Last week, I primarily focused on the detailed planning of my research here. It’s going to revolve around the electrochemical coupling of methane. Additionally, I continued evaluating the XRD beamtime data, but some problems with a shifting background came up which will need some time to fix. On the plus side, the parcel with my sample finally arrived in the US (according to DHL, the MIT does not exist). So there stands nothing in the way of finally starting my research here.
In my free time, I attended a board game night of the visiting student association (VISTA) on Thursday which was great fun and I got to meet other visiting students. On Saturday, I decided to have lunch with some friends and then visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The collections are truly amazing, especially the glass flowers that can barely be distinguished from real ones!

A (short) week went by again already. My time at work was spent evaluating the synchrotron data I brought from home. One of two beamtimes is completed – YEAH! On Friday, I attended my first group meeting.
In my free time, I gave a pub quiz with some friends another try. We did quite well until the US related questions bested us again. On Saturday, I went to Rockport—a small fishing town north of Boston—with a friend. We wanted to escape the heat (and noise) of the city. It was a really nice trip including some delicious sea food.

Last week stood under the sign of training for the XPS equipment. I was finally allowed to enter a lab and measure some samples. Also, I started a bit of literature research to finalize the plans for my research projects here.
During the long weekend (it was Labor Day in the US on Monday), I tackled the Middlesex Fells Reservoir again and managed to not get hurt this time.

Another week in the States flew by. Last week the safety trainings continued, but I also had quite a bit of time to dive into the synchrotron data I brought from home. I am currently still fighting with the fitting program, but progress is made continuously.
On Monday I attended a Pubquiz near MIT and our team did actually quite well – until the US specific questions came and we realized we had some knowledge gaps there. On Sunday I wanted to go on a small hike, or as it is called in the US “exploring the great outdoors”. Unfortunately, after walking an hour through the city to get to the Middlesex Fells Reservation, I twisted and sprained my already hurt ankle again. At least I saw the „The Cascades“, a nice waterfall near the edge of the park.
Next week safety instructions and data evaluation will continue and, depending on my ankle, I will give the great outdoors another chance.

The Cascades, luckily near the edge of the park

My first week working at MIT went by really fast. I am not yet allowed to work in a lab but I have a LOT of safety trainings to complete. At MIT, you have special trainings and instructions for nearly every type of equipment ranging from optical microscopes to complex spectrometers.
However, I started to settle in. I moved to my office, set it up and learned where to find free “coffee” (I still have to get used to US coffee culture). As the normal scientific group seminar on Friday was not scheduled last week, Matthäus (the other Austrian in the group) and I decided to organize a “sweet seminar”, with self-made Austrian sweets. Even though they were our first tries of Linzer Torte and Apfelstrudel, we managed quite well. After a chill Saturday at home, I visited the Museum of Science with my office colleague. It was a nice experience and we even had a live show in the planetarium exploring Mars!
Heading into next week, I will plan the scientific part of my stay in more detail and maybe take a hiking trip on the weekend.

So, the first weekend in the US has already passed. It is my first time travelling to another continent alone, so I am already missing my friends and family very much. Luckily, the flight went pretty smoothly, except that I had to check in my carry-on luggage in Vienna as it was too heavy. So, I had to buy a new backpack in the Vienna airport for my laptops and electronics. I decided on a bright pink “Manner” backpack to show off my Austrian heritage in the US (and also because it was the only cheap one I could find). Anyway, arriving in Boston I had to explain the immigration officer what my research goals were, which turned out a bit difficult, as he did not know what CO2 is. But everything went well and I was allowed to enter the country. After a night in an airport hotel I transferred to my AirBnB on Saturday. After exploring the neighbourhood on Saturday afternoon (and ending up in an industrial area), I decided to have a look at the “historical” part of Boston following the freedom trail throughout the city and visiting historical sites such as the first school, the old townhall and the USS Constitution.
The coming week I am going to meet my new colleagues at MIT and start to settle in which I am already looking forward to very much.

First impressions