Chalmers students visiting UCSB

As previous years, two students from Chalmers visited University of California, Santa Barbara as part of an exchange program. This year, Matilde Bengtsson and David Svensson went to California during the summer. Here is an interview with Matilde and David.

What have you been working with during your stay at UCSB?
Matilde: During the summer I worked in the Segalman group within the Cooperative International Science and Engineering Internships (CISEI) program with Bhooshan Popere as my mentor. We investigated the kinetic self-assembly of block copolymers in solution and the directed self-assembly of the formed micelles in nanoscopic non-planar architectures on silicon wafers. Characterization of the thin films of these micelles was done via atomic force microscopy.
David: I have spent my summer doing simulations on a new type of tunable metamaterial for nanophotonic applications. The idea is to use the insulator to metal phase transition in VO2 to change the optical properties of the material on a sub-wavelength scale. The goal is to be able control the phase of the light reflected off the metamaterial since it would enable us to fabricate a dynamic device that could function as any refractive or reflective optical element(lenses, mirrors) despite only being a couple of microns thin.

Did you know anything about UCSB and California before you came there?
Matilde: I knew about some published research from University of California and I had heard about Santa Barbara from a friend’s travels. However it was a nice surprise that University of California had a campus in Santa Barbara and thereto that it had connections to Chalmers.
David: I knew of some of the recent Nobel laureates from UCSB but I was unaware of how prominent UCSB is in many fields. Despite having been to California last year there were still many new things to see and discover.

Have you found any main differences between working at UCSB compared to Chalmers?
Matilde: I think it is highly dependent on the culture of the lab group. I interpreted it as the work at UCSB was performed more individualistically with less chitchatting. The organization of advanced lab equipment for example for characterization measurements differed. They had shared facilities were it was available for all research groups, which to my knowledge Chalmers lack. Also at UCSB students tend to get involved in research earlier in their education, already during their undergraduate studies.
David: The main difference that struck me was how many of the undergraduate students that do internships in research groups, both during the terms and during the summer. Also, from comparing with other summer interns, there is a huge diversity in terms of work culture and methods from research group to research group.

Have you had the opportunity to see something outside campus during your visit?
Matilde: I took the opportunity to see some of the famous cities nearby, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco. But my personal favourite was actually Joshua Tree National Park. I have never set my foot in a desert before, so the Joshua trees, cactus and rock formations were just breath-taking.
David: Yes definitely! Even if there is a beach on campus we spent quite a few afternoons and weekends on beaches outside campus. Since there are buses going straight from campus to central Santa Barbara it also became a common destination. Beyond that, both the European and American summer interns went on many weekend trips around California. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Channel Islands national park and Yosemite are just a few of the places that we had time to visit.

Did you have any fika breaks at UCSB?
Matilde: Unfortunately it was not an everyday routine as at Chalmers. I remember that after one of my colleagues had gotten married during the weekend we had a fika Monday afternoon together in the group to celebrate. I guess that gives you an idea how frequent the fika breaks happened. On the other hand the group occasionally had barbeques on the beach right next to campus. This could be done without taking notice to the weather forecast, because it is as they say – always sunny in California.
David: During the internship we attended a series of lectures and seminars where they would usually serve coffee and cookies. So while we did have breaks with coffee or tea and cookies they weren't quit fika breaks.

Published: Wed 02 Sep 2020.