Marco van Erp
February 1st 2016 till April 22nd 2016
The United States of America. This is the place I would like to go for my internship. The one thing I knew for sure when I started planning my internship with Patrick. Except for that, it did not matter to me that much where I would end up, as long as I had an interesting and challenging project. After planning for a while, it became Amherst, a small town in Massachusetts. For three months I joined the Lesser-Group of the Polymer Science and Engineering department (PSE) of the University of Massachusetts (UMass).
My first impressions were that the area is very dark and that Amherst is a small and quiet town. The first observation is due to the fact that Massachusetts likes to be recognized as a green state and light pollution as a result of many street lights does not match that image. My observations about Amherst turned out to be partly true. About the statement that it is a small town I was right, but very different from Dutch towns. UMass is a large university with five different locations, Amherst being the largest one, with approximately 30.000 students (three times larger than TU/e). And this shaped the town, about 90% of the people that lived here were students (also from Amherst College) and more than half of the town was occupied by the UMass campus. The statement that it is a quiet town was not right, because of the massive amount of students living in Amherst, there were plenty of parties and bars/clubs to go out. The area around Amherst is rural and green though, but therefore, it was perfect for me as an athlete, being able to go out into nature during my (almost) daily run and explore the many state parks, rivers and mountains.
In the Lesser-Group I did a project about the synthesis and characterization of foams made out of polymer blends. The goal of the research was to create anisotropic foams that mimics the behavior of Balsa wood, being strong and very light and widely used in the core of sandwich structures in windmill blades. The PSE department offers you to do your research in beautiful facilities and I gained a lot of lab experience during my stay in the US.
Some of the noteworthy places I visited in my spare time are New York City and Boston, large lakes like Quabbin Reservoir and Lake Sunapee ( New Hampshire) and two other states, namely Rhode Island and Connecticut.