Saturday, September 6, 2008

Rain and Football

I've been here a week, and I've already seen a wide variety of Swiss weather: dreary and rainy, pouring rain, light rain, occasional drizzles, overcast with a chance of rain, etc. The weather wouldn't usually affect me this much, but most of the activities I plan take place out-of-doors. This poses a problem. I was planning on saving money by biking most places--the grocery store in Villigen and the Coop in Würenlingen are not too far away--but after getting quite wet and a little cold on Thursday, I'm beginning to rethink this brilliant plan. I was going to go hiking today, followed by shopping at the Coop complex, but it's spitting just enough that either would require slightly more fortitude than I'm willing to provide this afternoon. So, I'm back at the computer, glancing out the window, waiting for a hint of sun or a brief pause in the rain that will get me outside.

This first week has been quite an adventure. I'm splitting my time between two research groups that are working on two different sides of one large project. Most of my lab time was spent in the concrete bunker monitoring a small pilot-size reactor unit that produces methane. A typical experiment begins first thing in the morning and ends around 4 PM, leaving plenty of time for coffee. If something goes wrong, we stay until much later (6:30 on Wed.). Funny things have been happening, and they ended up shutting the whole unit down on Thursday because of wild pressure fluctuations in the system. They spent all day Friday taking it apart piece by piece and cleaning everything. The smells were . . . . powerful. They found some interesting (read: gross) brown solids in the filters that have unknown origins. Hopefully, this thorough flushing will bring operation back to normal for next week.

The remainder of my research is a variety of applications in analytical/instrumental chemistry. The previous intern is leaving next week, so I get to take over her experiments with a differential scanning calorimeter (DSC). The research group here is using the DSC in a novel way, so the work I'm doing has little background literature with which to check myself. (If I really knew what was going on, I might call it pioneering.) In addition, I'm running various analyses of biomass/organic liquids that they might want to run through their reactor (this won't take up much of my time, though).

Finally, I made a huge mistake: I left my football boots at home. PSI has a soccer club that plays indoor and outdoor, both once a week. We went during lunch on Wednesday to the gym in Würenlingen, where we played for well over an hour. I played in my Aasics, which are fine for a gym, but not so great for (wet) grass. I found that this is my favorite way to meet people, so I'm joining the basketball club too. I was worried, at first, what my supervisor would think of what ended up being a 2.5-hour lunch break, but he came too. Good times, great exercise. This is looking like it will be one of the highlights of my trip.

With that, I'll sign off. Until later,

1 comment:

Nick said...

The soccer club sounds like a lot of fun, Joseph. I wish I was there.

While I was in Ferrara I learned that the best way to ride a bike in the rain is with an umbrella. With a little practice you can master the technique, I'm sure.

Be good, learn a lot, and have fun. In that order.