Monday, June 23, 2008

The Week's News from Thun...

So, I work better with an outline, and I think it makes the post more to-the-point... so what's here is the following:

1. Flying
2. Garden Party / Geographic Diversity in the Lab
3. Hiking in Mürren
4. Research

1. Flying: On one of my first days here, my adviser (Sebastien) and I were having a coffee break on the balcony of our laboratory building, when I noticed an airfield below us, just off of the military base on which we're located. Since I'm interested in aviation (I was in the middle of a pilot's license course when I left for Switzerland), I asked Sebastien whether it was a general aviation strip, and whether he'd ever flown in or out of it. His response was that he knew a pilot based at the Thun airfield who offered acrobatic flights in a 1930's-era Swiss military aircraft (a Bücker BU-131B Jungmann, for those interested). Long story short, Sebastien and I took some time off of work last Thursday as soon as the weather was nice, and went flying with this guy (:

We did all sorts of acrobatic maneuvers over the mountains and the lake, and since this biplane had an open canopy, the only thing holding the passenger and pilot in the plane when it was upside-down or spiralling was the five-point harness. It was an unbelievable experience, and between the acrobatic maneuvers, we went over the mountains, which seem even more beautiful from above (from Thun, there's a great view of the Stockhorn).

2. Garden Party / Internationalism: On Saturday, my adviser threw a garden party at his house, and invited people from the lab, and his neighbors and family friends. It was quite an international party, with almost every group of people conversing in a different language (I counted English, Japanese, Serbo-Croatian, French, and German). I suppose that's reflective of the great diversity in geographic backgrounds among people here at EMPA. Of the nine people with whom I work most closely in the lab, only two are Swiss; the rest are from Poland, India, Bosnia, Romania, Spain, and Japan (x2). I suppose this demonstrates the kind of working environment that naturally develops in a country with the some of the best scientific infrastructure in the world.

3. Hiking in Mürren: I was a bit closer to the mountains on Sunday, when I went hiking with a group of six post-docs from EMPA (only one was Swiss!). We went by train/cable-car to Mürren, and then we hiked, more or less, this trail. Since we had no set itinerary, we wandered from the trail and found some new trails whenever we got the urge. This led to the discovery of a gorgeous waterfall, one that we walked underneath. Photos of the hike (and a couple of the flight).

4. Research: My research is also going pretty well. My task here is to look at the one high-powered microwave setup we've got here, and to create a computational model of it using a physics software called QuickWave. I've never worked with QW before, but have found it less difficult than expected; I'm now at the phase where I'm nearly done with building the geometry inside of the microwave cavity, at which point I'll be ready to debug and get ready to run actual heating simulations. More next week on whether I've actually accomplished this... but for now, Tschüss!

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