Sunday, June 13, 2010

First week at IMEC

My first week of work at IMEC went really well! I was mostly just getting paper work out of the way and being trained to use different facilities and equipment. That really depended on the schedules of the people training me, so at times I was busy, but at others I had nothing to do. This week I should be able to run some experiments on my own and hopefully be more productive. I expected a lot of the paper work and administrative stuff to take longer than it did, but we got that out of the way pretty fast. I got safety and general training in the bio labs that I will be working in and was also trained to use their fluorescent microscope, potentiostat and electrochemistry equipment, and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) machine. I've never used SPR before, so I had to learn about how it works and why we use it. Basically, this technique uses changes in refractive index at a sensor surface to detect material adsorbed onto or desorbed from the surface. This is how it is used for biosensing applications. Electrochemistry and fluorescence are other methods I used in the Searson group at Hopkins, and will use this summer to characterize and study SAMs.

Here are some other observations/notes that I've found interesting so far:
  • Everyone that I work with at IMEC is very friendly and helpful, especially when I got lost trying to find my way between labs or couldn't find the supplies I needed.
  • The computer at my desk has a Euorpean keyboard, so it is throwing me off a bit. I get used to this one then switch to an American one and have to readjust my typing again. I might try to see if I can exchange it.
  • Almost everything important (signs, labels, directions, etc) is in English and Dutch, though occasionally someone has to translate for me (like some of the paperwork and the menu in the cafeteria).
  • My "commute" is very nice - all down hill on the way to work and through a nice little bike path by a stream with ducks. The grocery store is right on the way home too.
  • Everyone must swipe their ID card when entering/exiting a building or lab. This is done to make sure you have access to that area and also in the case of an emergency, your location is known.
  • One thing I found quite shocking was that you can dump strong acids and bases down the sink, but have to put even small quantities of PBS or ethanol (things I consider generally harmless, like salt water or vodka) in special waste. I guess phosphates are more difficult to dispose of, so PBS must go into the "contaminated acid waste." Most sinks are for acid waste, but there are some separate sinks or waste containers for the contaminated acid waste (bio contaminated solutions, phosphates) and solvent waste (organics).
  • People eat fries (which originated in Belgium, btw, not France) with forks...weird.

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