Week 5 - Have I "learned" anything?
Every time I Skype my dad, he asks me the same question: have you learned anything? Every time I answer, though, I’m unsure. Have I “learned” anything? I guess I’ve learned things that aren’t measurable with a written exam or a multiple choice test, but I really have learned so much from lab life to traveling. In the lab, I’m getting a real taste of what it’s like to do
experimental physics. Physics is so hard to explain. One of my main goals this summer is to measure nanoparticles and their photoluminescence and attempt to glean some insight about its characteristics from my data. With each set of data, the anxiety increases. What will my graph look like this time? Will it match my older sets of data? Every time two sets of data are a match or begin to follow a clear pattern, I get excited. Very excited. But the thing about experimental physics, as the guys in the lab tell me, is that physics never does what you want it to. Just when you think you’ve figured out the pattern, you take another test just to make sure and find out that everything is behaving differently now. What has changed? What is happening? The only thing we can do is theorize. We can try to understand what is happening inside the little nanoparticles and hope that our explanations will be reproducible.
In my traveling endeavors, I’ve learned more concrete things. From my travels throughout Europe, for example, I’ve figured out what type of snacks to bring to keep my backpack light but my tummy happy. I’ve figured out how to read the train schedule books that looked more like Morse code the first time I saw them. I’ve figured out how to navigate a city without a map. The best part about these things is that I learned them from making mistakes I’ll never forget. Walking around for six hours with a heavy backpack makes for one unhappy camper. Missing the last train home because you misread the train schedule book makes you learn how to read it right. Map-less exploration is the best way to find the best streets in a city, but only if you can find your way back to the train station! If only missing a question on a test made me take tests better too. There are so many stories to tell from my travel adventures (feel free to ask me about them!) that it makes me cherish this summer of memories even more.
Pin-Wen Wang is majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Harvard (class of 2014). This summer Pin-WenPin-Wen will be studying light’s affect/effect on Nanoparticles at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. When she's not trying to figure out why there are so many e's in "engineer", Pin-Wen likes to play frisbee, cook, and try new foods from all over the world. Her favorite color is orange, and it's unlikely you'll forget that when you see her walking across Harvard Yard in the winter with her bright orange puffer jacket.