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Undergraduate Researchers

Daniel Litwak

Daniel Litwak, Physics

NIST Summer Researcher

How did you find out that you could do research in your field this summer?

I am a physics major, and I received many emails from people all over campus about research opportunities. Many of these were about the NIST SURF program, which caught my attention.


Did you apply to other places?

Yes, I applied to about five other places. NIST was the first response I received. It was exciting to know I had a confirmed place for the summer.


Was the application difficult to do? Did you have help with this?

The application was quite possibly the easiest of all the places to which I applied. Ms. McGlynn made deadlines well-known, and there were no problems whatsoever.


Who was your mentor for this project?

My mentor was Dr. Ron Tosh, a physicist in the Ionizing Radiation department at NIST. We had a great time over the summer, learning new information from medical physics to electrical engineering.


How were you financed? Where did you live?

We were paid a hefty sum of $5,000, which was an attraction of the program. The folks at NIST put us up in a Summerfield Suites, a nice hotel about 10 minutes from campus, where we got to know the staff during the summer.


What was the hardest part of your research?

The hardest part was getting any of the results to match up with expectations. I would spend an entire day running an experiment and letting a program process all the data, only to find that I’d messed up a minor detail eight hours previous, throwing off the results. But the whole experience is about learning (or discovering) new science, experiencing research, and gaining patience.


What was the most unexpected thing?

How far the research at NIST extends. I have gone to class and heard professors present some information, only to realize during the summer that I was working with the people who discovered that fact. It’s a surreal experience.


How does this research relate to your course work at UMBC?

The most relevant was the Electronics Lab I took at UMBC. We learned about all these separate pieces of circuitry throughout the course, and during the summer I was asked to create a circuit using all of these pieces. To be able to apply exactly what I had learned towards something useful and new was exciting.