Science - April 28, 2005

Sunburned on study trip

The PhD students at the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry have just returned from a successful two-week study trip to the United States. They took two thousand photos between them and distributed eighty packages of stroopwafels during their visits to universities and companies. Besides being scientifically interesting, the students also got to know each other better.

‘I started in November, but had never talked to some of the other students, or discussed matters other than my research with my supervisors,’ comments Ruud Cuypers. Together with twelve fellow students from India, Serbia, Belarus, France, Romania, Lithuania and Holland and two supervisors Ruud visited California. They stayed in a hotel for two weeks and travelled around in three mini-vans.

At the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry it’s become a tradition that about every two years the PhD students go on a study trip abroad to build up contacts with colleagues from other universities, institutes or companies. In the States the group held presentations and listened to the presentations of their counterparts. ‘We looked for future collaboration opportunities, for direct information about ongoing research and some also looked around for job prospects,’ explains Ganesan Palaniswamy.

Remko Achten is proud to have visited the two top universities of Stanford and Berkeley. ‘The trip was a great opportunity not to be missed.’ A Berkeley professor also invited the guests from Wageningen to his house in beautiful surroundings, for a wine tasting. The host’s own group was present too. ‘To my surprise I heard that some professors supervise as many as forty student,’ comments Giedrius Miliauskas.

As presents for the people they met they took books about the Netherlands, mugs with windmills in Delft blue and stroopwafels. Suzanne Jeurissen: ‘The main comment on the packages of stroopwafels was ‘heavy’, referring to the weight of the package.’ Ganesan was surprised to see so many homeless people and beggars in the streets. The PhD students also discovered that San Francisco has many nice restaurants. One day most of the group got sunburned. ‘It was only fifteen degrees while we were walking through San Francisco, but the sun was stronger than expected,’ says Remko. Giedrius’ head is still a little red. / Yvonne de Hilster

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