenter of the day was the National Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS).  We heard from Kelly Turner, the NESDIS Chief of Staff, and Alek Krautmann, a NESDIS Program Coordination Officer.  Kelly discussed her career path, which originally did not include sciences.  Alek also discussed his path and his experience as a Hollings scholar.  NESDIS is the core of all information that the other offices analyze and utilize.  They are not exactly on my radar (pun intended), but I will still consider their projects.

That evening, we attended a Reception and Networking Session at the hotel.  There was a pasta bar, mocktails, wings, turkey, fruit bar, and an amazing selection of desserts.  Needless to say, we did not leave hungry.  Image-1.jpg

And to continue the food tour, I tried Bubble Tea for the first time!!!  It was delicious.

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Wednesday

The morning was the same.  We met for breakfast and walked to the science center.  We began with a presentation from the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR).  Three representatives from varying areas of their office spoke.  The same theme continued throughout each presentation and we learned about the diverse ways people can get involved at NOAA.  This office does a lot of different work and I think it is possible I will do a project with them.  These speakers gave good advice, especially for interns.  Everything from “apply, apply, apply” to “be able to communicate science” was extensively covered.

The last presentation introduced me to a part of NOAA that I never even knew existed.  The Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) includes the NOAA Corps.  What the heck is that?!  From the OMAO website, “The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and serve with the special trust and confidence of the President.”  I had no idea this existed.  These are the people who do the work for the scientists to get data.  I am not sure if I am going to pursue this, but it is an option!

We took a break for lunch at this point.  My group went to Chick-fil-A.

The afternoon consisted of a career fair with each of the line offices represented by a variety of people.  It was an excellent opportunity to discuss my interests with each office and find out where would be the best place for me and who to contact about certain positions.  The advice I received and the connections I was able to make will indefinitely help me when deciding what project I would like for next summer.

And that was the end of the day!

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Photo Jun 02, 9 49 04 AM (1)

We went to dinner that night and I tried Pho for the first time.  I also got a smoothie with bubbles.

After dinner, we walked around and finally decided to watch a movie.  After being entertained by American Ninja Warrior and a PBS documentary on Einstein, we chose to watch Sharknado for a good laugh.

The best part was how excited we were when the movie mentioned the National Weather Service…we are officially NOAA nerds.

Thursday

On this day we got to tour nearby NOAA facilities.  I went to The NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Maryland.

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This is where scientists work on providing weather, water, and climate forecasts for the United States.  It was very cool to hear from the scientists about their work and see the actual space where they work.  There was A LOT of computers.  Each person took time to explain their work.  It was amazing.

The tour of the facility included a Science on a Sphere presentation.

After lunch, scientists from the facility gave detailed presentations about their work.  It was really cool and they were all very passionate.

My favorite speaker overall from the whole experience was the last one.  Dr. William M. Lapenta is the director of NOAA‘s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP).  He shared his career path and his personal life, just like everyone else, but what made him different was that he included his wife’s career in his story.  She was also a high achieving scientist who started and continued a career with NASA.  This meant a lot to me and, when asked further questions, he mentioned that each of them have had to make sacrifices for each other over the years.  This is important to hear in an era where husbands and wives are both working.  Promotions and traveling become taxing and difficult on families and relationships.  He also talked about how one can be overworked. In this aspect, he leads by example for his employees.  He only works 40 hours a week and spends the rest of his time with his family and friends.  He wants everyone to come in and do the best work during those 40 hours, but no more.  I loved hearing that because working overtime and being an “overachiever” all the time can be dangerous.  I definitely struggle with that now and I am only in college.

Overall, I loved my tour!  Check out my group in the bottom left picture:

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And that was the end!!!

But the fun did not stop.  I was able to spend the evening with my awesome new friends in Washington D.C.

We ate a fancy dinner, saw the President leaving the White House, toured the memorials, and ran through a huge storm.

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I had SO much fun.  Not only did I learn more about NOAA as an organization, but I learned more about my interests and what my career could look like.  I also learned more about myself by meeting people with the same drive and interests as me.  Each of my new friends have amazing career paths ahead of them and I cannot wait to see where this takes us.  Thanks for being awesome and never stop.

See you guys next year when we have completed our internships and are presenting our posters!!!

Photo Jun 01, 10 34 46 AM

Stay tuned to hear about my first week at ORNL!

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