Sunday, November 27, 2011

I get to take a tram to work!!! I may be a little overexcited about that!!! But I love public transportation! and I love that I can live in Darmstadt without a car! And I love that I get to take public transportation to work.

Well...anway...Hi Everyone,

Now that I have shared my complete obsession with public transportation, it is time to turn our attention to the important subject of my blog post. What exactly is it that I have been offered this Fulbright scholarship to do? I know that many of you have asked my mom about my project and I know that she has tried to explain it from details gathered from my numerous descriptions. However, as she told me a few days ago, she doesn't really understand it. So here I go, trying my best to untangle the confusion.

I work at GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (in English that is GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research -- don't you like how in English that name is six words, but in German it is only three?). 

The above picture is a birds eye view of the GSI facility. The big white buildings at the far right are the warehouse like buildings where all of the experimental equipment is built and contained. GSI is internationally known for their work with heavy ions. The six elements with atomic numbers 107-112 -- Bohrium, Hassium, Meitnerium, Darmstadtium, Roentgenium, and Copernicium -- were discovered at GSI. The technique to use heavy ion radiation to treat brain cancer was also invented at GSI. Several hundred patients were treated at GSI, before a bigger treatment facility was built in Heidelberg. So all in all, GSI is a pretty important place!!

However, I am working in none of the above projects! I am working in the HITRAP group. We are in the middle of building a beamline (which is the name given to a large devise that transports ions, atoms, or particles of other kinds, from one place to another) which will slow down heavy, highly charged Ions until they are at rest or nearly at rest. Heavy ions actually refers to any ion that is heavier than Helium; however, the goal for the HITRAP experiment is to be able to work with Uranium + 92 (that is a U atom with all of its electrons taken off!!) Below is a schematic that shows how my project works. Don't worry, I will explain it in great detail!

Before I get into the specifics of how my group is achieving this, let me explain how the GSI facility makes these heavy, highly charged ions. The UNILAC is a linear accelerator and accelerates heavy atoms to 20 percent of the speed of light. SIS is a heavy ion sychrotron that further accelerates the atoms to 90 percent the speed of light! WOWZERS! Then the ions are sent through a stripping foil, where all of their electrons are taken off. Now we are in business! We have our heavy, highly charged ions. They are then sent to the experimental storage ring, ESR, where they are slowed down a little, but more importantly stored until they are needed. The UNILAC, SIS, and ESR are permanent facilties at GSI. They are used for many experiments. 

For the HITRAP experiment the ESR spits out our ions into a linear decelerator. Here the ions are decelerated from 4 MeV/u to 6keV/u. For those of you who don't know eV is short hand for an electron volt. An electron volt is a measure of energy. One electron volt is the amount of energy an electron gains when accelerated through a potential difference of 1 volt. In physics we tend to refer interchangeably to energy and speed. Anyway if that was confusing let me generally say that the linear decelerator (part of which is pictured below) slows down the ions a lot!

Then comes my part. I have to commission the beamline that transports these ions from the linear decelerator to the penning cooler trap. The ions are further slowed down in the penning cooler trap. The problem is that the penning cooler trap is on a platform about 3 meters above the linear decelerator. So my beamline, called the vertical beamline, has to transport these ions up about 9 feet! The majority of this beamline has been built. However there is a lot to do. To turn the ions around corner, there are various elements in the beamline that can produce electric and/or magnetic fields to influence the ions. Since no one has ever seen how these elements work, I am currently simulating the entire beamline in a computer program. Later when I have an idea of the electric and magnetic fields needed at each point in the beamline, I will begin to perform tests of transporting the beamline. 

The end! I hope you know have a little better understanding of what exactly my project is about. I promise that my next post will have a lot more pictures!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guess Whose Back...

...back again. Lizzie's back, tell a friend

Hi Everyone!!!!

I'd like to sincerely apologize for my long absence!! It's been over a month! In my defense, I have a semi good excuse. I moved from Marburg to my host family, who live next to a small town called Groß-Gerau. Groß-Gerau is near Frankfurt, Mainz, and Darmstadt. If one imagines a triangle formed by the three aforementioned cities, Groß-Gerau is in the middle of that triangle. 

Showing this picture makes me realize that I should probably tell you all briefly about Germany geography because if you are anything like I was before I moved here, you probably know that Germany is somewhere in Europe. If you're my dad then you know all the countries surrounding it because you have read all about who tried to invade who in World War II (and World War I...and every other was in Europe).
Sorry I digress (which I am apparently very good at today. Maybe this is why I shouldn't try to write blog posts at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night). Anyway German geography here we go...Germany is in Europe (I think we have covered that/you already knew that one)

There are 16 federal states. Marburg, Darmstadt, and Groß-Gerau are all in Hessen. Ok...geography lesson over. 

Now back to my excuse of why I left you all for so long. I spent two weeks at my host families house (which I will talk about in detail in just a minute) and then I moved into my apartment in Darmstadt. I have now been here for three weeks and I am finally almost settled. My room has furniture in it!!! (It didn't until a week ago). Anyway, now that I am getting into the swing of things here, I will start posting on a more regular basis. And be prepared for an immediate onslaught of posts because I have to catch you up. 

I would first like to tell you about my host family. I stayed with a wonderful family; Martina (my host mom), Gerald (my host dad), Jennifer (Age 22-the older host sister), and Celine (Age 12-the younger host sister). I did not spend very much time with Gerald, because he was a farmer and worked very long hours. No one in the family spoke English very well, which was wonderful for me! My understanding abilities dramatically improved in those two weeks. Besides listening to my host family, I watched a huge amount of German TV. Including many American movies and TV shows dubbing in German. Which, by the way, is just really strange! For one thing the mouths and the speaking doesn't match up and for another when you are watching Kate Hudson, it is really off putting to hear someone other person's voice speaking her lines. 

Martina, Celine and family friends of theirs took me on many excursions all over Hessen. The weather was beautiful for my entire stay! One day we went to Hessenpark.

Hessenpark is huge half park half museum. A lot of old buildings were taken from all around Hessen and rebuilt in this one area. There are windmills, churches, old-fashioned schools, beautiful fountains, and tons of livestock!

The family friends who accompanied my host mom, sister and I on this outing are wonderful people! My host mom has been friends with Tanya for 11 years! Tanya has two children that are right about Celine's age. Tanya's parents also came along on our many excursions. Tanya's parents were amazing, especially her dad. He reminded me of santa clause

He laughed a lot and always explained things to me. After touring Hessenpark, we had a picnic in the parking lot of the museum. Tanya's parents own a beautiful living van (for everyone that hasn't lived with my sister that is her term for an RV), so we ate in there.

(That is Tanya's mom)

Another day we took an adventure to my host mother's camping platz. Camping places are a very typical thing to have in Germany. In many rural areas, usually near rivers or lakes, there are sections of land that have been subdivided. On each plot is an RV that has several beds and cupboards. There is also usually a tent that has a makeshift kitchen in it.

 My host family has one of these places. We spent a wonderful afternoon eating bread and butter and drinking tea in the gorgeous sun shine and swimming in a freezing cold lake! Their plot was beautiful with lots of flowers.

After our adventure at the camping platz, we went over to Tanya's house to make dinner. We made pumpkin soup. The Germans LOVE cooking with pumpkins. I have adopted this habit and have made alot of things with pumpkins the last few weeks. They are such a wonderful fall flavor. I made a wonderful stew with pumpkin, chicken, white beans, tomatoes, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Oh my gosh was it good!!! I also made gluten-free pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting (one of my roommates can't eat gluten). These were devoured in approximately 48 hours between my three roomates and myself.

I have unfortunately digressed again. Apparently staying on the topic of my homestay was just not meant to be. Suffice it to say that I had a wonderful time.

Bis gleich (until soon),


Friday, September 23, 2011

Cooking up a Storm

Hello My Dear Family and Friends,

Now that I am about to leave Marburg, I have started to reflect on these past six weeks. One of the most amazing thing about my language course has been the wonderful field trips and experiences that we have been given.

A week ago we had the opportunity to participate in a cooking class. Our teacher was the most kind hearted woman.

She gave us a recipe book which included a handwritten recipe from her grandmother. And she set the table with cloth that was handspun and handsewn by her grandmother as well! Also on the beautiful table she set were flowers and grapes from her garden.

She welcomed us with Secco (bubbly wine from Germany) and these delightful pastries filled with cheese and grapes. 

And then we started cooking! Our teacher had prepared different stations for each dish.

I got to make the potato dish with Drew. Which I took as a great honor because Germans LOVE their potatoes!! So we embarked on our mission. First pealing 2 kg of potatoes and then shredding them.

Eventually we had two dishes of shredded potatoes and onions coated in tons of olive oil.

Then we baked them and they turned out a perfect golden brown. And very tasty!!

I also participated in the making of Spaetzle, which was great fun. First three lovely members of our group made the dough.

(Apparently it was a very confusing recipe). Then we boiled hot water and put the dough in small amount into the water.

Then we waited for the Spaetzles to rise to the top

And VIOLA...Spaetzle!

After the preparation we got to feast! First we had salads

And then we had meat and potatoes and spaetzle (all the heavy german stuff), and then last but of course not least we had dessert!! Yummy plums (also from the teacher's garden) soaked in red wine. Then the red wine was reduced into a yummy sauce and fresh whipped cream was slathered on top!

Yumm! All in all it was a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday night! Until next time,



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Saying "I don't speak French" in German won't help you

Hi Again!

I hope that everyone is doing well and getting settled into their daily fall routines! I'm about to leave Marburg (tomorrow), which is of course sad, but I am so excited about the next step! First I am going to live with a host family for a couple of weeks (which I will be sure to tell you all about) and then I get to move into an apartment in Darmstadt! First important news: I HAVE AN APARTMENT!! That one sentence makes me so happy. I spent weeks fretting and stressing and making many people around me generally miserable because I had no where to live. And then I found it: the perfect place!! My room is perfect! Much bigger than anything I have ever lived in (granted I have been living in dorms for the past 4 years) and has a lofted bed! I have three roommates, who seem great. I will of course introduce them, but at a later date. The kitchen is well stocked and very cosy. It's in the old part of town! All in all, things are great!

Anyway...the real reason I am writing this post is to tell all of you about my lovely trip to Strasbourg that I took (now about three weeks ago--I'm so sorry I'm bad with immediate updates). I went with the most wonderful group of people! My travel companions:

Michelle is a very good friend of mine from the language program. She is studying Chemistry in Karlsruhe (which is just an hour south of Darmstadt, so I can visit her all the time!).

Drew is Michelle's Partner and he is just as awesome as she is! He works for a company doing computer programing! He loves history and so made the trip very interesting by knowing all those historical details that I am blissfully ignorant about. 

Martin is studying International (i think) Finance (I am at least sure about the finance piece). He studying in France last year and so is very proficient in French, which is wonderful because he got us around the city!

and last but not least...Nutmeg
Nutmeg is Michelle's and Drew's dog who is a wonderful travel companion! She slept in my bed every night!

So now that you know all the players, let me tell you the story! We arrived in Strasbourg (separately because we were all coming from different places). If you don't know where Strasbourg is, let me inform you. It is on the border of France in Germany.

Only that last 20 minutes of my train ride there were actually in France! The borders are now open in Europe, so the only way I actually new I was entering France was that the train announcements switched from German and then French to French and then German.

Drew and Michelle were not in there yet when I arrived so I went to dinner with Martin. I had a lovely Flammkuchen

at this fantastic restaurant that had the most magnificent view. Now let me clarify something. EVERYWHERE in Strasbourg has a wonderful view! The city sits on a river, but the river forks a lot, so there is some many beautiful houses all lined up on these banks. And this city LOVES flowers. So flowers are just spilling out of every bridge and every balcony of every house!

After eating this pizza like thing that was bigger than my head, Martin and I met up with Michelle and Drew for another dinner (you will notice a theme of eating in this trip). At another restaurant with another beautiful view.

The next day we took a long walk around the city! We found this amazing farmers market where I had a slight freak out over the amount of cheese that was readily available to me.

We walked along the river and took in all the beautiful sites of the city.

And then we got a little tired and a little grumpy and decided that we really needed some food. So when in France, do as the French do! We assembled a wonderful picnic of wine, cheese, a baguette, and cookies, picked a wonderful spot by the river and relaxed for several hours.

After we had had our fill of food, napping, and giving Nutmeg love, we decided to become tourists again. We visited a museum in the old palace in the city.

The museum was wonderful! In the beginning I was far from interested. There was a lot of medieval church artwork that I find very boring. But then we got into the twentieth century and I became my usual self in museums! Then we walked over to the beautiful cathedral.

The next day was very rainy, so we had a lazy day. We found this wonderful funky restaurant for breakfast and shared a salad, sandwich, and meat platter plus two desserts!

Then we napped and read for most of the afternoon. We celebrated our last night in Strasbourg having a very long dinner. We started the night early at one restaurant where we had wine and appetizers. Then we wandered to this second (very odd) restaurant for main courses. It had a very clubby atmosphere with a lot of loud music, cool light fixtures, funky cube menus, cool placemats, and black and white movies playing on the wall.  I had Foie Gras that was fantastic!

All in all I had the most lovely time!

Until next time,