Getting to grips with my ‘new normal’

I don’t know about you Julia, but Denmark is a very different world to the one I have left in the UK. Here they have done much better in their fight against Covid and there are a lot more things you can safely do. I have even been able to get a negative test and go into the university to see the members of InterCat who are yet to go on vacation! This isn’t the only difference, the weather has been sunny and hot (which I am told isn’t typical of Denmark, but I am enjoying it regardless) and I am getting to experience Danish food.

During the first week and a half I have been allowed out of my room, I have been trying to settle in and get used to my new surroundings. I am currently in student accommodation, which is vastly different to British halls of residence. These dormitories have pleasant living room kitchens where people play games, party or make a big group meal. It is a good way to meet people and build a community spirit and I as an incomer have really appreciated it. I will say I was surprised at the quality of the food, the things people make are much nicer than many of the meals I have seen in British student accommodation…

July was an odd time to arrive as many people have just gone on vacation and so my accommodation was quite quiet but I have still met a few housemates who have been very welcoming. Although I will freely admit to being jealous of them being able to enjoy the nice weather by going to the beach or taking a boat trip while I was at the university. They have helped me with a variety of different issues and have been teaching me some more Danish. I can now say jeg spiser æbler og drikker øl eller vand. (It isn’t that versatile but has its uses)

Julia asked me if I had seen any interesting facilities in her last post and the answer is yes. I have really made an effort to go into the university and spend time in the laboratory for astrochemistry and reactions on surfaces. This is where we have some of the ultra-high vacuum chambers (UHV) and has provided me with many opportunities to look at some interesting physics. I have been helping Frederik with his work before he goes on vacation which has required me to learn how to do a temperature programmed desorption (you can see what this is here) on a  UHV chamber (specifically the big chamber).

Working on the big chamber with Frederik and Georgios

I have now almost learnt how to do this and over the next week have the opportunity to do it on my own and put my newfound knowledge to the test! For the rest of the summer I will aim to do a wide mix of different activities such as making a poster for the InterCat retreat and discussing with John about how to incorporate a Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometer (FTIR) into my research. The plan is to try to learn as much as I can during these summer months so in September I can hit the ground running and make up for lost time! Do you have any aims for the summer Julia other than getting ready for the cold winters of Europe?

Posted by Alfred Hopkinson

A PhD student at InterCat studying the formation of organic molecules on carbonaceous grains.

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