Undergraduate Summer Exchange Updates
Ten of our undergraduate students have recently embarked on a journey to give them valuable experience in materials research and to explore the world as they make the most of their summer breaks. Five students are doing research placements at North Carolina State University in Raleigh USA, and five are placed at Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan. Here are a few first impressions of their trip, we wish them all the best for the rest of their time experiencing different cultures and making friends and connections across the world.
Taichung University, Taiwan
As I had arrived in Taiwan a few days earlier than the others I had time to explore the campus and surrounding areas. My first impression of Tunghai was amazement at the size of the campus. I had complained about UNSW's lower to upper campus but walking roughly half the perimeter of the campus took at least one hour. It was interesting experiencing an university that has their own deer and cow farms, lake and affiliated high school. The first day here I managed to travel to a different part of the city and sign up with a Taekwondo sports club and am continuously training with them every week.
Initially due to the language barrier I was eating at convenience stores but I slowly started experimenting at different restaurants trying new things and learning by trial and error. As for work, Naomi and I are currently placed at a cosmetic manufacturing plant called Jing Young Biotech, we are slowly starting to learn how the plant runs and though it may seem daunting at first the staff are extremely friendly and so far has been an enjoyable experience. For anyone thinking about joining the program I strongly recommend to do so, as they will get to experience lots of new things and the language barrier isn't that big of a deal once you get used to it.
My stay in Taiwan so far has been spectacular, Tunghai University is a very friendly environment and they have been nothing but helpful since I have arrived. They greeted us with open arms and celebrated our arrival with a warm welcoming party on our second day in Taiwan. I am currently on an internship with a cosmetic company called ‘Jing Young Biotech’ which the Dean of Chemistry 'Dr. Ding-Yah Yang' has kindly given to me. During my stay with the company I have made facial masks by combining different ingredients while also understanding the basics of the skin. On the days I don’t commute to the company I am in the laboratories at Tunghai University, I am in a group that is currently working on Iridium Oxide which is a catalyst used for water splitting.
There is a huge contrast between Taiwan and Australia, when I first arrived I was completely mesmerized by the landscape and I love how visible the mountains are from the city when comparing to Australian city the land seems flat. Another huge contrast I noticed was the night life where the city is bustling and there is food everywhere. Most shops in Taiwan are open and stay open late which was a huge surprise to me since I know most places in Australia will close at 6 in the evening. All the food I tried was very unique for example I ate a ‘hotdog’ which was inside another sausage which blew my mind away and I hope to get another one soon. Even though food is everywhere, I have a difficult time communicating since not everyone here is able to speak English.
During the next months I will learn more Chinese and learn new things from my internship. I hope to visit other universities around Taiwan to see what it's like and explore the whole island with my companions. My experience in Taiwan is very positive so far and I am ready to overcome any challenges.
It has been a bit over two weeks since arriving in Taiwan for the Materials Science and Engineering research exchange program. The focus of my work at Tunghai University will be to develop a biosensor for cell and environmental testing, using conductive polymer materials.
The smooth transition into life in Taiwan has been in no small part thanks to the friendly and helpful students and staff of the university. Their guidance and warm reception has made the time both fun and eye opening. While not boasting state of the art facilities, the work ethic is no less conscientious and high quality.
The first thing that stood out to me in Taiwan was the hordes of scooters, which greatly outnumber the other cars on the road. Food is both cheap and readily available from the abundant convenience stores and local shops. Supplies and the university campus are but a short walk away, with the frequent (and free!) public bus services making for easy trips into the main city, making little shortage of things to do or places to explore.
With over two months left in this program, I hope to be able to see more of what Taiwan has to offer, and of course perform quality research at Tunghai University.
"As one of the lucky few to be selected for the Materials Science and Engineering program to visit Taiwan for research, the past couple of weeks have been full of fresh and surprising experiences.
Upon arrival in Taipei, the city gives off a lively atmosphere that seemed reflected in the rest of the country as we arrive in Taichung city where we will be conducting our research within the Tunghai University, School of Chemical Engineering for the next 3 months.
Our colleagues welcomed us with open arms, helping us get used to the facilities of the old yet well maintained lab of the school, every one of the researchers helped tutor us from conducting experiments to fabricate and test polymer based biosensors and to even help us select lunch for each day.
On the topic of food, the surrounding area of Tunghai University is surrounded by a network of streets that are filled with large selections of traditional Taiwanese street foods, from savoury food to sugary sweets everything is also very affordable compared the prices back in Sydney. The opening times of stores also provide a large amount of convenience for hungry university students as food vendors can be open until late at night with 24 hour convenient stores every 100 metres along the way.
The lifestyle of the students is also very different, with many students only becoming more active during the night creating a great contrast between the sleepy mornings with the busy bustling streets at night. This includes our labs as well with many students not leaving the labs until midnight to complete their experiments.
The differences in culture and daily life have been an eye opener with only many more surprises to come!"
North Carolina State University, USA
"The US is a very different place, everything here is so large especially the food! In North Carolina, the place is very spacious, the apartments organised for us are massive and the campus is also massive compared to UNSW. I wouldn't walk across the whole campus on a regular basis! My supervisor, Joseph Tracy, is very accommodating, giving me a taste of academic freedom and even inviting his whole research team into his home to have desserts, tea and coffee. It was particularly exciting to enter a traditional American home during the festive season with a real living Christmas tree!
I'm working on magnetic particles and gold nanoparticles /rods incorporated into polymers but depending on experiments things may change! This is the joys of research work.
There is a Christmas/New Years break coming up soon and most of us are heading to New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.! The supervisors are very relaxed about us taking trips to explore the States but of course we are still expected to do the assigned work!"
When we walked through the main campus on our first day at NCSU, I was woo-ing and woah-ing the whole time. The entire campus is painted in the beautiful fall season colours of red and gold. You can always easily spot some adorable squirrels gliding between the branches or hopping through the grass. Travelling in a city with everything so spread out is not easy. However, luckily I found that the PhD students in my research group are extremely friendly and helpful. The first weekend at NC State, they invited our whole Aussie group to go hiking at one of the most famous parks in Raleigh, Umstead State Park.
My project is about the radiosensitising material, GaOOH functionalised with lysine, which has potential in targeted radio therapy applications.
Before getting buried into the research, the much anticipated Christmas break is coming up. We are planning to have a short road trip to South Carolina before heading up to New York. Then I will meet up with an old high school friend in New York and fly to Orlando to explore some of the most amazing theme parks in the world as well as some gorgeous beaches in Florida.
After eventually arriving in Raleigh, NC (approximately 48 hours of travel after a cancelled flight and a free stay in a Toronto hotel) I finally set eyes on the town that I would be calling home for the next 3 months. The first thing that I noticed was how spread out the campus is, it is so large that NCSU has its own free bus line around the campuses and almost all the students have their own car. The second thing that I noticed was the famed southern hospitality. Everyone is extremely friendly, from offering free lifts when they found out we don’t have a car to cooking advice in the supermarket from strangers after overhearing our confusion on how to cook various vegetables.
During the week I have been researching the temperature dependence of domain wall switching in ferroelectrics under the supervision of Jacob Jones. This involves x-ray diffraction of materials in an electric field and at elevated temperatures. However on the weekends we have had free time to go hiking in Umsted State Park, explore downtown Raleigh, Duke University and the nearby town or Durham. Over the Christmas/New Year break we have planned a trip to visit New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC. Next year I plan to further explore Raleigh, hopefully spot a raccoon and experience the American college lifestyle.
The above picture is of Alex doing his best impression of a wolf in front of NCSUs mascot in the free expression tunnel on campus. Go Wolfpack!
Since arriving in Raleigh and NC State the first couple of weeks have been all about getting settled, getting to know the staff and students of the MSE department, exploring Raleigh and the surrounding cities as well as starting our projects that we'll be working on for the rest of our time here. Surprisingly it did not take long to feel comfortable and at home on the campus. Everyone, whether in the MSE school or part of the student population in general have been very welcoming and are happy to help if we ever need it. The campus itself is very different to what I'd become used to at UNSW. Instead of a campus being situated close to both beach and city, NC State is sprawled across a huge expanse of land, to the extent that you have to catch a bus to main campus! A true American style university to be sure, but luckily we don’t need to do that very often.
We've already managed to pack a few adventures centred in North Carolina into these first couple of weeks already. Hiking around the local parks and lakes, exploring Raleigh and Durham (including Duke University) as well as tucking into the local North Carolina BBQ. It's already been an experience and there's so much more to come!
Deciding and making a start on my project that I'll be working on whilst I'm here was a big part of the first full week after arriving. My project is based on the research area of Prof. Thom LaBean; specifically, interfacing diblock proteins with DNA nanostructures. Using computational methods which include coarse grained and all atom simulations I'll be trying to simulate the protein and DNA interactions, something that is new, exciting and challenging.
Over the Christmas and New Year's break that is coming up next week, my friends and I plan to travel to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. If we have time, we would also like to take a road trip down and around South Carolina and see the local attractions there. But we hope to add more adventures in if we have time.
Read more about the students at NCSU and their thoughts on expectations and future career goals from before the time they left for North Carolina. We look forward to hearing from them again when they return!