Guten Tag! My name is Lucas Bruene and I am a junior studying Chemical Engineering from the small town of Solon, Iowa. I, like many other Honors students, was lucky enough to have the opportunity to study abroad this summer. I am participating in a ten-week research internship program in Aachen, Germany. I arrived in Europe on May 16th, and am heading back to the great state of Iowa on July 31st.
I am participating in a program called UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) International along with about 40 other college students from across the U.S.A. and Canada. The first two weeks of the program consisted of a German language class every day from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM; we also had many events to get to know the culture around Aachen, as well as each other. During those first couple weeks it was extremely hard for me to get around and do simple things like get groceries. Although most people here speak some English, it is not spoken much and many non-college students do not speak it very well. I came into this experience knowing absolutely no German, and I knew it would be somewhat of a handicap, but never did I think it would be quite so difficult. For example, the first day I got here I had to get groceries and I ended up spending about 2 hours and had to have walked at least 5 miles to get to a grocery store that I later learned was only about a 20 minute walk away from me.
The next eight weeks of the program are set up much differently than the beginning, and have gone a lot more smoothly. We now have work or class every weekday from about 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM. We still have German class from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays, but the rest of our time is spent on the research project we were assigned. My research project is called Resorbable fibers with pH improved degradation behavior. I know this does not mean anything to most of you so I will try to explain it a little better: I work with the polymer PGA (Polyglycolic acid), which is a biodegradable polymer commonly used as medical sutures because of its ability to degrade in the body. The problem with PGA is that when it degrades it releases acid into places in the body, which isn’t very good. I’ve been investigating different ways buffer systems can be incorporated into PGA in order to neutralize the acid that is released during degradation.
Along with all the classes and work I have had an amazing time exploring Europe when I get the chance on weekends. I had never been to Europe so all of this has been new and exciting to me. I’ve now been to Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Dublin, Cologne, and many smaller cities around Germany. I only have two weekends left over here in Europe and I am going to spend one of them at The British Open in Scotland, and one in Munich.
Although this summer has been incredible and I will be sad to leave in just a couple weeks, I am looking forward to getting back to Iowa State and seeing all of my fellow Cyclones soon! Tschüs!