Thursday, July 28, 2016
A working qPCR chip and a quirky Belgian fest
The last few weeks have been filled with some truly wonderful memories and it’s going to be hard to narrow it down to just a few, but I’ll try my best! Work at imec has been going steady; unfortunately, the testing I was doing with tag primers didn’t end up working, but we have found a working master mix for qPCR on-chip. I’ll be spending the rest of my time at imec testing a variety of conditions to see what enzymes and cycling protocols work best for the on-chip setup.
We also had to give our midterm presentations last week for our project advisors, imec colleagues, and the people back at Hopkins. It was really neat to hear in detail about the work Lakyn, Lydia, Chris, and Michael have been doing with their mentors. Everyone enjoyed the presentations and our hard work was rewarded with a nice reception of Belgian beers and snacks afterwards.
Now, onto the weekend travels. On the second weekend of July, I went to Paris and to spend more time with family and friends. The weather was perfect for wandering the streets. We strolled through the immaculately maintained Jardin des Plantes, where we were surprised to find some very cute kangaroos sunbathing, and by the Seine River. On my second day there, we went to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, which ended up being one of my favorite museums this summer. Enormous curved panels, checkered with vibrant colored glass, cover the exterior of the museum. The main exhibition had a few collections of modern Chinese paintings, sculptures, and films on display, which were equally as wonderful to look at. I returned to Leuven Sunday night completely exhausted, but so happy that I got to fit in so many new experiences in Paris.
The next weekend, Lydia, Chris, Lakyn, a few of our other friends, and I went to Ghent for the annual Gentse Feesten. We had heard through the grapevine that Gentse Feesten was a legendary Belgian festival that we simply could not miss, and I’m so glad that we went! Ghent really lit up (literally!) at night: there were hundreds of food and drink stands, concert stages, and quirky art booths scattered throughout the city. Our adventures lasted well into the night and I can comfortably say that the Belgians know how to have a good time.
And lastly, this past weekend I got to celebrate my birthday with my boyfriend here in Belgium. He came down from Scotland where he’s doing research at the University of Glasgow through the Vredenburg scholarship. We wandered around in Leuven and Bruges, and I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend the weekend.
We have just one more weekend and nine working days left until it’s time to return to the States. I feel like we’ve just gotten into the swing of things, and now we have to prepare to go back. But if I’ve learned anything in the past two months, it’s that you can pack a lot into a short amount of time and that’s what I fully intend on doing.