Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Upcoming trips

So just an FYI, I'll be traveling to Barcelona and Rome in the next two weeks. Stay tuned for pics of my travels in the coming days.

This past Friday, there was another concert going on in the middle of the city. The main headliner was a Belgian vocal trance band, so kind of techno/electropop, called Milk Inc. Supposedly they're pretty popular, but I've heard of them in the states.

The main stage is set up smack dab in the middle of the city, in a square enclosed by bars. Extra security was present throughout the square since it was so packed for this event. I was told that the maximum capacity for the square was about 12,000 people, and I have no doubt it was that crowded. The band had fireworks going off and flames sprouting out of the ground randomly throughout their set. The crowd really got into the music and it definitely made it much for fun.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Music festivals galore

So today kicks off Leuven's weekly music festival. Every Friday there's a music theme and there are 5 or 6 stages dispersed throughout the city. These are free concerts for anyone who wants to come and there's an eclectic mix of music. For example, today's theme was jazz. I ended up visiting 3 different stages throughout the city and each had their own little genre of music going on. I got a little bit of jazz, some cuban/salsa music, and indie rock. I really enjoyed the indie rock band. They called themselves Bad Cirkuz and claim to be a blues/jazz band, however there's not a single brass or horned instrument among them. They reminded me of paramore and flyleaf, although they weren't as hardcore.

Their set was probably a little bit more than half an hour. I really enjoyed their music, enough so that I think I'll try to find their cd.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So I haven't really been traveling a whole lot....

So sorry to anyone that's expecting new pictures of my travels. I've mostly been relaxing in Leuven during the weekends and then heading over to IMEC to do some work.

The weather has been relatively warm around Belgium. It's typically been around the mid-80s during the day and then cooling down to the high 60s at night.

I've sort of been debating if I should start my Master's thesis pretty soon. I don't think I mentioned this earlier, but I graduated from Hopkins with my B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering this past May. I'm sticking around Hopkins for one more semester to finish my Master's, so by December of this year I'll have my Master's in the same field. Since I've been doing research with the Gracias lab for the past three years, I have enough material to write a thesis, hence why I only plan on staying at Hopkins one more semester as opposed to one more year.

Anyway, I've started working on an outline and so far I've got a couple pages worth of material. Only 60+ more to go! It's a good thing that the ChemBE senior lab forced us to write so many long reports because 60 pages really doesn't seem that bad considering I still have four months to write it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Research update

At IMEC this week, I've mostly been running some simulations. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we shipped some samples to IMEC from Hopkins. We're using spectroscopy tools to determine the spectral response of our nanostructures. I've been making and running some simulations on an assortment of designs and then doing the subsequent analysis. I can't really go into too much depth, so I'll just be leaving it at that.

I've also been doing some work in the clean room, fabricating some of our samples. I mentioned this last year, but the clean room here at IMEC is amazing. In the Gracias lab at JHU, we have a 14 m^2 clean room with a mask aligner, a spinner, a couple hot plates, and a wet bench. The clean rooms at IMEC are separated based on the compatibility with different wafer standards, ranging from 50 mm to 300 mm. In total, there's 5000 m^2 of clean room space, however, the 300 mm facility has been expanding, so I'm not quite sure how much additional space there is.

In terms of what type of work I'm doing, it's fairly similar to last year. The processes I'm running are nearly identical, however, the materials in which we use to fabricate our structures have changed.

Anyway, just wanted to give a quick update about what I've been up to. I definitely won't be doing any traveling during the weekdays, so it'll mostly just be updates about IMEC during the week.

A quick note. So the population of Leuven is about 90,000 and a little bit more than a third of that are students at the Catholic University of Leuven, which pretty much encompasses the entire city. Their finals have ended recently and I've slowly started to notice that the city is starting to empty a little bit. In a week or two it's suppose to be pretty empty once everyone finishes their end of the semester celebration and goes back home/on vacation.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Revisting Bruges

This past weekend, I went to revisit the medieval city of Bruges.

I went on a brewery tour of the De Halve Maan Brewery, which is the only remaining family brewery in the city of Bruges that is still active. Their beers are world famous and have won numerous awards. The award winning beers include Brugse Zot Blonde and Brugse Zot double.

This was my first brewery tour ever, but I think it's the typical tour you can get at any type of brewery. They show you their malting and fermentation facilities along with all the tools they use to brew the beer. Since this is a small brewery situated right in the congested city of Bruges, their facilities were confined to maybe a large building, definitely not warehouse style. On the roof of the brewery we got a nice view of the the Beguinage.

Afterwards, I made my way back to the city center to get another look at the Belfry. I didn't go up again this time, because I didn't feel like paying again to see the same view that I saw last year.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got a new camera so I wanted to retake pictures of important sites. My old point and shoot camera wouldn't have been able to capture this entire building due to its limited focal length and therefore wide-angle capabilities.

After walking around the Markt, I went on a canal tour around the city. For about 7 euros, you could go on a half hour tour along the canals that span 5 km around and through the city.

The tour really didn't take me anywhere that I couldn't have gotten by foot, however, it did give me a different perspective of viewing the city (in the middle of a canal versus the sidewalk).

Even though I've been to Bruges probably 4 times now, I still enjoy walking along the cobbled streets while admiring the architecture. It's just so radically different from anything you see in the states, it's difficult not to just sit back and appreciate the strong history of the city. That's one thing I dislike about the states. We have no history relative to Europe. Most of our architecture is relatively new, so we don't ever see anything truly original.

If anyone was wondering, all my pictures were shot with a Nikon D90 and the kit 18-105 mm vibration reduction lens. All the photos were taken in Manual mode or Shutter priority.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

First week back at IMEC

The research I'm working on is based partly on the work that we do in the Gracias lab at Johns Hopkins University. Recently, we developed a method to develop self-assembled patterned nanoparticles (as seen in a recent paper by Cho. et al. in "Self-assembly of lithographically patterned nanoarticles," Nanoletters 9, 12, 4049-4052 (2009)). In the Gracias lab, we specialize in the self-assembly of 3-dimensional structures on the micro and, as evidenced in the aforementioned paper, nano scale. Back at Hopkins, we have little access to any means to spectroscopically characterize our structures. The group I'm working with at IMEC specializes in a field called plasmonics and they have access to numerous instruments capable of characterizing the optical properties of nanostructures. Essentially, we're characterizing structures we've fabricated in the Gracias lab (and also here at IMEC) with IMEC's equipment.

This past week has been fairly busy actually, considering it was the first full week I was back. A month ago, I shipped over some samples we made at JHU to IMEC. A member of the group over here took some preliminary measurements and for much of this week, he aided me in continuing to take measurements of the samples. I ended up working a couple 12-13 hour days to work on the measurements.

Anyway, quick update on what my blog will be focusing on for much of the summer. I'm probably not going to be traveling as much this time, so I won't be adding a lot of pictures of what foods I've been eating. Instead, I'll probably just be posting pictures of whatever buildings I find interesting. I recently got a DSLR, so hopefully I can try and improve my nonexistent photography skills.

If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free to post in the comments!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

First couple days back in Belgium

Well, I just flew into Belgium last Thursday, June 3rd. I flew from Houston to Newark and then from Newark to Brussels. It was the identical flight that I took last year. Overall I think that the total time it took me to get from the ground in Houston to Brussels took about 15 hours. The flights weren't that bad. Airplane food is still not that great, but it's definitely better than it was a decade ago.

I arrived in Brussels around 8 am on Thursday. After checking into my hostel and dropping off my luggage, the first thing I did was head over to the bike rental shop to pick up a set of wheels. Like I mentioned before, a bicycle is essential in a city like Leuven where the greatest distance between any two points in the city is probably 3 or 4 miles.

It just so happened that on the same day I arrived, a Ph.D. student from IMEC was giving his public Ph.D. defense. After checking into IMEC for a couple hours and revisiting some friends, we all left to attend his presentation at the university. Unfortunately for me, his presentation was in Dutch. Somehow I managed to stay awake for the entirety of his talk, despite not being able to sleep on the plane. I can't really attest to my understanding of his defense since I didn't understand a word, but at the end everyone was clapping, including the judging committee, so I'm assuming he did well.

After the reception, we headed out to the city center for drinks and then met up with everyone else for dinner. Almost everyone ended up getting some type of spare ribs, since that seemed to be the restaurant's specialty. I didn't take pictures of my food this time, mostly because of the fact that I was too tired to bother with it.

On Saturday, I met up with Kayla, a Hopkins grad who's also spending some time this summer working at IMEC. We went on a bike tour around Leuven in order for Kayla to get familiar with this small city and also to refresh my own memory. We biked around the city to the town hall, a local botanical garden, IMEC, and the city center.

A spent the first couple nights in a hostel, but after 4 days I found somewhere else to live. I'm actually staying at the same flat that I stayed at last year. There were very few openings throughout the city, so I resorted to a place I already knew.

This coming weekend I'll get a chance to post an update of what I've been up to this past week.

Until later!