Student - November 17, 2011

Friendly Santa Barbara

Who? Bas van den Berg, Molecular Life Sciences
What? Internship at the University of California
Where? Santa Barbara, California, USA
Why? ‘I always wanted to do an internship in the US or Canada.'

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‘In the five months I spent in Santa Barbara, we had two days of rain at most while the temperature was always around 20 degrees. The perfect climate for an internship. My goal was to find an alternative method for creating polymer structures. That's because the existing methods aren't suitable for a new kind of polymer. We eventually managed to make polymer particles that can be broken down much more easily in the body than the previous generation. We were also able to control the degradation rate of the particles very accurately. It might be possible to use this to improve the effectiveness of drug delivery and dosages.
The thing that struck me about the US was how friendly and open people were. Many Dutch people see Los Angeles as a completely built-up urban sprawl full of people who are mainly interested in themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth: the city feels really open, you can feel the sea breeze everywhere and the people are far friendlier than in the Netherlands. When I was on a cycling trip and stopped to look at my map, people immediately came up to me to ask whether I needed any help. That would never happen in Amsterdam.

The lab where I worked was really cool. We often went out together and the beach was only a minute's walk away! The attitude to work is different to Wageningen, though. It's quite normal to work ten hours a day and they put a lot of emphasis on your presentation skills. There is a lot of kudos attached to speaking at a conference, for instance. The head of the lab was always available to help you if you wanted to practice and improve your presentation. He was a really great guy who organized a brilliant BBQ as a leaving do for me. After that I spent two weeks touring California with my girlfriend. It was fantastic!'

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