Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Work, Play                                                                                 
Legend has it, the ancient Greek scientist Archimedes shouted “eureka”, and ran naked through the streets upon having discovered a non-destructive method to calculate the density of solidified materials. While, my “eureka” moment, wasn’t so pronounced, it was similarly enlightening. Throughout the course of this project, I failed to fully comprehend exactly the electrochemical test, chronoampometry (CA). While I had a general understanding of the test, my focus had been on other characterization methods, like cyclic voltammetry, but now my research advanced to the point where CA tests were necessary. On a train running from Mannheim to Basel, on my way from Saarbrucken to Switzerland, late Friday night, I read through several journal papers specifically discussing CA measurement techniques. Suddenly, everything clicked into place, making sense. During chronoampometry, the supercapacitor is pushed to a specific current, and the voltage output is tracked. This is the polar opposite of cyclic voltammetry, where a specified potential is applied, and the current response is measured. Unfortunately, I soon learned one of my files had not been converted into a text format, remaining it its original abnormal project format, and I was unable to plot the CA data immediately. After the agonizing wait, alleviated a bit by a trip to the alps on Saturday, followed by a day at Europa-park, today, I finished this weekends quest, and plot the CA graphs of my data. 

Privilege, Productivity
Switzerland was even more beautiful and relaxing than advertised, and I fully intend to go back to the Alps in the future. Pictures and videos do not fully capture the feeling standing among, and on them. Equally true, is Switzerlands reputation for being extremely expensive. Luckily, I took heed of this reputation, and purchased a lot of food to take with me on my weekend trip. Actually, food has been my greatest expense in Europe.  I bought at German rail pass, which covered 30 days in all of Germany, 2 days in Switzerland, and 2 days in Belgium, for just 109 euros, and I have been staying in cheep hostels (10-20 euro per night). Its when everywhere charges 4 euro for a drink half the size of a small soda in the US, and the cheapest option on the menu is a personal pizza at 15 euro, that the expenses truly start getting up there. To be completely honest, I have been pretty thrifty while in Europe, carrying around a 1.5 litter bottle with me, and just refilling it with water. Paying 3.50 euros for a few sips of chilled water in a bottle, just doesn’t work for me. Also, the grocery store near my apartment is relatively inexpensive (comparable to food prices in the US), so I have been making and packing nearly all my meals. At the same time, I have also shelled out for some things, paying the incomprehensible price of 15 franks (~$15) for a box of Swiss chocolates to bring back home for my dad. In the end of this internship, I will have toured many cities in Europe, done the work I love (scientific research), and saved around 75% of my STAR stipend. When people pay thousands to come to see Europe for 2 weeks, and I get to make that amount to come here for 2 months, while obtaining research experience, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed, and privileged to have this opportunity. Rarely, do people get so much, and I am overwhelmingly grateful to Drexel, and the INM for arranging this program.  

Learning, Business
This program has also been a tremendous learning experience, and has opened my mind to markets that I did not even know existed. Aside from my interest in science, I am fascinated by business practices. Seeing Europe has shown me a whole new side to business. As an aspiring business owner, this is invaluable. A good example of this can be found at Europa-park, one of the largest, arguably best amusement/theme park in all of Europe.  On Sunday around noon, having seen much of Lucerne, Switzerland, I stopped by Europa-park, which was on my way back to Saarbrucken. At Europa-park, different companies sponsor many of the large rollercoasters. For example, Mercedes-Benz sponsors a ride, known as the Silver Star, 100% operated on solar energy. While waiting in line to get on the amusement ride, you are lead through a series of rooms filled with pro-Mercedes-Benz advertising and information. If the wait is around 15 minutes per ride, that’s 15 minutes to convince a person that a companies product is worth getting, and-at the very least- make them remember a product. Most companies are willing to pay thousands, to get a television viewers attention for 15 seconds, let alone 15 minutes. Thousands of people enter Europa-park per day, and nearly all of them go to the Silver Star at some point. All those who do, are treated to a 15-minute infomercial for Mercedes-Benz. This is not isolated to one example. Other coasters and rides are clearly sponsored by both established and startup companies. This corporate partnership between Mercedes, and Europa-park, aligns both company’s interests, allowing for combined growth. Europa-park now does not have to spend money for electricity to keep the rides running, consequently saving money. Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, has to shell out a bit of money (though it pales in comparison to the amount spent on commercials), and yet reaps many rewords. If just one person per month, only twelve per year, out of the hundreds-of-thousands that visit, ultimately purchases a car because of seeds planted while sitting in line, Mercedes-Benz still has made money. Should they have more future buyers influenced by the seeds planted during that wait in line, Mercedes-Benz stands to make a lot of money. Now Europa-park has to be careful with their partnerships, because they don’t want to ruin the experiences of vacationers by an inflow of advertisement. Accordingly, many rides do not have corporate sponsors, but rather a story or atmosphere is built into the wait in line. For the most part, and perhaps with particular exception to a little theme park down in Florida (where your dreams come true), in the US, when waiting for a roller coaster, you simply wait in a throng of sweaty people. At Europa-park, your either immersed in interesting visuals sponsored by a company, or your consumed in the theme of the ride. In business, the little details can save your company enormous expenses, so such collaborations can be enormously beneficial. 

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