This is the second summer I've spent at IMEC working to further the research I do at Hopkins, so I've got a pretty good grasp at how life in Leuven runs. It has been very refreshing to return to Belgium and see all the old sights again. I don't feel pressured to run around Belgium and Europe, taking tons of pictures because, well, I've already done that. My focus this summer (culture-wise at least) is to relax and experience Belgian culture, instead of just observing it (which happens when you are in a rush all the time).
Welcome to IMEC!
Getting back into the gist of things at IMEC has been quite easy. I didn't have to do nearly as much training as I did last year, so I got quick access to the labs I need to use. Unfortunately, I have to wait a while to make the hydropolymers that are essential to my project (missing synthesis component), however, I've been completing some nanoparticle characterization tests and figuring out the best way to test the gels when I can finally make them. Basically I get to sit in a room using a laser for large parts of my day, which is awesome, because, you know, lasers...
I'm still working on my Dutch, but I'm pretty sure this says "No Admittance, Laser Sharks," but I could be wrong.
Other than that, things have been quiet at work. I'm mainly waiting to receive one last component so I can start synthesizing composite gels, but I have lots of smaller tests that I can (and have been) doing in the mean time.
One thing that I've been trying to do (note the emphasis) is learn some Dutch this time around. I don't think I'll really use it much in conversation because I have yet to meet someone (in Flanders) who doesn't speak English better than I will probably ever speak Dutch. Even so, it's nice to actually know what people are saying, what warnings the signs have, and most importantly, what I am actually buying at the grocery store. So far, I haven't learned anything that is very practical, but I've got some basics down (like asking what someone is doing, where something is, and how many keys there are), so if you ever need me to ask a Dutch/Flemish speaker (who doesn't speak English) how many keys there are, I'm your man (as long as their answer is less than 12...I haven't officially learned any numbers higher than that). As you can probably tell, I'll be fluent in no time at all.
I'll update again when I get my research rolling and when I can count higher than twaalf.
Until next time!
Blog post by Peter Nelson