Elizabeth Eck worked in Fredrik Höök’s group at Applied Physics while Katherine Y. Santizo, who has a background in Chemical Engineering joined Martin Andersson's group. These interviews were made August 16, 2013
What have you been working with?
Elizabeth: The project I have been working on has been looking at mixing vesicle components using a sonicator. We’re studying how varying the time or the temperature and then varying the vesicle composition to see affects the mixing. We’re using lipids with dyes like rhodamin and NBD and then I’m looking at FRET, using the spectrofluorometer, to quantize the mixing. So far, I’ve just been looking at POPC lipids and now we’re moving on to more complex mixtures. We’re using an E.Coli extract, and looking at PEGylated lipids. One of the applications is making a supported lipid bilayer.
Katherine: I’ve been working with Martin Andersson, and his student Saba, on mesoporous films that are used for bone implants. I’ve been focusing on using atomic force microscopy for characterization of the films. This means taking the different films that have been synthesized, running them with AFM, trying to characterize their surface roughness.
Are you enjoying your stay here in Sweden?
Elizabeth: I’m enjoying it. The weather has been really nice, and on weekends we’ve been travelling. We’ve gone to Copenhagen and Stockholm, me and Katherine. Gothenburg’s been really nice. We didn’t know each other before, we only met once at an information meeting at UCSB.
Katherine: I was a little bit shocked when I first came, because the campus here gets really empty for the summer. I kind of had an idea about that, because I was told it is vacation time, but I didn’t realize that everyone would be gone. A couple of the PhD students have been here, though. Everyone has been really friendly. I was shocked when I met Martin, just how open he was – “Don’t call me professor”, instead it’s a first name basis. It’s really nice to establish that.
How come you enrolled for this program?
Elizabeth: I’ve worked with an internship with the Materials Research Lab at UCSB. So I knew of this program and I thought it would be really fun to go somewhere and experience another school, doing different research.
Katherine: I thought it would be a very interesting experience, to explore a different country, a different way of doing research. But what attracted me when I first looked at it was that I would get to go abroad. There were a lot of project, especially at Chalmers, that were interesting to me.
Did you know anything about Chalmers before you came here?
Elizabeth: I had looked at the website when I was looking at which location I wanted to apply to for this program. There was enough information that I knew there was research that was related to the area I was interested in. But other than that, I didn’t know anything.
Katherine: I didn’t know much about Sweden, or Gothenburg, or Chalmers when I was applying. That might had come in handy.
Did you talk to any of the students who came here last year?
Elizabeth: Yes, I emailed one of them, Garret. He replied and said it was one of the best experiences of his life. He spoke very highly of it.
Katherine: I know one of them, because she was a classmate of mine. She liked it here. But I think every person’s experience is different, based on what you like to do. Even though Gothenburg is small, it has a lot to offer in terms of diversity. I come from a big city back home, so I can say that. I really liked it.
Would you consider coming back to Sweden some day?
Elizabeth: Yes, I’ve been talking to my supervisor and he’s been asking if I would apply for a PhD program or a post doc abroad.
Katherine: I really liked it here, except the fact that the language is very different. Sweden is different, but it was a good different for me because it’s just so beautiful and everyone is so calm. It is much more hectic and stressful in the US. It seems like their focus is work and getting things done as opposed to at the same time enjoying life. Here, you get a little bit of both. I really enjoyed “fika”. I haven’t run into a department at my university that has a “fika room”. I feel like there is that lack of communication and interaction in the States. Here, I felt really comfortable speaking to professors at any time, whereas back home I sometimes feel intimidated.
Photos: (Top) Elizebeth Eck and (Bottom) Katherine Santizo
Text and photo: Per Thorén