Solvation science exhibition ‘Völlig losgelöst’ hits the road in Recklinghausen


Cable car in the museum ‘Strom & Leben’ © Lutz Tomala

There’s a cable car parked in the middle of a room, and a wall covered with radios. Switches, electricity generators and coils? There are so many of them that one expects Nikola Tesla to appear every second. Then, nearby a generator, there’s a table with colored chemical solutions. And in another room appear huge modules, similar to oversized overnight bags wide-open, portraying persons in space suits and explaining about chemistry in solution. Such a striking combination of physics and chemistry got the visitors’ attention at the museum ‘Strom & Leben’ in Recklinghausen on the 6th of November. It was the inauguration day of the Solvation Science exhibition ‘Völlig losgelöst’, taking a first detour since its launch in the Blue Square in Bochum at the beginning of 2016.


Chemistry and physics © Lutz Tomala

“It’s wonderful news that this itinerant exhibition has finally hit the road. Scientific research is an exploratory expedition in the unknown, but the trip itself should not remain undisclosed to the public”, said at the opening Katrin Sommer, Professor for „Didaktik der Chemie” at RUB and one of the designers of the exhibition.

But what do solvation science and electricity have in common?  As the museum’s director Hanswalter Dobbelmann pointed out, “there is indeed a strong historic connection between chemistry and electricity. For example, the discovery of electricity dates back to the first attempts with chemical batteries made by Volta and Galvani.” But the links between chemistry and electricity are not only a thing of the past: “Solvation science is much important for current topics like energy storage”, said Prof. Dr. Havenith, speaker of the Cluster of Excellence RESOLV, “therefore, we currently witness increasing research on solvents used in energy storage media, with the aim to improve their efficiency as well as their safety”.


The exhibition is open, the journey begins © Lutz Tomala

Under these premises, ‘Völlig losgelöst’ will occupy a well-deserved spot in the ‘Strom & Leben’ museum in Rechklinghausen until Spring 2017. Besides presenting the actors and the themes of the RESOLV cluster, the exhibition will offer visitors the possibility to perform small experiments related to solvation science. School classes from the 3rd to the 5th year have also the possibility to book a special experimental program and to dive for two hours into the world of solvents. In the end, as Dobbelmann, Havenith and Sommer hope, by showing the scientists’ journey through a new research expedition, ‘Völlig losgelöst’ might well electrify the young generations to hit the same road in the future.

About the Authors

EF3Emiliano Feresin is a science journalist, currently responsible for the outreach activities within the RESOLV cluster at RUB. Born and raised in Italy, he holds a Diploma and a PhD degree in chemistry. Driven by an innate curiosity for scientific stories, he completed his education with a master degree in science communication. Along the path he has written for outlets like Nature and Chemistry World and learned that the reader has always the last word.

@ RUB, Foto: Nelle

@ RUB, Foto: Nelle

Christian Strippel was born 1988 in Bochum and holds a M.Ed. in Chemistry and English. His (scientific) motto of life is: “Fortune favours the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur
He studied in Cambridge (UK) for one year and holds a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (Chemistry, University of Cambridge). Currently, he works on his Ph.D. project “Communication about scientific inquiry during experimentation”.


Your odds of getting a job at Bayer HealthCare in Wuppertal

Bayer HealthCare Wuppertal

Excursion team to Bayer HealthCare Wuppertal

On the 20th of April 2016 RESOLV organized a captivating excursion to Bayer HealthCare in Wuppertal. It was a great opportunity for us PhD students to get insider information about the many career possibilities and research areas in Bayer.

The trip began from Bochum with a bus transfer to the Bayer HealthCare (BHC) research center in Wuppertal, where Mr. Larsen Schnadhorst from the Communication department and Ms. Angelika Behling from the Human Resources welcomed us. Ms. Behling introduced Bayer to us: About 2,600 employees work in the Wuppertal site and half of them are employed in research; the site covers an area of 18 hectars and its focus revolves around the topics cardiology and oncology.

Behling also told us about the philosophy of Bayer and briefed us about how to apply for and what to expect from Bayer. Here came some interesting information for a PhD student! For example she told us about PhD-workshops organized in cooperation with Germany and USA: To take part in these workshops you have to fill an application on their web-page – If you get accepted, Bayer will cover the costs. There are also special graduate programs including international trainee Programs for chemists, engineers or computational scientists. Getting a Post-Doc position is almost a bet, but in case of acceptance you would get a three-year contract with a follow-up contract being likely. Concerning direct job applications, two routes can be taken: 1) It is possible to start as a head of laboratory in R&D with one or two technicians. 2) You can start a career in a manager-position, rotating between different places every few years. Jobs like patent attorney or business consultor are also possible alternatives.

After this presentation the lab-station visits began. At the ophthalmology laboratory we were shown the structure of a human eye and what kind of things could happen with your eyes – e.g. the retina – when getting older. We could see damaged eye cells of rats under a microscope and how rats with induced eye diseases are examined in order to develop drugs that could possibly help humans in a later stage.

At the medicinal chemistry department we saw how drugs are synthesized and investigated. It was at the newly found catalysis department that we discover how professionals can also come across with some technical problems sometimes leading to high amounts of expenses or even the abortion of the project. However, given a second chance in many cases the problem is solved.

At the cardiology department we got to know about the manufacturing of drugs against thrombosis or hypertension. Researchers use mice or rats to test the effects of the drugs and we were shown how they conduct animal experiments and what equipment they use. From explanatory videos we could see how thrombosis can be induced mechanically in living but anesthetized mice and how special drugs can prevent it.

After our six hour excursion we were tired but happy that we got so much first-hand information about a pharmaceutical company. Now it was time to get back to the Ruhr-University Bochum.

About the Author

yesimmuratYesim Murat, born 1987 in Schwäbisch Gmünd, has studied Chemistry at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and obtained her diploma in 2012. Since 2013, she works as a PhD student in the field of Synthesis and Characterization of Ceria-Zirconia Catalysts for the liquid-phase Dimethyl Carbonate Synthesis at the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT in Oberhausen (Germany) in the Catalytic Processes group of Dr. Stefan Kaluza. Prof. Dr. Martin Muhler is supervising the thesis on behalf of the Department of Technical Chemistry at the Ruhr University of 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”


ACHEMA Exhibition, 2015 Frankfurt

Day 1, Construction
Construction. Trouble. These are the words, that come to my mind, as I enter the exhibition hall. Wooden cases, ladders, posters, packing materials, technical exhibits everywhere. And noise. Here I’m passing a noisy drill, there someone is hammering. I cannot go through, I have to take a detour. But where is our booth?

It is Sunday morning and I am in Frankfurt at the exhibition ACHEMA. I only had 30 minutes delay in the three-hours long journey. That’s quite good of the railway, isn’t it?
After I had found my way to the enormous Day of stand constructionexhibition grounds, and had reached the right exhibition hall 9.2, now I am searching for the RESOLV exhibition stand C82. It must be somewhere at the back. I struggle through the junks on the passageways, and I try to remember the design of the stand that I saw in a presentation half a year ago…
There it is! I read “RESOLV” on a light banner and think: “Oh, constructed already!” Actually, I came here this early to unpack and set this special eye-catcher together with the stand-builder, so that I could help him and also learn how to do it for next time. But it seems he has already finished it. It looks definitely good from the gangway, and it is also eye-catching from a distance. So: all done well in the design and planning.

StandAround midday the others are arriving, and life fills the place: the exhibits brought are set up: the differently coated metal sheets, the autoclave, the fuel cells, the nanobalance, and the interactive homogenizer. Monitors are installed, plugged in, and switched on. Brochures displayed, the give-aways arranged, and in the end the stand wiped. Done!

At five o’clock the stand quard arrives, we go to the hotel and later in the evening we will go to have something to eat together.

Day 2, Monday, Let’s get started!

Opening Session
There are mainly middle-aged men in dark suits standing around the round bar in the lobby. The atmosphere is relaxed: I frequently hear loud laughters, glimpse into friendly faces, and see warm greetings. The “Opening Session” will shortly begin, so I go to the hall. I like to be there earlier, so that I can secure a good seat on the side for myself. The huge half-round room is filled with blue light, the word “Welcome” can be read on the major screen in a dozen languages, and the quiet background-music creates a nice atmosphere. I sit down and watch how the hall is slowly filled. Do I see Prof. Wolf-Dieter Lukas there, the head of the department “Key Technologies – Research for Innovation” in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)? So I understand: the announced minister Mrs. Wanka will not come.

dancersAnd now, it all begins. A male and a female dancer, dressed completely in white, give a performance, where they ludically interact with the film that is displayed on the screen. Wow! That looks really great!

Judith Rakers comes on stage. She is well-known, among other things, as the spokeswoman of the newscast “Tagesschau”, and she moderates the event at ease and very enjoyably. First of all, the winners of the pupil-competition are awarded. Pupils from class 7 to 11 could participate, and more than 3,000 teams took part in the first turn. 877 of them could then do experiments, and around 550 successful experiment reports were evaluated. 44 of them were awarded with magazines-abos and books. Out of these 44 teams 3 were selected as winners, who will now be introduced.Pupils on stage
While the teams are standing on stage, the moderator interviews them individually: What was your favourite question? Did something go wrong in your experiment? etc. In some cases it goes really funny.
Moderator: “How often did you use google in the competition to answer the questions?”
Answer: “For every question!” Laughter in the hall.

After honoring the students Stefan Hell comes on stage. Well, I think it’s not necessary to mention that he is one of the three Nobel-price winners for Chemistry in 2014. He gives his speech very amusingly, in which he graphically explains his technique – the STED microscopy – , and also shows photos of the Nobel-price conference and of the subsequent banquet.
Stefan-HellThe STED-microscopy allows us to make images with a light microscope, that are 10 times sharper, than what was possible earlier. And whether you believe it or not, light microscopes are still frequently used today in most scientific publications in the Life Sciences, in spite of the fact that there are electron microscopes, since light microscopes are non-invasive and therefore they allow to get insights into living cells.
Next, Wolf-Dieter Lukas, the department manager in BMBF, speaks. Typically for a politician, he gives a speech without showing any slides. After the great presentation of Mr. Hell, Mr. Lukas has difficulty to pick up the pace. Among other things he speaks about the meaning of the Chemistry branch as “enabling technology”, that enables technical progresses of many other branches in the first place. Since I’ve already heard this argument in many talks about many branches similarly I feel bored and deeply wish that politicians finally start to talk straightly.

Now come the honors with the ACHEMA founder-price. In the “Energy” section a start-up of the RESOLV-partner Fraunhofer-Institut UMSICHT wins. The start-up “Volterion” develops batteries to store photovoltaic energy for domestic use.
The event ends with a short fast-motion video, that shows the construction of the exhibition in the last two weeks, and the people stream out of the hall. It was good, that I sat at the edge, so now I come out as one of the first ones and I can avoid the stream of people. The round bar is filled again, the people are chatting and then they slowly move on to the exhibition halls.

“Meet your friends”-Party
There was a big party in the evening and we got one free ticket. Yep, one. So I go there without knowing anybody. But just how the coincidence wanted, while I was looking for the location I became acquainted with a woman, so we continued searching together. Then, at the entrance came the surprise: I didn’t have an admission ticket.
“You cannot enter without a ticket.” Even my most beautiful smile, with which I tried to impress the reception lady, didn’t count.
“But we must have a ticket! Is it maybe depositedparty on the roof somewhere?” I tried a last option.
“Oh I see, yes, there is a desk downstairs, you shall inquire there again.” She could have mentioned this right away, couldn’t she?
Luckily, the card was on the desk, and it was a nice evening. I chatted with several people, exchanged business cards, danced to live-reggae and rock’n’roll, and enjoyed the splendid warm weather and the great view from the huge roof-terrace, where the whole party took place. I also got to know some people from a Russian company here, who offered me in a discussion on the following day, to give us an access to a microbiological security-bank for six months for free.
So: a successful evening.

Day 3 and 4, A completely normal exhibition-madness
To be on the exhibition stand in the morning at half past eight and to look good and smiling the whole day – I will soon be k.o. The weirdly stuffy air in the exhibition hall (despite the air-conditioning) , the constantly high noise level, and the change between unpeopled periods and complete onrushes on our stand claim their tribute. In spite of my determination to go without coffee, I tap the small Senseo-machine for a “Black Magic” all the time.
My nights are correspondingly restless…

interaktive-HomogenizerSince we take part in the Science Rallye of the stand BMBF as partners, troops of students come frequently by, and they want to know how many atoms the exhibited protein model MMP-14 in reality has (2,690), what we mean by solvation, and what a homogenization process is, by which two in fact immiscible liquids are mixed. Certainly, the exhibited interactive homogenizer is used vigorously for explanation.  It’s indeed good that we could close the small leak that cropped up on the first day…

Altogether, the concept of our exhibition stand turned out to be good: the visitors stopped amazed in front of our eye-cather exhibit (“Imore-people-on-stands it a heart?”), and we got into a conservation with several interesting people. Since we divided the supervision of our stand into shifts of four persons, each of us could quite extensively look around the exhibition. During these excursions we spoke actively to different corporations, and so overall more than fifty contacts came about. We shall see, whether they result in a co-operation…

For me today – on Wednesday evening – it has come to an end. I travel home, and Nina will take my place from tomorrow. So the stand-personell changes once – only Marie and Christopher need to stay until Friday. Keep up!


About the Author

Jens_128x171Jens 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.

Photos of ACHEMA Exhibition



Traditional RESOLV ECR Football Tournament 2015

The tradition continues. As part of the annual Early Career Researcher Summer Party of the Cluster of Excellence RESOLV, the ECR Football Tournament (NC-Fußballturnier) took place on 16 September 2015 at the football field behind the GB Building.

The Players Greeting Each Other

The Players Greeting Each Other

All groups within the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry were invited to participate. The participants of this year were “Photonics” from the work group of Physical Chemistry II, Physical Chemistry I, “Elanos” from Analytical Chemistry, “Schlenkchester United” from Inorganic Chemistry and “AK Huber” from Organic Chemistry I. Since there were only five teams, every team had chance to play against each other simultaneously on two different courts. After this exciting period from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm, the teams of the final match were decided.

After a break, the final game started and everybody hold their breath: The winner team was “Photonics” again, for the fifth time since 2011, so they get five stars now.

The Winner Team "Photonics"

The Winner Team “Photonics”

The winners of the previous years were “Real Chlorid” in 2005 and 2006, “Verwaltung” in 2008, “Reaktor 04”, “O Zeh Zwo” in 2009 and “Reaktor 04” again in 2010.

Barbeque After the Tournament

Barbeque After the Tournament

Drinks and BBQ were not also forgotten after the tournament. Even though there was a little drizzle, it was a thrilling and joyous tournament.  The eyes are now on the next year’s tournament.

The more detailed information about the event can be found in the poster below:


Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Debating with the VIPs of science at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Saul Perlmutter

Saul Perlmutter

One moment, you have Saul Perlmutter making vivid appeal for more education about the process of science. The next moment, Dan Shechtman recalls the moment he discovered quasiperiodic chrystals only to be facing more than a decade of opposition from the science establishment. You turn around and Wole Soyinka is debating the role of education in fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria. It is quite clear that you have to brace yourself for an overwhelming experience of debating science and its role in society with some of the brightest minds, when you participate in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. I was given the opportunity to be one of 650 young researchers from all over the world who took part in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2015. We had the privilege to spend six days in the company of each other and 65 nobel laureates from the fields of Physics, Chemistry and Physiology/Medicine as well as Wole Soyinka (1986 Nobel Laureate for Literature) and Kailash Satyarthi (2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate).

As I am working and researching in the field of science education, it was particularly interesting for me to see how passionate many of the Nobel laureates as well as my fellow young researchers are about education. Dan Shechtman, for example, appears in a show for young children on the Israeli television called “Being a scientist with Professor Dan”. Saul Perlmutter takes his lead from Jane Austen and calls his lecture series for the general public “Sense and Sensibility and Science”. Many of the young researchers also try to find new ways of engaging people with science. A young physics PhD from UC Santa Barbara organizes summer courses for high school teachers, where they can get in touch with cutting-edge research. Another young researcher from Cologne wants to organize and film science slams on current topics like global warming and renewable energy where leading scientists explain their view of the issue for high school students.


Martin Chalfie

Personally, I was especially proud to meet Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien whose work on the green fluorescent protein (GFP) has inspired the Alfried Krupp School Lab project that RESOLV is offering for high school students at the Ruhr-University. It adds to the authenticity of the project that I can now report a personal meeting with these distinguished researchers. Altogether, I was keen throughout the meeting to listen to the ideas of the Nobel laureates and my fellow young researchers but also to offer my ideas and opinions to the discussions. I hope that other young researchers within RESOLV will be offered the opportunity to participate in this meeting during the years to come.

You can find a short interview with Christian Strippel on Lindau Meeting in the “Three questions for…” part of 2/2015 issue of RUBIN magazine.

About the Author

@ RUB, Foto: Nelle

Christian Strippel was born 1988 in Bochum and holds a M.Ed. in Chemistry and English. His (scientific) motto of life is: “Fortune favours the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur
He studied in Cambridge (UK) for one year and holds a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (Chemistry, University of Cambridge). Currently, he works on his Ph.D. project “Communication about scientific inquiry during experimentation”.

My Stay Abroad at the Ohio State University

Within the framework of the Resolv GSS Program, I was able to take an exciting journey to the United States of America. In June of 2014 I had my farewell party with all my friends and colleagues, at which we watched the Fußball-WM match of Germany vs. Ghana. Although the game ended only 2:2, this did not stop us from having quite the party.  One week later, I was already sitting in the plane across the Atlantic. The flight was long enough for me to refresh my English language skills by watching three Hollywood movies (Robocop, Saving Mr. Banks and The Amazing Spiderman 2), after which I felt sufficiently prepared for the many challenges laying ahead.


Ohio State Stadium

Arriving at the Columbus Airport was quite the biorhythmic shock for two reasons: For one thing, the sun was still up! I had arrived at 7:30 pm local time… which to my German rhythm of course was in the middle of the night (6 hour time delay…); and for another thing, it was soo hot! I was soon to learn that in Ohio the summers are very hot and very wet… torrent-like downpours which turn streets into rivers taking turns with parching heat is a common weather phenomenon in Ohio, which gave every trip during lunch break the potential for an adventure! But most of the time, the warm weather was very pleasant.
I was lucky enough to have one of my soon-to-be lab mates pick me up at the airport and drive me around, showing me the important places: where I could get groceries, where I could get an American sim card for my phone, and most importantly, where I could get an American plug adapter for my computer. Finally I was brought to my new (temporary) home, and after unpacking a few things, I dropped asleep in my new bed.

Olentangy River

Olentangy River

During my first month I lived in a big house shared by eight exchange students from all over the world: China, Argentina, Botswana, Brazil and Australia… quite the multi-cultural experience, which America of course should be! From there I could walk to the University in 10 minutes, which was nice. The second and third month I had a room in a private home, which was just as crowded, housing the two home owners, their two dogs and their five cats. I was never bored at this place! It was quite far away from the university, but since it was summer, I was able to take the six miles there and back again each day by bike, driving along the beautiful Olentangy River. If I were staying for a longer time, let’s say a year or so, I would definitely try to get a cheap, used car… most of America’s streets is simply not made for pedestrians.


New York Skyline

Luckily I had arrived on a Friday evening, so I had at least two days to adjust my inner clock and to settle in, before starting to work. Walking around suburbia I saw all the American peculiarities that I only knew from Hollywood, which made me feel like walking in a movie: concrete slap walkways, wooden telephone poles, front porches, back streets, way too complicated parking signs… it’s the little differences that get you. And, of course, everything was bigger in the US: the insects chirping in the trees, the animals in your yard, the cars, the thunderstorms, and Walmart.

Science Zone

Anyway, after the initial weekend I started working at the Ohio State University. I worked in the lab of Prof. Heather Allen doing sum frequency generation (SFG) experiments, surface tension measurements, surface potential measurements and Raman spectroscopic studies on various salt solutions. At the Ruhr Universität Bochum I had already investigated the THz/FIR absorption of these salt solutions, which told me something about the number of water molecules that are strongly affected by the ions, the vibrational modes of hydrated complexes and the concentration dependent affinity towards ion pairing. Complementary to THz absorption spectroscopy, which is a method to investigate bulk solutions, I wanted to use interface selective methods to investigate the air-solution interface. The main reason for my trip to Ohio was therefore to use the aforementioned methods to investigate the effect the salts have on the water surface properties, the different propensities of different ions towards the surface, and whether we see an effect of ion pairing.

Compared to our group in Germany, the group of Dr. Allen was rather small, consisting of around 10 people at the time. Everyone I met was very friendly and helpful if needed, and I became friends with pretty much all of the team very quickly. During my first week we already had a potluck with the whole group and went to watch the city’s fireworks for the 4th of July celebration, which was quite spectacular! I also made some of my colleagues take me to other trips on the weekends, like the Columbus Zoo, the science museum COSI, the Kings Island amusement park,  a dime-a-dog baseball game (5 hot dogs for 50 cents!!), and a college football game, which is always a huge event in the US (with cheerleaders and marching band and everything… GO BUCKEYES!) I even got the chance to visit New York for a weekend, which was one of my personal highlights of my stay abroad.

I managed to obtain a lot of interesting results for my salt solutions, but not in the way originally planned. One of the instruments stopped working shortly before I arrived, and we could not get it running until my last week in the US. I had to improvise a bit, but luckily there were several other instruments I was able to use. Things worked out quite well, and I hope to publish some of my results soon.

In the end I not only got a lot of nice measurements done, but I also met many interesting and nice people and had lots of fun during my three months at the Ohio State University.

Link to Graduate School of Solvation Science

Link to Ohio State University

About the Author

 Fabian Böhm, born in 1986, is a child of the Ruhr-area. He obtained his M. Sc. in Chemistry at the Ruhr-University and is currently working on his PhD thesis about the investigation of hydrophilic and hydrophobic hydration with THz spectroscopy. His scientific Motto: “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Great Science in the Middle of Nowhere

 My research stay at Purdue University, IN, USA
by Laura J.B. Wollny

In Spring 2015, the RESOLV Graduate School Solvation Science gave me the opportunity for a two month research stay in the laboratory of Prof. Zwier at Purdue University in Indiana, USA, to advance my PhD project. I reached Indiana at the end of February, and while in Bochum the spring was already arriving, the winter still clung to the midwest with snow and freezing cold. Luckily, all my new colleagues and staff at the university were the total opposite of the weather and gave me a warm welcome. During my stay, they supported and helped me a lot and I really had the feeling of being a part of the group and the university.

My research project was the investigation of two small biomolecules (cyclic tetrapeptides mimicking β-turns) that had been synthesized in Bochum by another GSS PhD student. Two small samples of these fine white powders were shipped from Bochum to the US in the middle of February but were held up in Customs at the Detroit airport. So my first task was to get my samples released, which took almost three additional weeks and numerous calls by my US lab colleague. With six weeks left before returning I finally began my investigation.


Purdue University

Science Zone


Instrument I used.

My experiment consist in bringing the small molecules into a vacuum chamber by ablating them from a graphite rod with a laser beam and then measuring the wavelengths at which they absorb the light of a second laser beam. By comparing the absorption spectrum with calculated spectra we can deduce the three dimensional structure – the conformation – of the molecule, which aides in determining the function of biomolecules. The main reason for my stay at Purdue University was that they have lasers there that produce light in another wavelength regime than the ones we have in our lab. With the information from the additional wavelength regions we can determine the conformation more unambiguously. Apart from the laser source, the apparatus at Purdue looks quite similar to our instrument in Bochum and a lot of the components are the same. Therefore, I quickly felt familiar with the set-up.

The two small towns where Purdue is located are Lafayette and West Lafayette and they are in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. Their advertisement claim is “Two great cities, one great university,” which is, as I think, way better than Bochum’s “UniverCity.” Unfortunately, this is the only thing that the home of Purdue is ahead of Bochum: there is not much to do and to experience in Lafayette/West Lafayette except the university. The weekend highlights were taking part in a 5k charity run with the whole group and doing trips to Indianapolis and Chicago with two really nice colleagues. With my accommodation I also had some luck: a student from Prof. Zwier’s lab came to Bochum in my place, which meant we could interchange our flats and office places. My new place was located directly off Lafayette’s Main Street, in a nice old building with high ceilings and decorated affectionately with all kinds of American sports memorabilia. The good things about living in a quieter area are that even on Main Street nothing can disturb your sleep on a Friday night and not much can distract you from research.

I had no time after the three-week delay in obtaining my samples, especially because the project was more demanding than I had thought and I had to try all kinds of conditions to get good absorption spectra. In the end, I worked until the last possible minute and I wished I could have stayed just one more week. But it was time to go home and I really almost made it to measure in all the wavelength regions as planned in the beginning. Of course I was happy to see my family and friends here in Bochum and to return to Bochum itself, but I have to say that I really enjoyed working in the Zwier lab. The atmosphere was great, Prof. Zwier was always considerate and his team a great help. It was a wonderful experience, I would do it again and I can recommend it to everyone who has the chance.

Link to Graduate School Solvation Science

Link to Purdue University

About the Author

Laura WollnyLaura Wollny was born in 1987 in Essen. She obtained her M. Sc. in Chemistry at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and her B. Sc. in Chemistry from the Universität Duisburg-Essen. Currently she works on her PhD thesis about IR spectroscopy on isolated molecules and their clusters in the group of Prof. Havenith.