University of Groningen student Julian Bos does research at MIT
News | July 3, 2019
With a special scholarship, RuG student Julian Bos will be working on a research project with homemade piezoelectric nanofiber sensors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston in the coming months. He follows the Master's program Industrial Engineering and Management and keeps us rregularly informed of his experiences and experiences.
Part 1 – Here we go!
On June 10, the journey to Boston, Massachusetts finally begins. A lot had to be arranged beforehand, such as a 'proof of enrollment', housing, health insurance, 'English proficiency', a credit card and visa. But, I'm not going to talk about that. First a short explanation about what exactly I will be doing in Boston.
I will be working on a research project with flexible piezoelectric nanofiber sensors. I fabricated these sensors at the University of Groningen and took them to Boston. The piezoelectric effect is the phenomenon that crystals of certain materials produce an electric voltage under the influence of pressure, for example by bending. The idea is to place my homemade flexible sensors behind a cylinder and drag them through the water. Behind the cylinder, the water then makes vortices that bend the flexible sensor back and forth, causing the piezoelectric material to generate electrical voltage. So it is a kind of 'energy harvester', but that is still in the future. We are still in the testing phase. The Sea Grant department at MIT has a suitable towing tank for towing objects through the water, so I can experiment with it. But, of course, that's not the only reason I came to Boston. I'm also looking forward to experiencing American culture and exploring the area.
It was quite difficult to find a good place to stay as I want a location close to MIT and at a reasonable price. That was not easy, because the rent is quite high here. Fortunately, I have a generous budget that should be sufficient for my three-month stay. After a long search, including on Craigslist, Facebook and dubious rental sites, I ended up at MIT Housing (Ashdown House). Only MIT students stay here and I temporarily rent a room from a PhD student. Unfortunately the contract is only until August 15th, so for my further stay I have to find another place. Anyway, I've been living here for just over two weeks now and it's been great so far!
Once on the plane, I was quite excited. Fortunately the flight went well and I was able to get from the airport to Ashdown easily by bus and tram. Over the next few days I explored Cambridge a bit, which is sort of an "independent city" in the larger city of Boston. I walked to Central Square with its many restaurants and visited the MIT Museum. I also went to the MIT main building, where I poked around a bit. At Harvard Square I took a look at Harvard. Here is also the Harvard Museum of Natural History that I will definitely visit again. Before I can start the research at the MIT Sea Grant department, I must complete my enrollment at MIT and receive my MIT ID card, which also contains a chip for traveling on public transport. Unfortunately, I also found out that my European cell phone does not work well with most American cell frequency bands, as I had almost no good reception anywhere. And if I still speak reception, the internet speed is so slow that it is unusable. That is why I bought a 4G router, with which I have normal range everywhere and can therefore use Google Maps and thus do not get lost in this large city.
Beforehand, I didn't really know what to expect from MIT. It is larger than I expected and consists of many different buildings that together form one large campus. The Sea Grant department, where I will be working for the coming months, is quite small but does have good equipment such as expensive laptops and the 'towing tank'. And if something is missing, they order it immediately. Carrying out the project itself is difficult, as it all works a bit differently here than at the university in Groningen. It takes some getting used to, also to the professors because they are busy with all kinds of things, so there is little time for meetings and supervision. The pressure is high, but I feel it as a nice challenge!
Every day I go to the gym that belongs to MIT and where you can follow all kinds of different sports, including basketball, soccer and swimming. I joined a 'visiting student association'. They organize a picnic especially for 'visiting students'. I also sailed with a few fellow students on the Charles River, with great weather! And I've been to "downtown" Boston. There I walked the Freedom Trail, a four-mile historic walk through the city center that takes in 16 sites of National Historic Interest, such as the Boston Common, the Old State House, and the Old North Church.
The city is very large and public transport does not always (read: never) leave according to schedule. So I've signed up for a BlueBike membership, which allows me to use blue bikes on racks throughout the city for $35 for the next few months. You have to have the courage to cycle between the cars, mega pick-up trucks and SUVs on the road. I also went to a baseball game where the Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago White Sox 6-5. This was a wonderful experience! Furthermore, the weather in Boston is nice and warm, but very changeable. One second it can rain very hard and the next the sun is shining again and it is 30 degrees. I think the American food is a bit different. Fast food is sold everywhere here and the rest of the food is full of sugar. The healthy food that is available is unfortunately quite expensive. Like everything here. That makes it quite difficult to continue to eat normally.
I miss everything and everyone in the Netherlands, but I'm sure to have a great time here in Boston. I'm looking forward to getting into the project well. I also hope to see more of the culture and environment and to participate in all kinds of activities and to meet even more nice people.
Julian's scholarship is made possible in part by FB Oranjewoud.