What I Really Learned from Plasma Physics Internship

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.


The smell of burning metal tickled my nose as I stared intently at the oscilloscope on my messy desk. I looked back at the breadboard, and quickly realized what I had done. I hurried to rip the IC chip out of the circuit, burning my finger in the process. I took in the scene: 2 burnt IC chips, 3 breadboards, a noisy oscilloscope, and lots and lots of wires.

I was at the Naval Research Laboratory, interning in the Plasma Physics Division. My goal was to build a phase-locked loop to track the changes in capacitance in an RLC Circuit, eventually designing a circuit that could tracking a moving object. I spent weeks in my office researching; I borrowed a legion of books from other scientists and scoured the internet for hours before I could finally attempt to build the circuit, which resulted in failure. After weeks of no results, I developed my own idea-- I would track voltage drops instead of noisy phase shifts! I wired the voltmeter to my circuit, making sure not to short it out again

Staring at the voltmeter, I nervously adjusted the capacitance. The voltage dropped! Still in disbelief, I successfully repeated the experiment with different capacitors. The next step was to track an object. Excitedly, I hung a metal sphere from...

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