Me: Nice to hear from you! I'm actually working a half-mile underground in a cutting-edge physics lab located at the bottom of a century-old iron ore mine where I'm trying to teach bored tourists about a mysterious little particle called a neutrino as well as dark matter. What are you up to?
(Facebook friend): omfg whATT?!
I've had this conversation at least five times since the start of the summer, regarding Awesome Summer Job.
I had applied for Awesome Summer Job in April, but I never expected to get it. Then I got the phone call while I was literally on my way to take my Modern Physics final.
Future Boss: Congrats Matt! We want to hire you to work in the Soudan Underground Mine! We're going to pay you well, give you free housing, and incredibly flexible schedule and a chance to flex your physics teaching muscles while working with bonafide high school physics teachers.
Me: (trying to speak while drooling out my mouth and simultaneously jizzing in my pants) THAT'S SO #$@%!!#% AWESOME! But my final is in ten minutes canicallyoubackplz?!
The lateness of the summer job threw my summer plans completely out the window. I had been intending to take a morning class from the U in Duluth that I could no longer take. I had to drop out of that while at the same time begging and pleading professors back at Drake to let me into their equivalent classes in the fall.
My workplace sort of resembles the lair of a demented Bond villain. Located 2,341 feet underground, it can only be reached by taking a cage down a small mine shaft. On one side, mine tunnels extend a mile into the surrounding rock, which visitors can travel on a historic tour. On the other side is my occupational space, where a 6,000 contraption of steel and plastic carefully monitors a pivotal particle that humanity knows almost nothing about. Every time I walk in there, the little kid in me goes apeshit at the sight of miles of cords, blinking lights and terribly complicated monitoring boxes. I get giddy when I go in there.
My job is chiefly physics outreach. The Soudan Underground Mine has been home to physics experiments for 30 years, but only the most recent one has been open to the public for tours. I bring visitors down the cage, into the lab and explain to them that they are being shot by millions of particles smaller than atoms every second by a beam from Fermilab in Illinois. Did your eyes glaze over when you read that? My tourists' eyes do too.
I'll also be doing some design/writing work hopefully soon — wait, what?! You mean I'm going to be combining physics and journalism, two of the areas I've had extensive training in? THAT'S EVEN POSSIBLE?
Starting to see what this Summer Job is full of Awesome?
It's harder work than you'd think. I haven't nailed it all down yet, and I live in terrible fear of of the Physics P.h. Douche from MIT who will inevitably appear on my tour and stump the hell out of me. Still, I'm teaching, I'm learning, I'm thinking about a subject I'm fascinated with.
The only real concern I have is if the Zombie Apocalypse breaks out while I'm underground. You might think the seemingly inaccessible location of the mine would be a plus... but you're wrong. Assuming Z.A. occurred within a short span of time, it would be impossible to stock the caverns with enough canned food to last until the infestation was overcome. We would have to resort to either cannibalism or bats. Ugh.
Also, the only way in or out of the mine is the mine shaft, and if the hoistman is bitten or scratched by an enraged zombie tourist, we'd be stuck down there; the only way up is a ladder that goes up the entire 2,341 feet, hitting 50 or so other platforms as it does so. Zombies would almost CERTAINLY be attracted by our zesty human flesh and throw themselves down the shaft, meaning we would have to fight off a Scad of them at every platform. Unless we could use our physics skills to invent some kind of super Zombie Zapper, we'd never see the sun again.
...but other than that, it's great!