Interning with the Stars

November 2, 2016 | By Tim Pratt

Kristin Hoch interned over the summer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Kristin Hoch (SF16) interned over the summer at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Kristin Hoch spent her summer at one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world.

The St. John’s College graduate (SF16) was surrounded by supercomputers and scientists, test facilities and researchers.

And it was only a short drive from the St. John’s Santa Fe campus. Hoch interned at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The internship, which lasted from June 13 to September 1, was the result of the Ariel Internship Program—available to St. John’s Santa Fe students.

“Working at Los Alamos was really interesting,” the Colorado native says. “It was a cool place to be an intern because there’s so much technology you wouldn’t get access to anywhere else.”

Hoch first interned at Los Alamos in 2015. She had taken a cosmology preceptorial as a junior at St. John’s, which focused on the development of modern cosmology. She found the subject fascinating.

Much of her work at Los Alamos that first summer involved running simulations of galaxy formations, laying out the conditions and analyzing the data.

But it was a somewhat difficult process, she says, going in without much of a sense of how the programs worked.

So this year, her mentor had an idea: create a tutorial for future interns on how to run computer simulations and conduct experiments on the physics going on between visible stars and galaxies. The tutorial would set future interns up for success.

“At St. John’s, I was always interested in the process of education and teaching, and how that works,” she says. “So it was fun to implement that a little bit.”

The simulations focused on a variety of cosmology topics: inflation, or the rapid growth of the universe after the “big bang”; dark matter and galaxy formation; and her favorite, supernovas and black holes.

The experience gave her a chance to learn about a variety of scientific topics and try out different skills. She got to work with supercomputers, listen to speakers who worked on the Mars Rover and gain other knowledge. She hopes other St. John’s students take advantage of the opportunity to intern there.

These days, Hoch is busy tutoring, and is debating whether to apply for graduate school. Her focus?

The philosophy of science.