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"The general atmosphere in the lab was very relaxed"

Published: 19 August 2019

Milena Gerber studied biology at ETH Zurich in Switzerland

I studied biology at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, majoring in biochemistry. During my Master's Thesis I was looking for an internship to start after my graduation and came across the work offer at LTU on the IAESTE platform. During my stay I had the chance to work on two main projects. The first was about the production of a dry lignin nanoparticle powder and optimising the protocol to achieve the smallest possible size of those particles. The second project concerned the treatment of mining wastewaters and more specifically the recovery of valuable metals in the form of metal nanoparticles, preventing their disposal into the environment. Another side project included organosolv pretreatment of forest biomass, followed by the characterization of all compounds. For those projects, I had to step outside my comfort zone sometimes, for example while operating a huge organosolv reactor. Nevertheless, I appreciated that people in the lab and especially my supervisor put a lot of trust in me and let me work independently most of the time. Like that I got hands-on experience in preparing samples for scanning electron microscopy and Raman laser spectroscopy, and learned various new techniques. Besides that, I improved my general lab skills and widened my knowledge about biotechnology and bioprocess engineering. The general atmosphere in the lab was very relaxed and it was fun to work in a multinational team with people of different scientific backgrounds. Having discussions with the other group members allowed me to develop a different way of thinking, which helped me to approach tasks and solve problems differently than I was used to as a biologist. I could be sure to get help and advice from anyone whenever I asked for it.

I also really enjoyed living in the small town of Luleå, where I felt welcome from the first day (which was also thanks to the friendly people from IAESTE and in the lab). I was lucky to experience the dark and freezing cold winter months where I went cross-country skiing and ice-skating on the frozen sea, and later the bright summer when the sun never sets. As a climber I enjoyed this part of the year especially, as there are many beautiful climbing spots close to the city. I am sure I will return to this amazing place to visit all the good friends I made here.