Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Diversity rules at IMEC

Today's blog post from Belgium comes from Matthew Gonzalez, a senior in Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

My first two weeks are coming to an end here in Belgium. I’m finally starting to settle into Leuven and beginning real work at IMEC.

Leuven is a wonderful, little college town with quite of bit of entertainment. The Wisteria, the apartments we are all staying at is a short bike ride—only 15 minutes—from the town center where most of the action happens. There are plenty of little restaurants to grab dinner at and the Oude Markt, or Old Market, is the place to be on the weekend nights.

Night out at Oude Markt
Our Hopkins group got dinner and went to a few bars afterwards with some of the people we work with. Despite us being about 5 years younger, they were all very nice and friendly, inviting us along to make us feel welcome. The group we went with was made up with people from Spain, Italy and other countries beside the native Belgians.

IMEC is a very diverse place pulling in researchers from all over the world. I find myself trying to guess what someone’s accent will sound like before they open their mouth. Everyone speaks English, but each with a unique accent...everyone can instantly tell I’m an American after a few words. The nice thing is people actually like us Americans—I don’t think I’d be saying the same if I was in Paris!

IMEC itself is incredible. It reminds me of a big corporate lab from a movie that James Bond would break into. I will not be working in the huge cleanrooms, one of the most mentionable features of IMEC. This may be a good thing though because I’ve heard how obnoxious suiting up is. I still work in a clean environment in an argon atmosphere glove box, otherwise the lithium we use as the electrodes in the battery tests would ignite...which is never a good thing.

My project is the development and testing of batteries. Now I’ve never had any experience with batteries in my past research, which focused on controlled synthesis of nanoparticles. Although I will take some of the nanoparticles I’ve synthesized and use them as electrode materials, I first need to get the methods down. The general idea is coat a wafer in nanoparticle based thin film to create ultra-thin battery materials.

Leuven architecture
I’m almost finished with my first set of experiments—running tests on six pre-fabricated samples—and will learn the analysis process in the coming weeks so that I can become more independent and begin work on some novel experiments. Everyone in my group is very friendly and more than willing to help and teach me what they know. I still haven’t met the PhD student I will most closely be working with since he is on holiday (or on vacation for us Americans), but I’ll hopefully have a good grasp on the techniques and methods when he comes back.

I’m very excited to start research in a new field and learn all I can while I’m here…though I’m sure there will be plenty of fun to be had as well!

No comments:

Post a Comment