Friday, June 22, 2018

A Series of (mostly) Fortunate Events - Rayyan Gorashi

Fortunate, grateful, appreciative: practically any word that can generate that describes even the slightest inkling of gratitude encapsulates my feelings that came about within the first hours of touching ground in Brussels. Our first day was packed with tours of the different IMEC facilities, meeting endless people, and trying to find a working ATM to get some cash for dinner. Despite my 20 hour journey to Leuven from California, the energetic and welcoming faces we met completely overtook any lurking sleep deprivation.

One of these faces was my supervisor Thomas. A Belgian and IMEC native (he defended his PhD just two weeks before!), he not only was extremely passionate about the microfluidic device model involving cardiomyocytes that I would be working on, but was also helpful both in and outside of the lab. When telling him that we would be traveling to Brussels on our first weekend after settling, he gave me several landmarks and suggestions to make sure that we wouldn’t be wandering aimlessly around the city. In the pictures, we are by a famous garden near the Royal Palace. The only downside to Brussels was the taunting smell of waffles and fries - we arrived in Leuven in the last week and a half of Ramadan, so I wasn’t able to try those oh-so-famous Belgian Waffles just yet.

Our second day in Leuven consisted of getting our bikes to ride around the town. Within twenty-four hours, the chain of my bike broke mid-ride to my appointment at city hall. Obviously enough, I missed it. I tried to hop on the bus to the bike shop to get my bike fixed, but I ended up getting on the wrong bus: I didn’t realize this until my journey on Google Maps had increased from 18 stops to 24 stops to 28 stops. At that point, I hopped off the bus and made my way onto the correct bus route and to the bike shop, dragging my broken bike with me along the way. Even between the mishaps of my third day, the cool Leuven breeze that dried my sweaty face on the way back to my apartment instantly made up for it. My first two weeks at IMEC have been filled with a lot of learning, but I am nonetheless very eager for what the rest of the summer has in store for me and my research project!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Hitting the Ground Running - Dante Navarro

After a long day of traveling, leaving Sunday before lunch and arriving early Monday morning, we went straight to our work at imec. Our wonderful guide, Laurien, helped us get acclimated to the huge campus of imec, a campus reminiscent of the tech giants of Silicon Valley. We went to the cafeteria for lunch (everyday our group eats lunch at the same time, 11:30) with the entire group that we would be working with for the summer. It was amazing how accepting and inclusive everyone was immediately.   

The next day we walked and rented the most important thing for staying in Belgium for a summer: a bike. Everything became accessible within Leuven now and the commute to work became even shorter. Through the next few days, we finished up all of the administrative tasks we had like declaring our stay and finishing up safety trainings at imec.  On the weekend, we were invited out to spend time with our work group who we bonded with right off the bat, making me feel at home the first night out. 

On Saturday, we explored more of Belgium and ventured to Brussels. The train system is amazing here as far as being quick and economic. In Brussels, there was so much to do but we stuck to the main tourist attractions of the Royal Palace, city center and especially the food, since we knew we’d return. Belgium is known for waffles and fries which is understandable because I had both in Brussels and they were the best that I have ever had in my entire life. 

Returning to work on Monday, I began working on my project within the wearable technology department that utilizes biologic vital signs to produce a calculated stress values and how to visualize this on an iPhone Application. I am enjoying my time at work, but I am also very excited for my trip to Madrid this weekend!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"Boring" protocols...says who! - Jaynie Criscione

Last Monday morning, I arrived in Leuven, Belgium, for a 10-week research internship. I flew into Brussels airport and jumped on a train to Leuven. Once I got to imec, I stowed my bags and got to work! The first day was the longest, but luckily all five of us adjusted quickly. Most people in Belgium speak English, so communicating and navigating is not too difficult. Though the language is not a problem, most signs are in Dutch so I would recommend a translator app.

As for first week survival here, renting a bike and getting a Belgian SIM card from Orange is a must. Bikes are the primary method of transport because the city is small and the roads even have bike signals next to the pedestrian crossing signals. Thankfully, the daylight hours are between 6AM to 10PM, so biking back to Wisteria (our studio apartments) is safe.

At imec, my research is in the Life Sciences Technologies group (LST). I am studying bacterial biofilms using microchips. Biofilms are known to form on implanted therapeutic devices, creating highly antibiotic resistant coatings. With my experiments, I aim to characterize the spatial organization and characteristics of biofilms in hopes of finding methods to recognize and eradicate biofilms.

I’m happy to report that everyone at imec has been kind, compassionate, and welcoming. Though we are interns, everyone has made us feel included and important. The people at imec are personable and considerate--I was surprised they were concerned with work rules being “annoying” or protocols being “boring”, when in fact they were the opposite.

This weekend I will be traveling to Madrid, and last weekend, I went to Brussels with Rayyan and Dante. I’m looking forward to traveling Europe, but there’s also so much going on in Leuven. Stay tuned!

Dinner with IRES Group

Java Cafe at IMEC. An important collaborative place!

Leuven Town Hall.