Posters on the Hill Recap

by Ben Judson Locke, Physics ’11

I arrived in DC on Monday, a day before Dr. Marcus Hohlmann and Mike Staib to attend an orientation session and tour of the National Archives. During this time, I met many of the other undergraduates there to present their research. A very broad spectrum of academia was represented from an analysis of Schumann’s music, to electron spin experiments, to a transcription of the oldest known copy of the Iliad, and of course muon tomography at Florida Tech. I was very impressed with the people I met and the research they were doing. Being a graduate, I thought I would be unique there as “the guy who’s graduated.” It turned out that there were several graduates as well as people younger than had I anticipated  including some sophomores.

Tuesday started with breakfast and some interesting talks by policymakers on how research has influenced their careers, including some former Posters on the Hill participants. After this, Dr. Hohlmann and Mike arrived, we had lunch, and then it was off to meet Eddy Pauley. Eddy is a lobbyist who works with Florida Tech and he helped us with all our congressional staff meetings. After meeting Eddy (and getting my poster, which was in a 6-foot PVC tube, through senate office building security), we met with the staffs of Senators Nelson and Rubio. This was a very cool experience! Sen. Nelson’s office, in particular, seemed thoroughly interested in our research; this is no surprise, as Sen. Nelson has a long history of supporting science. After these meetings, we rushed to the House office building to meet with a member of Representative Posey’s staff. This staff member was a former electrical engineer and was able to appreciate many of the technical details of our research. At all three meetings, we bolstered support for funding to Departments of Energy and Homeland Security research, as well as several specific bills authorizing similar funding.

Immediately after our meeting with Rep. Posey’s staff, the poster session, itself, occurred. Fortunately, this took place in the building across the street from Rep. Posey’s office. Eddy was knowledgeable enough to get us through the tunnels under all these buildings so we didn’t have to go through security again. The poster session was very crowded with undergraduates, their advisors, congressmen, policymakers and a whole host of people. During the session, the Senate was in the middle of a vote, so the few senators who were there would suddenly run from the room when a bell rang.

After the poster session, we used our tickets to the House gallery we got from Rep. Posey’s office and sat in on a late-night speech in the House of Representatives. Though few Representatives were actually there to hear the speech, it was interesting nevertheless. The following morning, we had enough time to walk around the Mall and by the river, including viewing the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial before flying back to Melbourne.

All-in-all, it was a really great experience! I thank Dr. Hohlmann for giving me the opportunity to work in his lab and Dr. Baksay for introducing us. I also want to point out that I am not the sole person responsible for the muon tomography research I presented. The whole of Dr. Hohlmann’s lab contributed to this research in some form or another, and we all deserve credit.

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