Thursday, June 23, 2016

Groovin’ in Leuven

It’s been a crazy two weeks over here, getting accustomed to living in a new country with a different language, unexplored streets, and countless people to meet. Though it was a little rough at first, I think we’ve finally settled in here in Leuven and we’re starting to fall into a routine.

The first few days of work at IMEC involved a lot of training, reading, and getting to know the people in my lab group. I didn’t have the greatest background knowledge in my project before I came, but now I’m getting the hang of things and starting experiments next week. Our group is developing heart cell on-a-chip technology for the evaluation of pharmaceuticals in development—with lens-free imaging, contractile measurements with electrode arrays, and calcium imaging, one can analyze a drug’s effect on the typical behaviors of cardiac cells before putting it on the market. I’m excited to start working with electronics, as I’ve learned about them in various classes, but haven’t had a chance to get practical, working knowledge until now.

Besides the 9-5 weekdays at IMEC, we’ve been able to explore some new places. Leuven has fields and rolling countryside in addition to its bustling city center—when we first arrived to our dorm, we saw a couple of goats next door as well as a field of horses down the street. The city has amazing architecture, cobblestone streets, and countless shops and cafes. One of my favorite places that we visited in Leuven was Kruidtuin, Belgium’s oldest botanical garden. It had hundreds of different kinds of flowers, plants, and trees, and the weather was perfect to just walk around and take in the sights. We walked around the Groot Begijnhof, a neighborhood built in the 13th century that once served as a community for pious women and nuns. Within the heart of Leuven is Oude Markt, a street lined with bars, restaurants, and cafes that is always full of people, whether weekday or weekend, night or day.

This past weekend a few of us went on a day trip to Antwerp, a city with more cool architecture and statues. Though some of the museums we wanted to visit were closed, there was plenty of other sites to see, including the train station, which was gigantic and beautiful. We toured a brewery and spent the day walking around sightseeing, which wasn’t complete without a Belgian waffle ;)

Excited to see what else is in store for us here in Leuven! Thanks for reading! 

Lakyn Mayo is a rising junior in Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and an IMEC intern with the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology International Research Experience for Students program. 

Train station in Antwerp 
Belgian waffle topped with chocolate

Oude Markt

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