Week 2: A Day in the Life...
A day in the lab starts around 9 a.m., but I tend to get in a little earlier. Something about being in Germany makes me wake up before my alarm and greet the sunlight coming through my windows with a smile.
I love getting into the lab early because I get to watch others slowly trickle in and go about their
morning coffee routine. My first job in the mornings is to refill our camera with nitrogen. Most of my lab time is spent working in what is called the “dark room,” where laser measurements are taken in complete darkness for more accurate data. The apparatus in this room shines a laser at different intensities onto my nanoparticles with the goal of capturing the emission of light given off by their electrons. The camera attached to this apparatus allows us to see the nanoparticles; the problem is, these nanoparticles are really small, and if the camera isn’t sharp enough, we can’t see anything. That’s why we use liquid nitrogen to cool down the camera and minimize vibrations or noise that would blur our images. I don’t know if you’ve ever played with liquid nitrogen, but it’s a lot of fun-- liquid nitrogen evaporates quickly at room temperature, freezing everything around it, andI love to watch the air condense into white clouds as I guide the nitrogen into the canister.
Just as I’m getting into the bulk of my data points, figuring out what type of function fits my data, lunch comes around. At exactly 11:15 a.m. every day, the whole lab congregates to eat lunch in the cafeteria, or Mensa. Since I’ve been in Germany, I’ve tried all kinds of foods, from the regional dishes like currywurst and fries to delicate braised beef shanks or German renditions of Chinese food. After lunch, it’s back to work again. If I’m not getting more measurements in the dark room, I’m helping another student with his project building LEDs, or continuing to analyze all the data I’ve gathered.
My favorite part of work happens Mondays at 2 p.m., when everyone from the lab gathers in the conference room to hear a presentation from someone in the group. These presentations (which are now in English so that interns like me can understand) range in topic from the presenter’s research projects or interesting summer vacation to a summary of Ig Nobel Prize-winning projects. Although some of the material is way over my head, I love hearing about research, and it’s a great way to take a break from data fitting Another great thing about presentations is that they’re followed by a coffee break, when everyone hangs out in the conference room, sipping coffee and snacking on yummy Haribo gummies, cookies, crackers, cake. I love Mondays!
Although most days I leave the lab around 7 p.m., on Mondays I leave early to practice with the Duisburg club Ultimate Frisbee team.. If you’ve never played ultimate before, you should definitely give it a try. Ultimate is one of those international sports where you can find a team everywhere you go, and it’s easy to join in. Last summer, I played with a Frisbee team in Taiwan, and found that it’s a great way to meet locals and really experience the local culture. Plus, it keeps you fit! By the time frisbee is over, it’s around 8 p.m.—and still light out. One of the best (and most confusing) things about Germany is that it doesn’t get dark until around 10:30 PM., so when I get home around 9 p.m., I still feel like it’s late afternoon. The problem is, the supermarkets here close early, around 8 p.m., but luckily there’s an amazing we-have-everything-you-need-to-buy megastore just around the corner from my house that is open until 10 p.m. Most of the time I pick up some groceries there, cook myself an easy dinner, then take a short walk around the inner harbor. Duisburg has a unique beauty in the evening, with buildings along the water lit up with soft colored lights creating beautiful reflections in the water, and I feel very lucky to be here for the summer!
About the Blogger
Pin-Wen Wang is majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Harvard (class of 2014). This summer Pin-WenPin-Wen will be studying light’s affect/effect on Nanoparticles at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. When she's not trying to figure out why there are so many e's in "engineer", Pin-Wen likes to play frisbee, cook, and try new foods from all over the world. Her favorite color is orange, and it's unlikely you'll forget that when you see her walking across Harvard Yard in the winter with her bright orange puffer jacket.