Ultrafast lasers will help us understand the matrix of life.


Clara Saraceno

Born in Argentina, university studies in France, an experience in the industry in the US and a PhD in Switzerland: The 32 year old physicist Clara Saraceno has literally followed her passion for lasers around the world. Since June, the 2015 Sofja Kovalevskaja Award winner (a prize of the The Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation) has started a W2 tenure track professorship at RUB. In RESOLV she will build the ultrafast lasers that Martina Havenith (speaker of the cluster) will use to investigate the role of water in biological processes. Similar to the lasers she works with, Saraceno is a powerful and resolute scientist. Her driving force, as she tells us in this interview, is fun.

Q: RESOLV is essentially about understanding how water works and why is water the matrix of life. Why exploit lasers in the THz field to study water?

Water shows extremely strong absorption in the THz regime, hence we can apply light sources in that field to investigate water dynamics. For example this could help us follow how water behaves around a protein while the molecule is functioning, making reactions and so on.

Q: How do you want to study water dynamics?

In general, the more short laser pulses you have per second the more information per second you get. Hence, to study fast dynamics we need lasers that deliver very short pulses at very high repetition rate, which means reaching high average power.

Q: How simple is that?

That’s exactly the ongoing challenge in ultrafast laser research! There are several ways to do this: You could pump the power by amplifying a regular ultrafast oscillator output or you can aim for simple compact source by trying to push the oscillator itself. I actually prefer the second option: I could reach an average 275 W power with 600 femtoseconds pulse duration and 17 MHz repetition rate in the near infrared range – a record that I actually achieved in 2012. My challenge here at RUB is to use these sources and convert them into high-power sources into the 1-10 THz range: We would like to reach an average power close to 1 W and a repetition rate bigger than 1 MHz.


The THz gap in the electromagnetic radiation spectrum © Martin Saraceno

Q: What are the main hurdles along the way and how can you overcome them?

Like for every high power, solid-state laser, we would need to minimize heat and maximize cooling, by choosing the right materials and the right geometry. The one geometry that I favor implies a gain medium, the main source of heat, shaped like a pancake. The disks that we use are just a few hundred microns thin, allowing for better dissipation of the heat and better-shaped short pulses.

Q: How do you cool down the discs?

The disks are actually glued on diamonds! They dissipate heat very well. We don’t use the pretty polished ones, just synthetic, but they are still expensive. The diamonds are then water-cooled.

Q: So much for hard science. What led you to work with lasers?

It was during my university studies on optics in France, there was this lecture on lasers technology. It was so cool! And then the school was offering an internship at Coherent, an American laser manufacturing company set in California. I thought: “Sunny California, for one year, lasers are cool, why not?”. But I applied too late.


Inside of a laser © Clara Saraceno

I contact them anyway after my master for an engineer trainee, and they got me. There I learned everything about lasers and I really got the ultrafast laser bug. It was real fun!

Q: How did it happen that you then went back to academia?

I soon found out that in the laser industry you need a PhD to make interesting things. So I was looking for an opportunity and it happened that my ex boyfriend was in Europe and that my cubicle-colleague at Coherent knew Prof. Ursula Keller at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland. He suggested I should apply there. They wanted me, and I really had a great time in Zurich, it’s a fantastic group!

Q: You’ve mentioned it already three times, what do you mean with fun?

I really enjoy manipulating stuff, go to lab and turn knobs. I love making nice devices and lasers. And I really marvel at the German way of making good functioning devices based on sound engineering.

Q: And now you are here at RUB?

Again there were coincidences. Martina Havenith once came to Zurich to give a talk. In her last slide she said “we need to increase the resolution, we need more powerful sources”. And my boss, Keller, goes “take Clara, she is looking for a job!”. So I applied for the Kovalevskaja prize and here I am.

Q: How was moving from the green, mountain-rich Switzerland to the concrete-rich Bochum?

Switzerland is super-nice, but with a family and a small baby, my priority was to move forward in science. I’m impressed by the scientific excellence that I’ve found here. I think there’s really room for good collaborations and for my own activity to grow. And the environment is a nice too! If I look at the right side I see green hills.

Q: Who do you see yourself collaborating with?

A natural collaboration would be with Janne Savolainen. He knows a lot about the right ways to generate THz light. And here I come, with some of the most powerful ultrafast lasers in the world!

2_schematic THz gen_water

Simplified scheme of the project idea: Disk (on diamond) generates near infrared pulse; conversion to THz pulse, which is used to study water molecules © Martin Saraceno

Q: What are your next steps at RUB? When will you do research on water?

First, we need to build up a lab, a good one. It will take around 6 months. Then I will start to tinker with laser to near the short pulses-high power in the THz domain. Soon, I would guess in some 18 month, we’ll do some experiments on water in parallel with the laser development.

Q: Becoming a professor at 32 is an outstanding achievement, especially for a woman, given the gender gap that still exists in science. What are your suggestions to young students and young women in science?

I always had so much fun with my work, so I would say: feel the passion! And don’t over think! If you see an opportunity give it a shot, what can you lose? Throw yourself in the pool, then things will work out.

Q: Clara, will we ever have the lightsabers of Star Wars?

Unfortunately laser swords make little sense physically. For the beam to suddenly ‘stop’ propagating, this would somehow imply that the laser beam is ‘trapped’ in a similar way to a resonator. However then, when something would intercept the beam the resonator would automatically stop, and the laser light would not be there anymore.

About the Author

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.

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.


Interview with ZEMOS, the new “research baby” @ RUB.

Contemplating an innovative scientific building brings it to life.

ZEMOS main entrance © RUB, Marquard

ZEMOS main entrance © RUB, Marquard

The new research building ZEMOS at Ruhr-Universität Bochum has been inaugurated on Thursday, 19th May. It was a big event: VIPs were flooding in and giving speeches, TV journalists where recording, visitors were…well, just visiting. We, from the RESOLV office, sipped the delicious red wine that was served and tried something special, instead: We looked at ZEMOS, the 4000 m2, four-floor new home of Solvation Science, and asked for an interview. It was that easy.

Q: Good afternoon ZEMOS. Is that a mythological name?

A: I would be pleased to have a God name, but I’m proud of my German-based acronym: „Zentrum für Molekulare Spektroskopie und Simulation solvensgesteuerter Prozesse“ – ZEMOS

Q: Wow! Even if I understand a bit of German, that’s cryptic language to me!

A: First of all you have to understand that I’ll be the first worldwide centre hosting Solvation Science. It’s the study of how chemical substances dissolve, in water for example and how the solvent influences the chemicals. Then about my name: It basically means that scientists under my ehm…supervision, will use spectroscopy (technology based on light, for example lasers) and mathematical simulations to investigate how molecules influence solvation processes. But there will be much more going on here: organic and analytical chemistry, biophysics, microscopy, electro-chemistry etc.

Q: That’s better, thanks. How was it today?

Former RUB Rector Prof. Dr. Elmar Weiler and Minister Svenja Schulze

 meet at the ZEMOS main entrance © RUB, Marquard

A: Glad that you asked. I felt a bit…invaded. In my privacy, I mean. After two years of almost solitude, being taken care of, suddenly, someone opens my main entrance and – here they are, 200 people at once, journalists and the celebrities: Thomas Rachel, the Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research was here! And then Svenja Schulze, Minister for Innovation, Science and Research of the State of North Rhine Westphalia – I’m friends with her, she put my first stone two years ago. And then of course there was the former RUB Rector Prof. Dr. Elmar Weiler and my mom.

Q: Your mom?

A: Of course! Everybody has one, don’t you?

Q: Yes, but you’re a building…

A: Still, I have one: Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith! She conceived the idea of me in 2009, she fought for me through all the years and she was also here today, of course. She received a big key to celebrate my opening – that’s strange though, I’m a modern building, and I don’t even have keyholes! Human beings!

Parlamentarischer Stattssekretär Thomas Rachel, Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith-Newen mit Mnisterin Svenja Schulze und Gabriele Willems (Geschäftsführerin BLB)

Bei einer Veröffentlichung des Bildmaterials ist bitte als Bildnachweis: © RUB, Marquard zu nennen.

Holding the ZEMOS key, left to right: Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Rachel, Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith, Minister Svenja Schulze and Gabriele Willems (Manager director at BLB)

 © RUB, Marquard

Q: So what did those VIPs say?

A: Oh, they were all very nice to me. Mr. Rachel said that I am an impressive symbol of the development of modern key technologies – by the way, he specifically called me “a baby”. Minister Schulze marvelled at the discoveries that I could lead to, for the benefit of environment, medicine, and industry. My…ehm… Mrs Havenith gave an emotional speech: She said that I’ll be the home of RESOLV and that I will become a place for innovative and unconventional scientific thinking. Thanks to my good-lookings, you know…

Q: Here we go again! You’re an inanimate construction; what do you mean with good-looking?


Transparent bridges and colours during the ZEMOS tour © Feresin

A: I seriously doubt you were here for the inauguration. Architecture and design, am I specific enough? For example, look at me from above: My ground plan describes an S shape, which is the first letter of spectroscopy, simulation and solvation, my main topics. I have two main entrances, which are fully coloured in red, yellow, green and blue, like in the rainbow. These are symbols for the wide spectrum of scientists that will work here. In the inside,


Bei einer Veröffentlichung des Bildmaterials ist bitte als Bildnachweis: © RUB, Marquard zu nennen.

Common “Combi” space inside an office area in ZEMOS. © RUB, Marquard

scientific areas are not closed or isolated, but transparent to the outside and connected through transparent bridges. In every office area there’s a common space for scientific discussions, relax and chatting in front of a cup of coffee. These are also symbols that there won’t be hierarchies here.


Q: I’m impressed. And what happened after the speeches?

A: There was a nice catering with food and drinks. I was very proud hearing all the laughters and the clinking glasses, watching all the amazed faces and the glittering eyes. Then my friends lead the guests into my chambers, for a visiting tour. People were fascinated and charming. I was flattered; I almost got red cheek…walls!

Q: So far for today. How will your ehm…life change from now on?

A: Well, I guess my lonely days are gone. I’m now becoming the home of Solvation Science at RUB. People are starting to move in – researchers that do simulation are already here. In short there will be around 100 scientists, from RUB but also from outside and even international scientists. They will bring large equipment, like microscopes that allow seeing molecules with atomic resolution, modern laser technology and spectrometers for microscopy in cells.

Q: Thank you ZEMOS, for your time and the small chat. I wish you a radiant future. You’re the most animated scientific construction I’ve ever met.

A pedestrian passes by, and frowns: Mit wem reden Sie denn da?

About the Author

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.


America! Tropyl radicals, sports and campus life.

When I was first thinking about where to go for the GSS internship, I considered whether I should join a group that was using helium nanodroplet infrared spectroscopy, the same technique that we use in Bochum to study aggregates of small organic molecules with water. The alternative would have been to get an insight into a different experimental technique. Finally, I decided to increase my expertise in the setup I already knew, and I opted for a stay at the University of Georgia (UGA), Athens, Georgia, USA; in the group of Gary Douberly, from April to June 2015.

During the preparation period, Gary proposed a project: solvating the tropyl radical in helium droplets and measuring the infrared spectrum of the CH stretch modes. He also told me about the International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy (ISMS), which would have took place in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois at the end of June. Since he would go there with his entire group, he suggested that I should join them to participate and present my data there. What a great opportunity! So the place and the timing for my stay abroad was fixed, yet, I didn’t know what to expect. I was full of excitement.

Sun, bikes, and a bro

I arrived in Athens at the end of March in beautiful warm weather – spring was already underway. The weather stayed pleasant for the whole time and I never needed warm clothing. It also meant that I could easily explore the area by bike. There are several parks like the State Botanical Garden that were worth visiting.

The view on a part of the Atlanta skyline from the Piedmont Park.

I already knew one of Gary’s graduate students – Chris – whom I had met a year before at the Gordon Research Conference on Atomic and Molecular Interactions at Stonehill College near Boston. When he heard that I was looking for a place to stay, he offered me his apartment, as he had a spare room and no room mate at that time. I immediately agreed, for I knew he was a bro.

Downtown music and university sports

Athens is a college town, with a population of about 100,000. It is located in a beautiful countryside about the Oconee River. The downtown area is dominated by bars with frequent live music events. The music scene is active around there, with some popular bands like R.E.M. and B-52. Many festivals take place, like the ‘Twilight Series’, an annually occurring series of bicycle races through downtown.

A live band playing in downtown Athens.

The UGA, funded in 1785, is the oldest public university in the US and ranks high in academics and research. From Chris’ apartment I could either take the bus that is circuiting campus or ride the bike to the campus.

In most of the colleges athletics is a big deal, and teams of different universities compete regularly. The Georgia Bulldogs – this is how the athletics teams at UGA are called – are successful overall. Especially their football team receives a lot of attention. Unfortunately, since the football season takes place in fall, I could only watch a practice game once. The UGA has a center for recreational sports, the Ramsey Student Center. It is a huge building with two gyms, two swimming pools, an indoor track, training halls for many sports and a number of multi-purpose halls, even walls for climbing. The Ramsey membership for 3 months was only 40$ for students, and I was able to use all of the facilities.

Time to measure cold radicals        

Gary’s research group consisted of one postdoc and four graduate students at that time. They were using a helium droplet machine that had been running well for years already. But they were also setting up a new machine, that is able to produce large helium droplets, opening possibilities for a lot of new experiments. While the assembly was already moving towards completion, a lot of things still needed to be taken care of. Essentially only three persons including me were working with the running setup measuring radicals, a circumstance that gave me a lot of opportunities to perform experiments.

While their experimental setup is almost identical to the one I use at RUB, Gary’s lab focuses on small organic radicals, their reactions and complexes with other molecules. In Bochum on the other hand, we mainly conduct measurements on complexes of small organic molecules with a few water molecules, focusing on the microscale solvation processes.

In the first weeks we measured the hydroxy radical and some of its bimolecular complexes. Upon incorporating a brand new, homebuilt permanent magnet, we could observe the Zeeman splitting of the radical. In the process I got to know the helium cluster machine and the specifics of their setup. Finally, the bitropyl that I needed as a precursor for producing the tropyl radical, was delivered. By that time I was able to operate the machine and conduct the measurements on my own.

Science Zone

Helium droplets are used as a matrix for isolating and stabilizing small organic radicals, that are then probed by an infrared laser. Upon exciting a ro-vibrational transition the absorbed photon energy is quickly transferred to the helium, leading to evaporation of helium atoms and a decrease in the size of the droplets. This change is recorded as a depletion spectrum in a mass spectrometer.

The roller derby   

Gary’s group met up in the evenings several times during my stay, hanging out at bars in downtown, relaxing and drinking.

The Turner Field baseball stadium in Atlanta during the game.

Once, we went to Atlanta to watch a baseball game, where the Atlanta Braves beat the Cincinnati Reds. Another time, we went to watch a football practice game of the Dawgs. Also, Chris introduced me to some of his friends and we met a couple of times, brewing beer, playing frisbee, having barbecue, playing the Settlers of Catan board game or hanging out downtown after work and on weekends.

I even got to know a sport I hadn’t been aware of before: the roller derby. It is a game where two teams of girls on roller skates go around a track and one member of each team – the jammer – tries to overtake members of the opposing team and the rest of the team tries to hinder the enemy jammer. It is a dynamic game and surprisingly fun to watch.

The ISMS conference and a trip into the mountains

Finally, end of June came, it was time to attend the ISMS conference at Urbana-Champaign. Together with some colleagues of Gary’s lab we rented a university car and hit the road going north, direction Chicago. It was a 10h road trip to the conference site. . Nevertheless, the long drive was worth it, since the meeting had many interesting talks.

Several sessions on different topics took place simultaneously all the time, with mostly short talks on specific topics. There was a separate room, where you could get coffee and donuts all day – a habit that can become really unhealthy! However, there was a bowl of fruit, too, which got empty more frequently towards the end of the conference.

Snapshot during a roller derby game at The Classic Center in Athens.

I spent the last weekend of my stay in the mountain area where North Carolina borders Georgia and Tennessee, enjoying the countryside, relaxing and racing a quad bike on mountain trails. And suddenly, I was on my flight back to Germany! Looking back, the three months were over in a blink. I had learned a lot and gained some insight into a part of this huge country and its culture. All people I got to know were open and friendly, and everybody took care that I got the full American Experience.

Even though I was working on essentially the same experimental setup I am using at home, I experienced working in a different environment and a different lab as a new approach to research. I also learned a lot more about the helium droplet technique, by getting to know different ways to deal with experimental challenges. I am grateful that I got this opportunity and I want to thank Gary for making my stay possible in the first place and Chris, who made sure that it was always great.

The Douberly Lab including me at the conference in Urbana-Champaign.                                    From right to left: Joe, Gary, Chris, Peter, Alaina, Bernadette and I.

About the Author

portraitMatin Kaufmann, born in 1986, has studied Physics at the Universität Vaihingen in Stuttgart, obtaining his diploma in 2012. Since 2013, he is part of the spectroscopy group at the Lehrstuhl für Physikalische Chemie II under Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith, and investigates small complexes of glycine with water, isolated in helium droplets using infrared spectroscopy. He completed his internship at the University of Georgia within the framework of the Graduate School Solvation Science (GSS).

White Nights at the Finnish Nanoscience Center

The land of thousand lakes, a nickname Finland has earned from the naturalists, elegantly describes the two colors green (land) and blue (lakes) at any point in the country. Add to that the possibility to see a ravishing nature of light known as Aurora Borealis and you get a couple of reasons that convinced me to make a research experience at the Nanoscience Center, University of Jyväskylä from October to December 2014.

Why I choose Jyväskylä?

Jyväskylä is known as the cultural capital or Athens of Finland. Therefore, an internship in the University of Jyväskylä was an appealing choice to learn about the culture and history of Finland. This decision also spared me from the gloomy winters of the north, because the university is in the central Finland. But of course there are also scientific reasons.

My interest in understanding the bio-molecular mechanisms with quantum and classical mechanics helped me narrow down my list to the University of Jyväskylä where I could gain experience working in the field of theoretical and computational chemistry. This decision was also encouraged by my supervisor in Bochum, Prof. Dr. Lars Schäfer. He was a former colleague of my supervisor in Jyväskylä, Dr. Gerrit Groenhof. A recommendation always gives an advantage in this kind of applications, and it helped in my case too.

A smooth application Procedure

As soon as I received my invitation from Jyväskylä, the administrative offices from both universities were extremely cooperative and helpful to ensure a comfortable stay and experience. The accommodation arrangement was quite elegant and the administrative staff in Jyväskylä were kind enough to guide me through the complete process. KOAS and Kortepohja are two government supported student organizations that facilitate accommodation for students in Jyväskylä.

 Science zone

During my internship I implemented different computational approaches to study the reaction mechanisms of a light sensitive protein called phytochrome. The photo-receptor phytochrome detects light on a time-scale of femtoseconds to picoseconds: Thereby it harvests energy in form of photon absorption in plants, bacteria and fungi to control their biological functions like photoperiodism (seasonal change in day/night change), circadian rhythms (physiological changes in organisms in the 24h), and photomorphogenesis (light-mediated development). For example, a strawberry plant regulates its flowering pattern more than 6 months in advance based on the circadian cycle. In our study we used the QM/MM hybrid molecular simulation approach: Quantum mechanical (QM) methods described the photo-reactive part of the protein, while the remaining system was modelled with classical force fields (MM).

Updating my computational skills to 2.0.

I enjoyed my brief stay working at the Nanoscience Center at the University of Jyväskylä. It is the only university in Finland with a separate state of art research facility for nanoscience. Besides, the interdisciplinary work environment is a boon for advancing in the field of computational chemistry.

Regular group meetings and interaction opportunities with different research groups helped me adapt to the Finnish university system and to the life in Finland. The research and administrative staff was competent in the English language. That made the communication easy and comfortable with everyone at the university. Coordinators assigned to the Erasmus students provided enough information about every available facility at the university.

Some of the skills I acquired during my stay in Jyväskylä involve critical assessment of the scopes and limitations of various approaches/approximations, team work and collaboration, visualization and graphical presentation of practical results, general knowledge of experimental and computational methods, acquaintance with work flow of conferences and seminars. The different perspective and way of thinking during assessment and discussions are some important experiences one should look forward to during such internships.

An aurora is well worth a wait.

It happened on my return flight to Germany. Within minutes after take-off, I noticed a glare on the window. I looked outside and found myself staring into the sky at something beautiful. It was racing through the vast space with striking colors ranging from different shades of green, red to pink. I had to wait for three months to capture that beautiful sight from Jyväsyklä. The further away you go from a city the better the chances to see the aurora in winters.

Sauna represents another great part of the Finnish culture and history. Based on surveys and statistics almost every household in Finland has a sauna. It is the perfect place to relax and get to know the Finns even better. An advantage of staying in one of these housings is the free access to the sauna. A swim in the lake after the sauna is must for anyone visiting Finland for the first time (even better if you have already experienced it before). It does not matter if it is summer or winter (when temperature drops below freezing point), a dip in the lake after sauna is an adventure you will cherish for a long time.

The central lane in Jyväskylä is famous for hosting different cultural events almost every weekend. A music lover can always find a gig or live event at one of the pubs in the city. Jyväskylä also hosts the Neste Oil rally every summer, which is the biggest public event in Nordic countries.

Summer is also a good time to experience the midnight sun, or the white nights, another remarkable natural phenomenon. The sun stays above the horizon for over 70 days in summer in the Lapland. For other parts of the country the nights are still white with the sun briefly dropping below the horizon and rises again masking the transition between dusk and dawn. On my flight back to Germany I considered that I still missed the white nights, but then life gave me another chance. In 2015 I came back to the Nanoscience Center, University of Jyväskylä, to start my PhD.

Where great things come from

A Finnish proverb says – ‘Great things come from small beginnings’. My time in Jyväskylä was an insightful experience and has helped me shape up my profile towards a better future in science. The opportunity to learn about a new culture with an optimistic objective from Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is something every student should look forward for. I hope my work in Jyväskylä brings a positive impact on motivating future collaborations between the two universities.

Link to iMOS international Master’s program

About the Author

Hi!! I am a theoretical chemist and a sports enthusiast. I was born in Surat (India) and have an engineering degree (B.Tech) in Bioinformatics from Amity University Rajasthan. I moved to Germany in 2013 to join the IMOS program, during which I carried out my international internship and master thesis as Erasmus student at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland). I am presently working as a PhD student in the group of Dr. Gerrit Groenhof at the University of Jyväskylä.

Being a visiting student in Irit Sagi Lab

My name is Elena Decaneto and I am a graduate student in Chemistry at the Ruhr University of Bochum currently working at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion (in Muelheim an der Ruhr) with a scholarship funded by the International Graduate School Solvation Science of the Cluster of Excellence RESOLV. In January 2015 I moved from Germany to Israel since I had the opportunity to undertake an internship of three months at The Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot), in the group of Prof. Irit Sagi in the Department of Biological Regulation.

Weizmann Institute of Science / Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology Joint Conference on Cell Communication in Translation Research, 22-23 January, 2015, Rehovot, Israel.

From the first day I was able to learn from competent scientists and to discuss scientific issues in a friendly and challenging environment, comparing my knowledge with those of other students and researchers with different backgrounds. This internship was a valuable and necessary experience for me to learn a large number of biological techniques I will need in the future (both for a future in the academy and for working in a company), get practical tips on my current PhD project, using cutting-edge instruments for applied biology which are currently not available in the institution where I work in Germany, visit an experimental animal house, participate in international conferences and seminars, presenting and discussing my data to a group of pure biochemists and biologists and establish possible future collaborations.

Science Zone

The Sagi group is mainly focused on the use of advanced biophysical and imaging techniques for unravelling cellular environment molecular mechanisms, design endogenous-like inhibitors and modulators targeting matrix enzymes and studying molecular recognition of super-structured substrates.

My project involved the development of a fluorometric activity assay for the protein Lysyl Oxidase-2, the expression of different types of protein constructs both in yeast and bacteria and the development of protocols for high-level expression, purification and enzymatic characterization for crystallization purposes.

In addition to the scientific aspect, I enjoyed being part of a group of friendly and jovial people, participating in group travels and going out together even outside working hours. In Prof. Sagi`s group I found friends rather than just colleagues, and I go back to Germany enriched not only with new skills but with wonderful memories.

The Weizmann Institute of Science

The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the most important centers of research and higher education in the world. Known for its scientific and technological research in the forefront, the interests of the institute span the entire spectrum of contemporary science: environmental science, drug development, from genetic to oncology, renewable and alternative energy technologies, astronomy, high energy physics, etc. Inside the institute the language is English and students are only Master of Science or PhD from 5 different faculties (Physics, Math/Computer Science, Chemistry, Biology and Biochemistry). The Feinberg Graduate School (of which Prof. Sagi is now the dean) is the greatest strength of the institute, which since more than 50 years aims to train researchers in the field of natural sciences.

Koffler accelerator of the         Canada Centre of Nuclear Physics inside the campus.

All the students are exempt from tuition fees and receive a salary that allows them to spend all their time to study and research, and the duration of a PhD project is usually about 4-5 years. Surrounded by greenery, this institution is a veritable paradise for scientists thanks to the high quality of science (large equipped laboratories, new machines and cutting-edge instruments, high-impact publications, seminars, workshops and international conferences, international environment) and the high quality of student life (access to libraries, gyms, swimming pools, courses of all kinds, bars, pubs, restaurants, dormitories and apartments for students with common places and free wi-fi). Students visitors like me, stay in the international guest house inside the campus which is a perfect place to get immediately in contact with other students, get to know people from all over the world and organize together trips, parties and other activities.

Sentence spoken by the scientific visionary first president of Israel        Dr. Chaim Weizmann written on a wall of the campus.

Impressions of Israel

For over 2000 years this narrow corridor of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean exerts an influence that has no equal on the planet. Linked to the three major world monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Hebraism), Israel is a destination full of charm that includes many biblical sites, churches and mosques, but it is also an area of natural wonders from the desert landscapes, to the lush green of the north of Israel, in addition to the white beaches of the Mediterranean Sea. While Jerusalem is an ancient city on a hill with a fundamental religious importance for millions of people around the world, Tel-Aviv is a seaside town that basks in the sunshine of the Mediterranean Sea with barely a century old. Traveling in Israel is really easy if you have a driver’s license. Rental cars are quite cheap and allow to visit from north to south all the wonderful places that this country offers: from the port of the ancient Akko to the Bahá’í gardens in Haifa, from the Dead Sea to the Negev desert. Anyway, Israel is not only history and wilderness: it is a real tourist area of the Mediterranean which offers beautiful beaches with modern infrastructures. In these three months I used to travel every weekend but nevertheless there are still many places I would like to visit and which represent a good reason to return.

Non conventional view of Jerusalem from the roofs of the market.

It is a stereotype all too used, but it’s really hard not to draw attention on the incredible meeting of past and modernity in these places. In Jerusalem, you can meet next to each other, Orthodox Jews who wear traditional dress and Christian pilgrims with cutting-edge digital cameras, smells of incense and candles mixed with spices, sounds of bells intertwined with the song of the muezzin. In the Negev desert, the Bedouins use mobile phones with familiarity, while in Galilee palestinian farmers lead the oxen in the fields according to the rules of biotechnology. This great contrast is also reflected in the political situation of the country. My stay corresponded to the period of political propaganda for the election of Israeli prime minister and his party, so that I was inevitably spectator of the frequent and fervent political discussions during this period.

Rosh HaNikra grottes, a geological formation on the Mediterranean Sea at the border with Lebanon.

There is a very influential part of the society that believes that Israel should strictly abide by the laws of the Torah, while most people do not want that and look with horror to a confessional state. Despite the bad publicity in the European press and the frequent alarmist headlines with regard to safety, Israel and the neighboring territories of Jordan and the Sinai are perfectly safe for tourists and visiting students. Unfortunately it is not uncommon that political tensions explode in some act of terrorism but usually not undermine the safety of people and the Weizmann Institute can be regarded as a haven of peace. On the streets my attention was captured by the joviality of the people, their meaningful greeting “shalom” (“peace”) and the preponderance of the military: they are mostly citizens who perform military service which is compulsory from 18 years of age and lasts three years for men and two years for women.

Israeli Food

Israelian food is often simple and modest but tasty and substantial, reflecting the great ethnic mix of this country. The oriental dishes mostly consists of meat and grilled fish, stuffed vegetables and a variety of meze. Quick meals like shawarma, humus with pitta and falafel are found almost everywhere.

At the market in Akko you can find hundreds of different types of spices, along with the special “Said’s humus” famous for being considered the best humus of Israel .

Among the Armenian specialties, I especially enjoyed the malawach: a sweet flat bread with flask shape and different salty fillings. Jewish culinary tradition follows the rules of Kashrut: it is not allowed to eat “impure” meat (such as pig, rabbit and horse), while the meat from the other animals has to be deprived of any trace of blood before being cooked. Also, meat and dairy products cannot be eaten together in the same meal. During my stay I had the opportunity to celebrate the Passover, during which it is forbidden to sell and eat leavened foods like breads and pastries of all kinds. My favorite meal was definitely the typical Israeli breakfast, which consists of different types of bread, eggs, salad, cream of soft cheese, cream of olives and spicy sweet tomato. So different from a simple coffee and croissant and a great way to start the day in the lab (if you don’t fall asleep on the lab-bench!). Although Israel is often seen as a culinary desert by Europeans, I definitely had to change my mind after seeing that this country offers a wide culinary tradition, with very good food and lots of variety.

Different kinds of Israeli almond and nut cakes and sweets made with halva (from semolina, tahini or sunflower butter).

Despite wines (which are quite good in Israel, especially the white ones) during these years in Germany for my PhD I have inevitably stepped up my critical thinking about beers. It is hard to believe that until a few years ago the Israeli craft beers were practically nonexistent, but now many cafes and restaurants serve good craft beers of the place (mainly Ale beers) and I especially liked the unique taste of barley and bitter from the hop of Malka.


Link to Graduate School Solvation Science

Link to Weizmann Institute of Science

About the Author

Profile picture_597x768Elena Decaneto was born in 1988 in Fidenza (Italy). She got her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Physics at the University of Parma in Italy. She performed her master’s thesis research project on “spectroscopic characterization of metal nanoparticles” at the Sarría Chemical Institute in Barcelona (Spain). Currently, she works on her PhD thesis about “the coupling of solvent water and enzymatic activity in a matrix metalloproteinase” at the Max-Planck-Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mülheim a. d. Ruhr in the group of Prof. Lubitz and the Department of Physical Chemistry II in RUB under the supervision of Prof. Havenith.



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. http://www.kofo.mpg.de/de/forschung/heterogene-katalyse/heterogene-katalyse-und-nachhaltige-energie
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.

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”