Polymers and People — Summer German Internship
March 6, 2014 Leave a comment
MSE Junior Katie Daehn talks about her summer research internship in Germany.
Having lived in Columbus my whole life, living in Germany for 12 weeks with a DAAD RISE scholarship was a hugechance for growth, both technically and personally. I left everything that was comfortable and familiar and headed on my own to Jena, Germany – a small town nestled between hilltops in the Eastern part of Germany. I spoke a little German from high school courses and had travelled in Germany with my dad and brother before, but living and working there introduced new cultural nuances that I never would have expected.
Keys are inserted into doors upside-down, checking out at the grocery store is a very rushed event, and “German bureaucracy” really exists. These nuances on top of meeting all new people, being immersed in a foreign language that I spoke worse than 2-year-olds, learning the ropes in a new lab, and taking a graduate-level polymer physics class in German, where I was regularly called on to answer questions, meant I had quite an adjustment time.
However, it was these hard times that made my time in Germany exponentially more meaningful. I embraced the experience, learned a ton, and felt alive. I met so many interesting people from around the world, saw a very influential history in a real way, and experienced some incredible moments traveling around Europe.
My internship involved researching and simulating the behavior of carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP’s). Composites were an area of materials I knew little about going in, but they are light-weight with strengths comparable to metals, so conducting research in this growing and important area was definitely valuable to my career as a Materials Scientist.
I helped prepare CFRP plates, performed tensile tests, wrote a Matlab program to analyze the data, collected results on the elastic modulus, and used ANSYS to model our testing parameters. I gained experience in mechanical testing as well as in computer simulation and analysis.
My internship was very rewarding because I developed new skills, got experience with new equipment, worked with an international group of people, and saw first-hand how the German education system works and how research is conducted in a completely different lab.
It’s really hard for me to sum up everything my summer in Germany was to me, but it will always be precious. I really appreciate everything I learned in the lab, the work and consideration my advisor went into teaching me and always inviting me on coffee breaks, my fellow RISE students and our adventures – from sprinting to catch trains to long barbeques in the park. Though I’m more confused than ever about the world and my place within it, I’m filled with a new confidence to keep exploring. And the next time I’m overwhelmed by change and the unfamiliar, I’ll know that there are great people everywhere and I’ll find my way.