UCSB students worked at Chalmers during summer

As the last few years, two students from University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have been visiting Chalmers during the summer. Here is an interview with the two students, Dilpreet Kaur and Alexander Chiu.
1.        What have you been working with during your stay at Chalmers?
Dilpreet: I’ve been working on creating nanoparticle gradients of silicon dioxide nanoparticles on glass surfaces and characterizing the surface energies of the gradients using contact angle measurements. Since Martin’s group works a lot with improving implants, I’ve also been trying to study how the nanotopography of a surface affects cellular interaction. I have been working on some cellular adhesion studies, using AFM measurements to study the interaction of cells along the gradient.
Alexander:  When I first arrived, I had to learn the basics of electronic structures and solid-state physics to get started on my project.  I am now modeling the thermoelectric properties of BaGaSn clathrates using first-principles methods in the physics department.  I also got to do some experimental work where I synthesized BaGaSn clathrates in the chemistry department while my mentors were on vacation.

2.        Did you know anything about Sweden and Chalmers before you came here?
Dilpreet: I knew very little about Sweden and Chalmers when I applied for my internship; however, once I learned that I was coming to Sweden I tried to do some research. I read a book called Modern-Day Vikings: A Practical Guide to Interacting with the Swedes by Christina Robinowitz. I also bought a simple book about learning Swedish, but I didn’t read it after the first book told me that everyone spoke English here.
Alexander: At the time I applied for the internship, I had only known about the research highlights posted on the Chalmers website.  However, I did a ton of research about Swedish culture after I got accepted.  I was really excited to fika and try the different foods.

3.        Have you had the opportunity to see something outside Chalmers during your visit? 
Dilpreet: I have tried to make the most of my summer in Europe and have traveled a lot. Outside of Chalmers, I’ve explored the city of Gothenburg quite a bit and took a Paddan tour along with visiting some museums and lots of restaurants. I’ve also been to Rome, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. I even had the chance to take a Hurtigruten cruise from Kirkenes to Bergen in Norway. I also swam in Swedish waters on a rocky beach and went to Liseberg with my lab group members. It’s been an amazing summer!
Alexander: Dilpreet and I have been travelling quite a bit.  Since most of our lab mates and mentors left for vacation in the middle of the our internship, we got our own two week vacation and explored Italy and Norway.  On the weekends, we made trips to Stockholm and Copenhagen too.  We’ve also been lucky to be in Gothenburg during the midsummer and culture festivals. 

4.        Have you found any main differences between working at Chalmers compared to UCSB?
Dilpreet: There are a couple things that are different from the work environment here at Chalmers compared to working in a lab at UCSB. Here people have a fairly regular work schedule where people come in around 9 and leave around 5. Back at UCSB, I’ve seen graduate students work much longer but as an intern, I still had regular hours most of the time. At UCSB there are a lot of undergraduates who participate in research, but here at Chalmers it is mainly Masters students and above. Also, no one at UCSB participates in fika. I’m going to miss having short breaks in the work day where everyone comes together. Another difference is that at UCSB I’ve never really seen my lab get together to eat lunch whereas the entire floor gathers in the fika room here to eat. I think having a fika room really unites people.

At both Chalmers and UCSB, my mentors emphasize learning and expanding research interests, which makes for a fun and productive work experience.  However, Swedes have a lot more vacation time compared to Americans, and most people on the floor were gone for weeks at a time which made working at Chalmers feel more laid back, at least during the summer. 

5.        Would you consider to come back to Sweden some day?
Dilpreet: I would love to come back to Sweden with my family and show them around. I’m not sure if I could move here because I would miss the California sunshine a bit too much during the winters; but yes, I definitely intend to come back at some point and see more of Stockholm, northern Sweden, and of course visit Gothenburg again. 
Alexander: I definitely want to come back to explore Sweden’s countryside along with the rest of Scandinavia.  Hopefully, I can also catch the northern lights in the winter time.
Text and photo: Jonatan Bergek

Published: Wed 02 Sep 2020.