Saturday, December 3, 2011

Marian Koshland Museum

Today, I had the opportunity to visit the Science Museum of the National Academy of Science (that I previously talked about HERE). AND IT WAS TOTALLY COOL!

Initial Impression: Small museum and only has touch screens.
    I will have to admit: when I see touch screens at a museum, I just want to walk past.  
But then I sat down at one of the exhibits:
     AND IT WAS TOTALLY COOL! One of the exhibits put me in charge of reducing America's CO2 emissions.
     First, I marked which categories were  my "priorities" such as low cost, environment, petroleum independence.... Then I had to figure out which industries would reduce the CO2 while maintaining my priorities.  Basically, I learned that it's going to cost quite a bit of money to revamp our energy policy (well, I guess that's kinda a no-duh).  Also, it made me sad that nuclear energy wasn't an entirely viable option (I am a supporter), but it would be with some money :-)

There was also an interactive involving HIV/AIDS and the pushing to get rid of it.  They had a cool video which talked about the current drugs which stop certain parts of the virus from pushing on.  They even talked about future drugs need to do to create a vaccine.
     Did you know: in 1998, it was estimated that nearly 40% of the people in Botswana had contracted HIV?  And they've been able to reduce that amount with simple prevention techniques! 

This exhibit included talk of prevention: with most viruses/epidemics, one of the best things to do is prevention, not treating the disease! It was an interesting perspective.

Final Impression: the interactive touch screens are probably the best in a museum I have ever seen.  Kids would definitely like this just need to get past the size of the museum because there is a lot of valuable information that the museum gives.

So if you are in Washington DC, be sure to check out the museum.  It was well worth the $3 (price for students).

Link to the Museum's Website

When you're feeling blue...

There are times where you are just feeling down. It could be related to school, life, work, or maybe nothing! Often your productivity gets shot, but you still gotta push on.  

My Go-To's: 

Coffee: Usually good if my productivity is down, and I need something to get a jump start.  I started drinking coffee lately, and my sad times have definitely decreased. Maybe they should start prescribing coffee for depression...

Saturn Rings/Peachy-O's: Just enough sugar to get me going, and think about how I got to NASA.  You look up at the stars and wonder, "Who am I in this vast universe?".  Just don't eat candy while you are hungry: It can cause major sugar crashes and headaches, which are never good.

Working Out/Dancing: Getting your adrenaline going often helps you to worry about something else.  I love coming back from my modern class feeling better and ready to tackle my homework problems.  

Chilling with Friends: Another diversion technique.  Resist the urge to rant about your classes or he or she.  Just sit around and watch stupid youtube videos.  Or watch a movie, and make fun of the characters.  Do something to get your mind off of school.

Sleeping can be evil sometimes.  I'll lie awake, worried about everything. And in the morning I'll feel even more anxious than I am now.

What are you favorite stress relievers/pick-me-ups?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reason for Blogging

Hi Everyone,

So I've read some of the comments to my blog, and I read that some of the male readers indicate that it isn't purely "female." 

You're right! The purpose of this blog is to do a few things
  • Show that female STEM students exist and are active in the STEM community
  • Encourage other females about STEM fields
  • Give light to fun STEM topics (whether they be feminine or not) 
The purpose of this is not to exclude anyone.  In fact, I often promote this blog to my male colleagues as well as my social science friends.   

I encourage you to leave comments regarding material, including ways we can improve this blog to fit your needs.  Also, I encourage you to email me if you would personally like to contribute.

I hope you enjoy the posts we've had so far, and thank you for reading! 
Serena C.

New York City, New York

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

It got me thinking about the huge marketing advantage that Macy's have. The city was absolutely packed.  Basically, if you can sell the idea of Christmas, you can make some money.

What are the balloons filled with? Helium! After my internship this past summer, I was able to know the politics with Helium.  Basically, the US has the largest reserves of Helium in the world, and the world is running out....quickly.  You're soon gunna see all of the Helium skyrocket in price! 

So what's going to happen with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Three things can happen:
  • Macy's will pay for the expensive helium
  • Macy's will get rid of the balloons (this would greatly damage their image and marketing power)
  • Macy's will fill the balloons with Hydrogen...which we all flammable (this may also destroy some of the supporters of the parade).
According to Wikipedia (I know...what a source.), 2006 saw a helium price increase.  So the organizers decided to reduce the amount of balloons.  Still...I don't know what they are going to do...

Dalai Lama

I love this posting! It's the Dalai Lama's 18 Rules for Living. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Making Things Look Pretty: Formatting

One of my favorite things about the computer is the ability to format. As you can tell, I love italics.  It makes everything stand out. :-)

Formatting becomes very important in many instances: papers, posters, presentations, resumes, this blog...So here are my tips!

Pictures are worth 1000 words.  I don't care if you are an English major or not: people do not like to read. Use your text to describe what your pictures are saying.

Make your own graphics! You don't need to be a graphic artist to do this.  Paint is awesome...and the new Windows 7 Paint is even awesome-r.  Take advantage of the zoom tool. If you hate Paint: use MS Word/Powerpoint and create a "New Drawing Canvas".  If you are able to, maybe take a look at Photoshop; my last lab had the program, and I started to use it for precise calculations on our drawings.

Empty space is your best friend.  Empty space is a sign of cleanliness, organization, and intelligence.  Imagine Einsteins's home office. Is it a mess? Or is it pristine with books surrounding a big comfy chair with a simple lamp in the middle?  Intelligent people are seen as clean (whether or not they are).  So keep your publications and works of art clean.

Use fonts, bold, italics, and underlines.  It helps to make things standout, similar to what I do here.

And for your papers/publications: Use EndNote! A few graduate students told me about this program.  I initially blew off their advice until I had about 20 sources.  You usually can download the program for free from your school's website.  However, it takes a little getting used to.  After a full semester of writing about 6 extensive papers with figures, tables, and (not to mention) sources, the program was able to organize them very neatly.  You can also look up a book/journals ISBN from the Library of Congress, and it'll format the Bibliography for you! Final tip: look up a journal using Google; usually you'll be able to download the citation STRAIGHT into your EndNote about a time saver.

Hope this helped :-) If you have any questions, feel free to write in the comments or email me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Poster Sessions vs. Presentations

I don’t know if any of you have ever done a poster session before at a conference or anything similar, but it’s one of my favorite kinds of presentations. Today the NASA interns had their "End of the internship poster session" where we basically just talked about all of the research we did through the entire semester.

What's a poster session you may ask? Well it's just like you would imagine: a bunch of interns with their posters standing around ready to answer any question that the invited guests ask. You don't have to prepare flashcards, or a speech, or really anything. All you have to do is know your project inside and out (which sometimes is not an easy task).

Personally though, I like powerpoint presentations better because you can anticipate what questions you will be asked easier. Those take more practice to actually engage people into listening to you ranting about your research for a while, but once you get down a routine it's a snap. Powerpoints eliminate the awkwardness that's at a poster session when someone is just reading your research and you're standing there smiling and thinking "do I look like an absolute crazy person smiling and standing here??".

So what's the moral of this post? Basically presentations are scary until you get used to them no matter what the format. If you're going to be in a field where research is the main goal, then you need to know how to engage people and persuade them into thinking your topic is the most interesting stuff they've ever seen. How do you do this? PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! My mentor last year told me to make as many presentations as I can whether it be at school, during school clubs, ResLife, at work or wherever. Just practice explaining your point and getting people interested. Today was my 3rd poster session and my 4th one will be in April. Of course I feel more comfortable during Powerpoints because I've been doing them since freshman year of high school. But see? That's because I've been practicing.

Well that's my advice for tonight. Now I have to get to bed so I can write a boring paper that's due next Friday. Wish me luck!

Taking a Look Back: High School

High school is a very difficult time to imagine your future self.  My high school experience consisted of colorguard and school.  That was my life.  I hated being at school, and would often want to go home to finish my homework. However, my peers and I would often dream about our potential in college or even after college.

I distinctly remember when a good friend and I were sitting in Mr. H's Junior AP English class, discussing college admissions.  "If I don't get into college, I'm gunna have LOTS of babies and go on welfare!" We were very nervous about our potential to get into the University of California system, even with our grades at the time. Our teacher simply laughed at our future "plans" and said, "You'll get into college. Don't worry about it." (Well, we did, and now we're rocking our respective UC campuses.)

In the same class (different day), the same friend was discussing my career prospects. "Serena! When you go work for NASA, will you name something after me?"  I basically scoffed at my idea of working for the glorious organization, and said, "Sure, I'll name something after you." To be honest, it was an empty promise at the time.  However after a few years at the university, I started to realize my potential in the "real world," and the words of the promise started to take hold.

This past July, I was offered to intern at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  I visited my good friend in August, and I told her that if I did, in fact, design something, I would name it after her (but only her nickname that she hated, hehehe).

Two weeks into my NASA internship, I got to design and build something.  It's basically rapid prototyped (you should look it up! it's totally cool!).

This is the part I created.  I added some 80-esq to it to give it some flavor.  And I named it "Malroy." It is used to hold my experimental samples while gluing them with the adhesive (I'll be sure to add my research later.).

Now it's really funny looking back.  You never realize where you are going to be in 5 years.  I currently wonder where I'm going to be 5 years from now.  But similar things will probably happen if I continue to work hard and be excited about what I do.  I hope this story is inspirational.  I do admit that it IS true.

Marketing Yourself: Part II

It doesn't how smart you are.  If you cannot market yourself, you are nothing! 

I was sitting around the NASA intern lunch table, and one of the interns was talking about his application for grad school application for Bio-physics.  However, he didn't know how to write his statement because it asked for all of his internship and research experience and how it's related to biology.  He told us about his research regarding space dust, and then ended up saying, "I'm not gunna get into grad school."

What should one do in this situation? 

Well first of all, he totally procrastinated on the application.  It's due in 3 days. Don't procrastinate on applying for a program that's going to take at least 2 years of your life.  It just doesn't make sense.

Talk about your experience.  Everyone has stories, regardless if it's related to whatever!  You'll have experience relevant to what you are going to be doing in your job/graduate lab.  Sure, it wasn't bio related.  But are you going to be collect samples? Yes. Are you going to work in a team? Yes.  Are you going to organize your data into a report? Yes!  If this isn't relevant to graduate school, I don't know what is.

Talk about your journey to today. You didn't just decide to go to grad school yesterday (well I hope you didn't). Why are you going to grad school? There has to be a reason! 

What difference do you want to make in the world?  People who read applications like doing so because they see themselves. It helps to remind themselves of the hope that the younger generation sees.  Be like Obama: promote the CHANGE for this world.

It's really hard to brag while writing.  I recently read essays for a high school scholarship.  There was one applicant who said, "I did ___. And I did ___.  Oh, I also did ___."  Sure, the essay was poorly executed.  But I didn't know anything about those activities unless they told me.  If you say, "I'm awesome," that's bragging.  But mostly likely you are just stating the facts.  Make the reader say, "Wow, that applicant has potential" by showing off a little.

*Update: I found this website that gives you advice on admission essays, regardless of which admission. The link is found HERE

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How To Succeed in Engineering: Dimensional Analysis and Tables

There have been too many instances where people in my engineering classes do NOT understand dimensional analysis or tables.  Sure, you may know how to do these things, but you need to be AWESOME at these things.  Some of you may not know what I'm talking about.  So let's have an introduction:

Dimensional Analysis
 I’ve loved dimensional analysis since middle school!  When I was 13, I could recite a TON of conversions (shows you how nerdy I was).  Here are some examples:

Convert 12 miles to meters.

If you buy a sweater that is $24, but 35% off, how much is the sweater?
Most people don’t know how to do these problems, at least not easily. 

Tips for the trade:
A dimension is a unit, which is like a number.  You can reduce the following: 5/5=1.  Well you can also do the following:  or  .

Think about other possibilities.  For instance,  .

Think about the unit actually represents.  Like area is just a two-dimensional length.  Volume is three-dimensional length.  Acceleration is the time derivative of speed which is the time derivative of length.  Okay, sure that was a little confusing.  But think about the bigger picture.  Here is a cool video to show you what I mean: Imagining the 10th Dimension.

Now about half (yes ½) of my upper division thermodynamics class was spent teaching us how to read tables.  And still people failed that class.  Sure, thermo goes beyond reading tables, but if you can’t read a table accurately, you are going to make silly mistakes on your tests.  And tests are your entire grade!

Tips for the trade:
Read lots of tables!  Like train tables!  I love sitting down and just looking at all the different times and thinking of different possibilities.  Another lame thing I like to do: read tables in the backs of textbooks.  It comes with surprises!  For instance, I found the specific heat for chicken and cake in the back of my Heat Transfer book.  Now, you can’t tell me THAT’s not interesting.

Use two pieces of paper to track your points.  Use one horizontally and the other vertically.  It’ll also help so you don’t strain your eyes.

Mark your point lightly with a pencil.  This has saved me many times.  Sometimes I’ll look back over the test and realize 1) my pencil point is in the wrong spot 2) I wrote down the number wrong.  It honestly helps you.

This whole blog post may seem like a "well, duh Serena."  But I'm telling you! Even my supervisors at my internships have converted wrong!  Be awesome at conversions, and then you can worry about the real "engineering."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Marketing Yourself (and your company)

So Simon Sinek came to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center a few weeks ago.  At first, I was very skeptical.  However, I do enjoy learning about the science of manipulation by reading things such as Malcolm Gladwell or taking a basic psychology course.  You learn a lot about yourself and others and how you could/should function in this world.

I will have to say that is argument is valid.  Here's why:

1) He's pretty cute.  But sorry ladies; from what I know, he has a girlfriend.  

2) We rely heavily on our feelings...especially us women.  For instance, it takes me a very long time to get over an initial bad feeling about someone.  I admit, it's hard to trust this person personally.  Sometimes my intuition is correct, sometimes its not.  Usually if I'm right, I'll find out fairly quickly and say, "I knew it!" 

I don't want to ruin his book/ TEDx presentation. Feel free to investigate for yourself. :-D

Example of Engineering Women

UC Davis has been in the news for the past week or so, and there has been quite a push for the Chancellor's resignation.  However, many of us believe that it is not her fault, but it is her responsibility to stand up for the students.  Chancellor Katehi is a model of leadership for many of us engineering women, and I support her fully.

If you would like the sign the petition, click on the link HERE

This is probably the only politically leaning thing I will post.  However, it is something I will stand for.