International adventure to the Netherlands

Our student, Christine Stokes, went on a research trip to Holland.  Read here UCLan’s news story:

UCLan bursary contributes to outstanding student experience

Chrissystk - View my 'Leiden trip' set on Flickriver

A third year undergraduate physics student recently undertook a research trip of a lifetime having been awarded one of UCLan’s sector-leading internationalisation bursaries worth £700.

Christine Stokes, from Walton-Le-Dale, travelled across the Channel to the renowned Leiden University in the Netherlands where she undertook a one-month research project within the University’s department of Soft Matter Chemistry.

Here is her story:

“When the day came for me to leave England I was filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. It was the first time I’d travelled alone and the longest I’d been separated from my family but I was excited at entering a new phase in my personal development and future career path.

“On Tuesday, 18 May 2010 I took a one hour twenty minute flight to Schiphol airport followed by a train to Leiden Central Station. Once in the city I was immediately struck by the number of people riding bicycles. In fact I was nearly run over by one whilst I was crossing the road!

“My accommodation had been arranged by my UCLan academic supervisor Professor Andrei Zvelindovsky. I would be staying with a woman of over eighty years of age called Ms Kiewiet who rented rooms to students in her villa.

“Not knowing what to expect I rang the villa doorbell and was greeted by two students also residing in the property, a Chinese girl named Yang and a Dutch male named Tijmen.  Straight away they welcomed me into the house, introduced me to Ms Kiewiet, and showed me my living accommodation where I would be residing for the next month.

“Everyone was very friendly and to get me off to a good start Ms Kiewiet even offered to take me to the University the following day.

“The next morning I met my academic host at the University Dr Agur Sevink. He introduced me to the department’s other staff members and students before we discussed the project I’d been earmarked to undertake. The research involved the use of Dynamic Density Functional Theory to investigate the patterns formed by a homo-polymer blend on four different masks.

“Using the homo-polymer blend rather than block copolymers offers a cheaper alternative for testing and manufacturing.

“Back at the house I was mixing well with my fellow student tenants. We cooked for each other one day a week and with the different nationalities present it made for some enjoyable culinary experiences.

“My research work began on the Tuesday and a further project was suggested by Andrei in the UK to investigate the patterns formulated by complex architectures of block copolymers.

“As expected the research raised as many questions as answers.  However Dr Sevink was always willing to help and talk through the theory on a regular basis. I also ate lunch with other staff members and some of the PhD students within the department. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

“Other than the first weekend of my stay the rest of my free time was my own to explore the Netherlands. I enjoyed some fascinating visits to three of the country’s top museums including the Science Museum and Natural History Museum in Leiden and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

“I also visited a botanical garden which was founded at Leiden in 1597, is the biggest of its type in the Netherlands and contains plants from all over the world. It was great to see these at first hand and experience the tropical climate while walking through some of the green houses. I also found that despite travelling around on my own I always felt safe and people were very friendly.

“The research projects themselves, although incomplete, have allowed me to develop my knowledge further and I have also been given the opportunity to return to them at a later date. Researching abroad was a very enjoyable and valuable experience and one which I would like to repeat.

“I was certainly apprehensive about travelling and working abroad but looking back it was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m really looking forward to my next foreign adventure and would certainly advise other UCLan students to follow in my footsteps.”

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