Saturday, August 14, 2010


I'm still trying to catch up writing about all my trips! So here we go... I went to Paris on July 17-18. If you know me, then you won't be suprised that I missed my 6:30 am train on Saturday morning. Even though the next train at the same price didn't leave until 4 pm, I decided it was still worth it to go, and it was. I'm glad I got a glimpse of Paris, but wish I could have spent MUCH more time there to really get to see it. I met up with my friend from high school, Olivia and got to stay in her fancy schmancy hotel room for free (the room was a graduation gift from her brother-in-law). It was nice to catch up with my friend since I haven't really seen her in the last 4 years!

I mostly stuck around the area by the Louvre and the Tuleries Gardens, since it was close to our hotel and there was plenty to see in that area! On Sunday morning, we took another free walking tour through the same company that did the tour I took in Amsterdam. This time our guide was a funny Brittish guy (who kept subtly making fun of the French lol). The tour was really nice because I got to hear a lot of history and details that I never would have known or appreciated. It was also nice since I was there for such a short time, it was the best way to see all that I could in a short amount of time.
I don't speak any French, but another girl we were with does, so she could translate if we needed. I also found that simple phrases like bonjour, s'il vous plait, merci, pardon, and parlez-vous anglais? were very useful. In Belgium, pretty much EVERYONE speaks English, so I got used to everyone automatically speaking English with me and I stopped even bothering to ask. But some of my friends who have studied in France before told me it would be rude to jump right into English without saying something like "bonjour, parlez-vous anglais?" first. So I made sure to do that, and didn't have much of a problem, but at first I was a bit shocked that not as many people in Paris spoke as much English as they do in Belgium.

Olivia and I outside of the Louvre during the free walking tour, while the tour guide pointed out the orange stickers on some of the windows of the Louvre. Those windows are the ones that the firemen are allowed to break in case of a fire...

Sitting on Champ du Mars by the Eiffel tower after dinner, before having to catch my train home. I had to leave before it got dark enough to light up :(

Friday, August 13, 2010

Presentations, last week

As I mentioned before, Tom from Hopkins came to Leuven this week to check up on this program and discuss collaboration/IP stuff with some people at IMEC. So on Thursday Mike, Laura, and I each gave a presentation on the work we've done here and back at Hopkins, including ideas about how collaboration can continue with the projects. About half the data I ended up presenting were just collected on Tuesday... soooo it's been a long week. At first, I was a bit worried about everything coming together in time, but I think the presentation actually went very well and we all got a lot of compliments!

I wasn't as nervous as I usually am when I have to speak in public. Part of that is the fact that I have been studying and discussing and presenting the same general topic for the last year or so, but I think the other part of that is due to the Oral Presentations class I took at Hopkins last year. It was actually a bit more time consuming than I expected my random elective to be, but it was definitely worth it because I really feel like I got a lot out of that class and improved my presentation skills tremendously (yes, I used to be one of those people who tried to hide behind the podium and literally read straight from the 12pt font "bullet point" paragraphs that I jam packed onto each slide, so it didn't even matter that you couldn't understand anything I said anyway). It isn't a difficult class, but it just made me step outside of my comfort zone until I was comfortable and more confident - saved me a lot of stress this past year!

Anyway, I only have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday left next week, so I'm just trying to finish up some stuff, like writing up a protocol for my desorption experiments, cleaning up things I left in the lab, and possibly trying to repeat one last experiment.

This is the first weekend that I haven't done any traveling, so its nice to relax! I did go to Brussels for a bit this morning to do some last minute souvenir shopping though. There is another free music festival here in Leuven, Markt Rock, with a bunch of Belgian bands/djs, so I'm going to that too.

On Thursday, I will go back to Finland to visit my friend Erica again. She lives in Helsinki, which I didn't see much of last time, and we will also take a cruise to Sweeden, so I'll get to see a bit of Stockholm too! Then I will go back home to beautiful Colorado for only a week, and then moving to Evanston, Il to start a PhD program in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern! Its going to be a busy few weeks...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Time flies like an arrow... but fruit flies like a banana

HAHAHA sorry about the corny title, but after writing "time flies" I was reminded of that joke that my little sister, Heidi, told me :)

I just got back from a short trip to London with the other American interns here. I'm not going to go into details of the trip yet, or any of the other weekend trips I've taken over the past few weeks - I got behind in writing about them so I'm just going to jump to the present now and catch up with pictures/stories later when I have more time. So here is another short IMEC update.

I FINALLY got my desorption experiments to start working consistently, but of course I only have about a week and a half left now. I feel like with research its very easy to have a plan or goal to reach in a certain amount of time, but then some "simple" part of the process is unexpectedly time consuming. So now that I've past that slow part and the end of summer is near, time seems to pass much quicker! Someone from Hopkins is coming to IMEC on Wednesday-Friday, and we have to give a presentation on Thursday, so I'm working on that this week. But in addition to the experiments I've done all summer with fluorescent antibodies, I would like to include desorption of fluorescent DNA. I'm hoping that will work on the first try... since thats all I'll have time to do! It's going to be a busy week.

Since its summer and people get a lot of vacation time in Belgium, various people that I work with, or who make samples for me in the clean room (I'm not trained for the clean room) keep going on holiday for a few weeks at a time. It hasn't made anything impossible, but I keep having to track down a new person, so it might have actually saved time if I had been trained to make my own. A couple people in the group are actually traveling around the United States after a conference right now, which is funny since I'm sort of doing the same thing, but in Europe.

Last week, I also started using CorelDRAW, which I'm pretty excited about because my schematics will look more professional. In the past, I briefly struggled with Adobe Illustrator, but for some reason that software and I did not get along. I never took the time to figure it out and just resorted to basic PowerPoint figures. I am finding CorelDRAW to be much more user friendly for me, without any extra effort. I also downloaded a trial version of IgorPro onto my work PC to plot my data. I'm not doing any fancy analysis with it, but the graphs look much more professional than an Excel plot.

Thats all for now... I need to work on my presentation and/or get some sleep.