We're two Americans living in Germany and traveling Europe in the names of Science and Fun.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
An Excellent Exzellenz-Universität
I have managed to spend about two-and-a-half days in the lab this past week and I must say that I'm really, really thrilled to be working in my lab in Aachen. The lab is located about 15 minutes by bike (downhill) from where we live in reasonably nice facilities. The people with whom I work are really great--we sent an email to the lab group asking for some help and advice moving into Aachen and received an overwhelming response. Furthermore, Eva and Jochen, two labmates, took way too long with us last Friday to bring our stuff back from IKEA and into our apartment--we really couldn't have done it without them. And the science is all quite exciting to me. If you don't know, I'll be using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, the same science that makes MRIs in hospitals work, to analyze works of art and other ancient and modern artifacts to non-invasively (that is, without cutting chunks out of the paintings) assess some of their properties. These properties may include water transport (useful for preventing destructive salt layers from caking onto Italian frescoes), pigment aging characteristics (useful for distinguishing authentic from fake paintings), or porosity (useful in characterizing the methods used in creating Stradivarius violins and other cool things). So, between a great facility, and excellent team to work with, and fascinating science, I feel very much at home in the lab here. RWTH (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule, that is the Technical University for Northrhein Westphalia, the "state" inside Germany in which Aachen is located) is considered one of Germany's Exzellenz-Universität--I can see at least some of the reasons why.