Visiting Cardiff during the Rugby World Cup

I had the great opportunity to have a research stay for two months in the laboratory of Prof. Hutchings at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute in Wales in the end of 2015. RESOLV Graduate School of Solvation Science gave me the financial support to be able to make my journey. My project during my stay there consisted of several tasks. First of all, I had the opportunity to test my materials for various catalytic reactions which were not applicable in our laboratory. My PhD project mainly focuses on photocatalysis, that is, the utilization of (preferably visible) light instead of heat to run heterogeneously catalyzed reactions. Due to my experience in photocatalysis, I could help my colleague with whom I worked closely together during my stay. Her project also focuses on photocatalytic reactions and she started her PhD round about 6 months ago at the time when I arrived. The idea was to build a set-up which is quite similar to the set-up I use at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung. Although we had some great progress, we couldn’t finish the job before my flight back to Germany. Anyhow, I am pretty sure the set-up will be ready in the first weeks of January.

Safety first! My colleague and I putting on proper UV-safety eyewear before setting up the Xenon lamp. – Safety first! My colleague and I putting on proper UV-safety 
eyewear before setting up the Xenon lamp.

The third part consisted of a detailed investigation of the support effect on glycerol oxidation for various kinds of catalysts. I’d chosen this as a small project which was also an important aspect of the side-project of my colleague and I felt glad to contribute to this topic. All in all there was plenty of work to do during my two months stay at Cardiff University. It turned out to be a very productive task and the results might be published in the near future. Splitting your working time on several tasks seemed to be the way to go for my stay.

Science Zone

My research project consists of the utilization of the visible light absorption properties of nanosized gold particles for the chemical transformation of glycerol to value-added products. The whole progress of utilizing light for driving chemical reactions on a catalyst is known as photocatalysis. The purpose of my stay was the investigation of various gold containing catalysts for different reactions (glycerol oxidation, H2O2 synthesis, CO oxidation, benzyl alcohol oxidation etc.). On the other hand, the group was about to build a photocatalytic set-up. My experience in photocatalysis would help to build the set-up and investigate photocatalytic reactions.

Typical picture during the photocatalytic reaction: Illumination of the reaction solution through the glass window of the stainless steel reactor with green light from the top. My colleague in Cardiff will eventually be able to have a similar set-up at the end of January 2016.– Typical picture during the photocatalytic reaction: Illumination of 
the reaction solution through the glass window of the stainless steel 
reactor with green light from the top. 
My colleague in Cardiff will eventually be able to have a similar 
set-up at the end of January 2016.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon in Cardiff with a flight time of only one and half hour and had a very warm welcome from my colleagues. Luckily, they were all heading to the pub after work, so I could quite early get to know many faces. I used the weekend to get familiar with the city and – most importantly – to get used to the fact that people drive on the left side in the UK. This and other things which were different compared to other countries (like the plug sockets, the safety switches on the plug sockets, the lack of plug sockets in the bath room due to safety reasons, the lack of good bread etc.) were something which gave us always plenty to talk about when having conversations with my colleagues from abroad. Cardiff offers lots of things to do during your spare time. Every weekend there is a 5 km run through the Bute Park along the River Taff. The first time I joined the run, there were about 500 participants! Roath Park which, unfortunately, is way smaller than Bute Park was the next place I visited for my running session. Beautiful and informative places like Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Castle and National Museum Cardiff were also visited. Luckily, the weather was untypically dry and calm. Rainy and windy days accumulated only at the end of my stay.

Top: The chemistry department of Cardiff University (left) and the National Museum Cardiff (right). Bottom: Rugby ball “smashed” into the wall of Cardiff Castle due to the Rugby World Cup 2016 (left) and the two teams Cardiff Blues (in red) and Nottingham playing against each other in the British & Irish Cup.– Top: The chemistry department of Cardiff University (left) and the 
National Museum Cardiff (right). Bottom: Rugby ball “smashed” into the
wall of Cardiff Castle due to the Rugby World Cup 2016 (left) and the 
two teams Cardiff Blues (in red) and Nottingham playing against each 
other in the British & Irish Cup.

Of course, there are a lot of pubs where you can try various kinds of beers. Talking about a good beer – I really appreciated my curiosity for trying new things out like different Ales or IPAs (India Pale Ales). The fact that they also served Lager beer saved me from my curiosity and helped me to enjoy more familiar beer types. A full English breakfast on the other hand is for me unarguably the best thing you can get to eat in the morning. Last but not least, a visit to Wales or UK in general will not be complete if there is no rugby game. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a ticket for the quarter finals Wales against South Africa but I managed to join a game after the Rugby World Cup trouble – the Cardiff Blues against Nottingham. The matches of the Rugby World Cup were watched in the fully crowded pubs. Football requires a lot out of a body but I think Rugby puts some things into a new perspective. When you have enough from Cardiff, you can easily reach Bristol or Bath in England in about one hour by train. The highlight of my stay was the trip to London for one weekend with my cousin and some friends of her. I was really satisfied that I achieved a lot of things in the laboratory and also could manage to see a lot of Cardiff and other cities in the UK.

 Last get-together before leaving Cardiff.– Last get-together before leaving Cardiff.

Eventually, I would like to thank Prof. Hutchings, my supervisor Dr. Simon Freakley and my colleague Laura Abis who not only gave me the opportunity for this research stay but also made every effort to have a productive and nice stay in Cardiff.

Link to Cardiff Catalysis Institute

About the Author

ProfilePicGDGeorgios Dodekatos, born 1988 in Minden, achieved his      B.Sc. in Chemistry at the Georg-August Universität Göttingen and his M.Sc. in Chemistry at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, where he decided to focus on heterogeneous catalysis, especially photocatalysis. Currently, he works on his PhD thesis about glycerol valorization via plasmonic photocatalysis in the group of Dr. Tüysüz at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung.
His scientific motto is: “A scientist has to work very hard to get to the point where he can be lucky.” – R. B. Woodward

Völlig losgelöst – Completely detached

Jump to photo gallery.

RUB; völlig losgelöst

Opening with cutting the ribbon. left to right in the back: Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith, Mayor of Bochum Thomas Eiskirch, Rektor Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich, Prof. Dr. Katrin Sommer
; left to right children: Leonie, Leon, Matthias

 © RUB, Marquard

The Adventure starts

An impressive deep space expedition comic. Elegantly dressed men whispering. A film crew in the middle of ‘action’. Where did I land? Am I right here?
Jens comes to greet me kindly. Okay, I am right here. The film shooting about the Solvation Science exhibition ‘Völlig losgelöst’ and about its opening ceremony just started.

RUB; völlig losgelöst - resolvAusstellungseröffnung

The deep space expedition comic at the entrance. © RUB, Marquard

We write the year 2016, 8th of January, and I make my first round very quickly, just taking a glance at every part. Too many words to read. Where should I start? There is still enough time until the opening, so I just wander around in the hall and stop at some places, read randomly some of the writings. After a while, I finally grasp the coherent structure of the entire exhibition.
Okay, I start again from the very first word in the comic at the entrance, now reading everything in detail.

The main aim of the creators of the ‘Völlig losgelöst’ exhibition in the Blue Square in the city centre is to make the community of Bochum familiar with science’s underlying concepts and scientists’ personal approach of working “under the roof of science”: Science is done by human beings including all types of peculiarity. “RESOLV will encourage the presentation of the human face of science to the public.” – Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith, the RESOLV Speaker, will say later.

RUB; völlig losgelöst - resolvAusstellungseröffnung

Some modules of the exhibition. © RUB, Marquard

The exhibition introduces science as a space-mission with scientists being the astrounauts. Martina Havenith: “As a child, I always wanted to be an extra-terrestrical astronaut – and now I am one!” Seperate booths invite me to explore the work of six research groups of RESOLV in a structured fashion. There is a cartoon of each person in full height, dressed in an astronaut coat, on which they have their own identity logo – the mission patches; the attribute of their research area. A different colour is assigned to each folding-screen (These are actually real flight cases!) and a light under them gives me the impression, as if they were floating in space. The mysterious pictures on them anticipate the mysticism of scientific research. The entire design of the exhibition is compellingly imaginative and arresting! The designers and constructors did an outstanding performance!

The presentation of the six professors’ research in RESOLV starts with a fact sheet, that gives hidden insights into their academic work, such as how close they are to a breakthrough or how big the workload is on weekends or how much the annual consumption of coffee is in their working group. The central question of their research is also summed up in one sentence. “How does life function in molecular detail?”, asks Prof. Dr. Lars Schäfer, for instance. Afterwards, I can read the scientists` own quotes about their approaches and interests. Generally, what drives scientists, is curiousity to understand the physical world (“I’m a scientist because I really want to understand why things are the way they are.”, Prof. Dr. Martin Muhler), and also to achieve exceptional goals (“I enjoy running experiments others have deemed impossible.”, Prof. Dr. Frank Schulz).

RUB; völlig losgelöst - resolvAusstellungseröffnung

Prof. Dr. Lars Schäfer preparing for an interview. © RUB, Marquard

The Opening

RUB; völlig losgelöst - resolvAusstellungseröffnung

Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith gives here talk.

Now, time has come. I leave the exhibition hall and climb up two floors to a big conference room in the Blue Square. A very refreshing glass of champagne is given to me by the door. Many illustrious guests already arrived, such as professors, directors of museums, and members of the management of the Ruhr-UniversitRUB; völlig losgelöst - resolvAusstellungseröffnungy, as the Rector Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich, the Chancellor Dr. Christina Reinhardt, the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Professional Development Prof. Dr. Kornelia Freitag. Even the Mayor of the city of Bochum, Thomas Eiskirch, is here! The light is dimmed a bit and Jens tinkles with a glass as a signal that the opening is about to start – the glass didn’t brake, fortunately. So, everyone takes a seat; in the first few rows of chairs the professors of RESOLV, the organizers of the exhibition and the speakers occupy their pre-assigned seats. The room gets quiet.

The Rector of RUB, Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich, welcomes everybody in a short greeting in which he emphasizes the meaning of the Cluster of Excellence for the University: “The RUB is immensely proud of the success of RESOLV”. Thomas Eiskirch, Mayor of Bochum, enlightens the importance of RESOLV and the exhibition for the city: “Today we can say that it arrives more and more in the city, and the city is very pleased about that.” Prof. Martina Havenith gives an exciting presentation, where she mainly outlines the near-past and near-future activities in RESOLV, and also talks about the concept and aim of the ‘Völlig losgelöst’ exhibition. For a moment I get lost: Did I hear well? RESOLV is organizing a mission trip to space for its scientists?!

The opening ceremony ends with Prof. Dr. Katrin Sommer’s speech including thankful words to all the creators of the exhibition, and then we finally go down to the exhibition. Three children, who in the meanwhile did some of the hands-on experiments offered, cut a ribbon and thereby constitute the actual opening act – then we are free to join the ‘expedition’.

I continue my journey, enjoying the delicious flying buffet and reading the posts to find out more about the research topics introduced. Each case gives a clear description of the general research question, the methods of investigation and the results achieved so far. Great pictures, videos and exhibits illustrate the writings. I discover, for example, the U-Tube Reactor provided by Prof. Dr. Muhler, and the lead salt diode laser provided by Prof. Havenith.

RUB; völlig losgelöst - resolvAusstellungseröffnung

Creating new antibiotics, research on corrosion, anti-freeze proteins, simulation of biomolecules, catalysis, antifouling coating for ships etc. How does water come into the picture in these investigations? My conclusion: Water is indeed the engine of physical life. With its unique properties and capabilities it is the most fascinating substance on earth.

Visit the exhibition together with your colleagues and friends and get a deeper impression – it`s worth!

Blue Square, Kortumstraße 90, 44787 Bochum

Photo Gallery

RUB; völlig losgelöst - resolvAusstellungseröffnung

Christian Strippel, the organizing person in charge. © RUB, Marquard

Photo Gallery

Photographs by: © RUB, Marquard, Nina Winter

 About the Authors

Debora BeeriDebora Beeri is one of the new iMOS-students in this Wintersemester 2015/16 at Ruhr-Universität Bochum. She obtained her Chemistry BSc degree in Hungary, after which she went to London for a six-months internship in a Theoretical Chemistry lab, where she gained research experience.


© RUB, MarquardJens Ränsch holds a Diploma in Physics and a Ph.D. in Plasma Physics. He worked for a funding agency for five years, where he gained experience in the development of research fields, evaluation of research proposals, managing of industrial research projects as well as in different public outreach projects. In 2014 he joined the Cluster of Excellence RESOLV as a kind of “all-round” Science Manager.
His motto of life is: “I know that I know nothing.” (Plato’s Apology, attributed to Sokrates.) He takes this motto as a starting point for his everyday trial to be a really open-minded person – in private as well as in work life.

iMOS Master: Infrared Spectroscopy of Highly Reactive Aggregates in…

Infrared Spectroscopy of Highly Reactive Aggregates in Helium Nanodroplets

Daniel Leicht

In my master thesis I investigated the infrared (i.e. the vibrational) spectrum of helium solvated allyl radicals. The radicals were produced by pyrolysis of 1,5-hexadiene and trapped in superfluid helium nanodroplets. The helium droplet beam was overlapped by the output of a tunable infrared laser to obtain the infrared spectrum. After obtaining the experimental infrared spectrum ab initio calculations were carried out as a basis of the spectral assignment. Different DFT methods were compared with respect to their viability since open-shell species often pose a problem in such computations.


Spin density surface of the allyl radical.

Based on the quantum chemical calculations five CH-stretching bands were assigned to the observed spectral features. The rotational fine-structure of the recorded spectrum was investigated as well. Due to the very low droplet temperature of 0.37 K, also weakly bound complexes can be studied using this technique. As an outlook I proposed an investigation of the allyl:HCl complex, which has been carried out and published at a later time.

After finishing his iMOS Master’s thesis Daniel Leicht started his PhD research in the group of Prof. Havenith.

Link to  Master course in Molecular Sciences and Simulation (iMOS) at Ruhr-University Bochum

Internship in Alicante

In spring 2015, thanks to the RESOLV Graduate School Solvation Science, I was able to spend three months in Alicante, Spain. Internship at a foreign University is an exciting opportunity RESOLV is able to provide for young researchers.
Alicante is a city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain in the Valencian region and it is about the size of Bochum but completely different in so many aspects. The biggest difference is the touristic appealing the city has, it attracts thousands of tourists and during spring and summer the city is always crowded. In fact many Spanish from the inland cities (as Madrid) have their summer houses also next to the sea so they can drive down to the coast and enjoy a relaxing weekend at the beach.

Luckily, I started my internship at the end of April, just when the nice season starts. And what a nice season! Three months and one week during which it was raining for not more than four hours in total!
I could find a room in a flatshare thanks to the help of a Spanish friend while I was still in Bochum so I had no problems regarding the accommodation.
I was welcomed warmly at the University and I immediately got to know the whole research group of the Institute of Electrochemistry. They helped me since the beginning not only in the lab but also giving me advice on life (and food!) in Spain. The first impression of the University in Alicante is quite astonishing for someone who is used to the Ruhr-University Bochum: small buildings of maximum three floors spread around a big campus full of palms and flowers.
The atmosphere was welcoming and the other PhD students in turn helped me in the lab showing me their know-how. The lab-instruments were different and I was not independent during the first week but later on I managed to do everything on my own. It is very useful to learn different experimental techniques and how to handle different instruments than the ones I am used to. It was a unique opportunity because at the Ruhr-University one of the experimental techniques I learned cannot be performed because the instrument is not available.

Science Zone

At the Institute of Electrochemistry in Alicante I worked under the supervision of Prof. Victor Climent and Prof. Juan Feliu. The research consisted of two main topics. One was the study of the kinetics of defect formations on the surface on Pt(111) single crystals in alkaline solutions. The other one is the laser-induced temperature jump method applied on an Ir single crystal having a (111) preferential orientation.  The technique consists of nanosecond laser pulses fired at the electrode-solution interface to suddenly increase the temperature, providing evidence on the net charge orientation of water at the interface. Thanks to this technique it is possible to differentiate between the responses of the double layer to a potential difference and the charge-transfer processes at the interface.

The first days I was communicating in English, but due to the similarity of my native language (Italian) to Spanish I soon started to pick up words and communicate in their language. The thought of learning Spanish was on my mind, but I didn’t think it was so easy to do it!
My coworkers were mostly Spanish but there were also Chileans, Mexicans, Colombians and Brasilians among them. They could all talk in English but the whole communication in the lab has been done in Spanish, so learning it helped me a lot on both scientific and social life.


What about a stroll on the beach to relax after work? In Alicante you can!

The head of the Electrochemistry Institute is Prof. Juan Feliu, former president of the International Society of Electrochemistry and maybe the worldwide most known professor in the field of single-crystal electrochemistry. The group is a bit smaller than the group of Prof. Schuhmann in Bochum and it is split in two adjacent buildings. But we were gathering all together for lunch and we also had dinner together every now and then.

I had interesting results in one of the two topics I was investigating in Alicante and a collaboration is established now to finalize the project. With the collaboration of one of the PhD students of Prof. Climent we will perform another set of experiments. This internship was indeed a great opportunity to expand my scientific network outside Germany!

Link to the Institute of Electrochemistry in Alicante

Link to Graduate School Solvation Science

About the Author

Profile Photo_Alberto GAlberto Ganassin was born in 1988 in Castelfranco Veneto (Italy). He got a bachelor in Material Science at the University of Padua in Italy and a master in Material Science at the Technical University of Munich. He is currently a PhD student in Prof. Schuhmann’s group and the topic of his PhD is “Electrochemistry of gas evolution reaction”

Kaminabend – Meet the Professionals

“Networking is THE key tool for your future career” was one of the eye catcher sentences in the advertising mail for an event called ‘Kaminabend – Meet the Professionals’. Beside the attached guest list with the participating companies from industry, it was this sentence, which caught my attention and convinced me to participate in this event.

The main idea of this event is to offer PhD students the opportunity to get into contact with professionals from industry in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. At the beginning of the event, which took place in the really nice restaurant ‘Strätlingshof’ in Bochum, there was a short introduction of each company representative, which I really liked because it gave the event a good basis. For me, the last part of the short introduction round, which was about the “personal or scientific motto”, was the most interesting one, since some of them really inspired me. As a consequence, I rather decided spontaneously to whom I want to talk.

According to the phrase ‘business before pleasure’, not only the professionals had to do a task. Each PhD student was asked to state in which sector he or she wants to work in the future. For me, the result was impressive, because the vast majority favors a job in academia and research over management or consulting.

Science Zone

In my PhD project, I use time-domain Terahertz spectroscopy in combination with fast temperature jumps to probe the solvation dynamics during the (un)folding of  the small protein Ubiquitin.
Terahertz spectroscopy is a powerful tool to study solvation dynamics around molecules like salts, proteins and sugars. With frequencies ranging from 0.1 THz to 10 THz, intermolecular and collective motions in the water network can be investigated.
The main aim of my study is to investigate and understand the influence of Ubiquitin on the dynamics of the surrounding water  molecules during the structural rearrangement of the protein.

After everyone’s work was done, the time was right for dinner. The idea was that six to eight PhD students join one professional for one course of the buffet. After finishing the first course, the PhD students were supposed to change tables and join another professional they wanted to talk to. I had the impression that at the beginning of the first course everybody was a little bit uncertain about what to expect from the evening and therefore hesitated to ask questions. But as the dinner proceeded, the atmosphere got more and more comfortable with many fruitful and interesting discussions and a delicious buffet.

I talked to three representatives and really enjoyed all of the discussions. It was interesting to learn something about their individual professional careers and milestones (or problems) they faced. In all the discussions I attended, the majority of questions addressed the individual professional careers rather than the profiles or the business of the companies they represented. All of the representatives were willing to answer all our questions and to give us constructive feedback.

I really appreciate that the representatives were frank to us and shared some of their personal professional experiences, since this resulted in a very informative discussion with a high input. For me, as belonging to the small group of PhD students who rather want to apply for a consulting career than staying in academia, this event was some kind of encouragement to also think about a career in industry. This encouragement can be attributed to the highly motivating conversations with intellectual and experienced professionals.

Based on my experience and motivation which I gained on that evening, I strongly recommend to participate in such networking events, not only because of the delicious food and the served drinks, but rather (and more important) because of the possibilities to broaden one’s horizon in regard to the upcoming job decision. It was stated in the advertising mail for the ‘Kaminabend’, that “Networking is the key tool for your future career”. Now, after I attended the ‘Kaminabend’ event I think it really is.

About the Author

Hanna Wirtz_614x768Hanna Wirtz was born in 1989 in Essen. She obtained the B.Sc. as well as the M.Sc. in Chemistry at the Ruhr-University in Bochum. In her PhD project, she is currently working on the investigation of Ubiquitin using time-resolved Terahertz absorption spectroscopy with temperature jumps.



Photos of ‘Kaminabend-Meet the Professionals’

All photos: © Sinja Klees, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, RESOLV