Thursday, September 4, 2014

Microfluidics and the World Cup

Today's blog comes from once again from IMEC intern, Polly Ma who spent time in Belgium during the World Cup this summer while doing research.

My very own official IMEC lab notebook!
I'm in my fourth week here at Leuven, and I'm finally getting into a rhythm working at Imec and living in a foreign country. Here at Imec, I am working on a microfluidics project making droplets on a silicon platform. The first two weeks, I tested different surfactants to improve droplet stability.

Surfactants are like detergents that help lower surface tension between liquids, in this case oil and water. They help the droplets keep their shape so that reactions can be run in each droplet separately. After testing several surfactants, I have moved on to working with a more complex device which aims to run reverse transcription and polymerase chain reactions in droplets.

Though my work back at Johns Hopkins also deals with running reactions in droplets, I am more used to working with a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) platform for microfluidic chips. It has already been a great experience working in the Imec labs, as well as enduring a very steep learning curve.

Outside of the lab, I still get the opportunity to interact with my coworkers. Last Sunday, two of my colleagues at Imec hosted a musical concert, complete with a 5 piece brass, drums, and a singer. I really enjoyed seeing my coworkers out of the Imec environment and the concert was extremely fun!

Celebration in Oude Markt after Belgian win over Algeria.
This past Tuesday was also the Belgium's first game in the World Cup, and Belgians are crazy about their soccer! The game was at 6 pm, so many people left the lab early to grab a good seat at Oude Markt in the city center of Leuven. Oude Markt is a street of bars and each bar mounted several televisions outside to broadcast the World Cup games. It was so much fun seeing the patriotism and excitement from the Belgians, as well as hanging out with my coworkers in a relaxed environment. I'm looking forward to the rest of the World Cup season!

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