Last week, my sister and her best friend (Madlen) arrived in Boston. After sightseeing during the week, I showed them the MIT bar on Friday night. Afterwards we went to the planetarium for a laser show to Pink Floyd´s “The Wall”. A really cool experience.

On Saturday we took the Commuter Rail to Wachusett and a small walk in the Mountain Ski Area there was planned. However, due to some spontaneous decision making, we ended up on a quite adventurous hike including some river crossings—and we even had to climb over a beaver´s dam.

On Sunday, we decided to stay in Boston. First, we visited the Samuel Adams brewery for a tour and some tasting of their experimental beers. Afterwards, we went to East Boston to the Downeast Cider House for a cider tasting. It is located in their actual production facility, so the ambience was something special.


Last week, the Bostonian winter fully arrived. The temperatures dropped to around -12 °C and further down with the constant windchill to nearly -20 °C. Which made the waiting times for public transport a bit harsher than usual. Luckily, my dad left me his very thick winter coat when he visited.

To flee the cold, we finally visited the MIT museum on Saturday and had amazing Indian food for dinner. Afterwards, we met up with friends to go to the movies.

Workwise, quite a lot of meetings (both TUCAS and MIT) were on the agenda last week, but at least some measurements did fit into the schedule.



After a (quite long) break from the blog, I am back. Shortly before Christmas, Nina arrived in the US. After a week in Boston, I took the week before Christmas off and we visited New York and Miami for 3 days each. After that, we spent Christmas and New Years with relatives of hers in southwest Florida. We saw some alligators and dolphins and enjoyed the time off—and being reunited after 4 months.

After our stay in Florida, Nina took off to New Zealand for a month-long road trip through the country.  I on the other hand had to go back to Boston to continue working. Back at MIT, I really focused on the exsolution project I am pursuing here.

In my freetime, some friends and I have visited the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum. She was an art collector living around 1900. The yard of her estate was decorated in an Vancian style – it was like being transported into a different country.


Our view of the Hockey game.


Last week, I had my presentation at the 3rd annual TUCAS retreat, got some great input and will continue to try to improve my work. It was a slow week at MIT, as most of my colleagues were at MRS (one of the biggest conferences in materials science). Still, I managed to plan some future stuff with Juanita for a project and continued to prepare some samples for the methane coupling project.

On Wednesday, I met up with some friends for a collective birthday dinner (all three of them are born in November) at a nice tapas place. On Saturday a homecooked dinner with friends, summer-rolls and lasagna, was on the agenda. On Sunday I took a trip to the cinema to watch the 48 ½ anniversary of Monty Python and the Holy Grail before watching a game of the Boston Bruins (ice hockey). The TD Garden (the hockey arena) is really amazing and even from our seats, which were quite far from the field, we had a great view on the game.


Last week, I managed to plot the XRD data from the beamtime—now I have to prepare it for the upcoming TUCAS retreat this week. I also have continued with sample preparation and tried to help other group members at MIT.

On Thursday, we celebrated Thanksgiving here in the US. For breakfast, I was invited to pie eating at a colleague’s house (there were waaaaay to many pies to try all of them). And in the evening, I enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant with friends. On Saturday, Matthäus and I took the commuter rail to Newburyport where we hiked to Plum Island for a nice day out of the city. On our way back to the train station, we even found a nice brewery to taste the local beer.


After a couple of work intense weeks here in the US, my parents arrived last Tuesday for one week to visit me. Workwise, I finished the fitting of the XRD data and am now in the process of plotting everything and preparing the data for the TUCAS group retreat next week. At MIT, I did some sample preparation for upcoming in-situ measurements and helped colleagues with their measurements (and translation of German papers).

With my parents, I went whale watching last Friday. There we met two humpback whales, Dalia and Venom, who fed (apparently with a rare feeding method) right next to our boat for nearly an hour! On Saturday, we rented a car and went north to the witch museum in Salem and then to Maine to stroll around Portland and then take a small walk near the sea. On Sunday, we went to the Nachaug State Forest in Connecticut for a small hike in the woods. It was very relaxing to get out of the city and into the silence of nature.


During the last week, we did a lot of sample preparation for in-situ cells Filip is going to measure this week in Colorado. We also loaded the OCM reactor (for oxidative coupling of methane) and started a measurement there. I made good progress fitting the last of the DESY data and revised a paper for TUCAS. All in all, quite a productive work week.

To relax on the weekend, we purchased the weekend pass of the local railway and went to Rockport for a nice walk along the seaside on Saturday. On Sunday, we drove down to Providence in Rhode Island to visit the city. After the train broke down during the last stop, we took an Uber into the city and took a stroll through the city center. We visited an art gallery with free cheese and also quite a nice bookstore.


Last week, we started with the production of electrochemical cells to test electrochemical coupling of methane. Next to a few sol-gel combustion synthesis, I also learned (and failed a bit) to screen print. In the evaluation of the XRD data, I managed to fit the last sample—now only the sequential fit is missing.

On Saturday, the plan was to rent a car and go apple picking. Unfortunately, all the apples were already picked, as we were two weeks too late. But we made the best out of it and had some apple cider donuts. Afterwards, we visited Castle Hill, the castle where the Little Women movie was filmed. Back in Boston, we went to a football game and watched Harvard win against Dartmouth. And to end the day we were invited to a Halloween party (we already spent the whole day in costume as there was no time to change).


The work in the lab continued last week. Aside from a few syntheses, I also did a couple of trainings to be finally able to measure SEM and XRD on my own. I also had some meetings with the TUCAS group back in Austria as the work back home also continues.

On the rainy Saturday we had rented a car (originally planned for a hiking trip). We decided to make the best out of it and drove down to Cape Cod via Plymouth and visited some sights on the way. Our first stop was in Plymouth to see the Mayflower II (the reconstruction of the ship the first pilgrims came on). Then we continued our way south to Cape Cod (a peninsula ending in Provincetown). At our first two stops on Cape Cod, we went to see some light houses and even saw some seals swimming in the ocean. We finished our roadtrip in Provincetown for a celebratory beer before heading back to Boston.


The last week was quite work-intensive and flew by really quick. I started with the synthesis of the cell materials for my experiments and did some trainings for SEM and XRD measurements. Also, I finished the fitting for the penultimate synchrotron experiment.

On Wednesday, we had a summer roll dinner at a friend’s house, which was a nice community experience. On Saturday, we went hiking again. This time in the Blue Hills just south of Boston. Sometimes it seems as soon as you utter the word “hiking” in Boston somewhere an Austrian pops up and wants to go on a hike. The hike was really nice. We saw an otter and a bald eagle (in captivity) and had great views of the Boston skyline.

I was finally able to start synthesizing the compound I am planning to investigate here. Also, I made great progress in fitting the synchrotron data. On Wednesday, some colleagues and I went to the reception of the new Nobel Prize laureate Moungi Bawendi who works at MIT. On Friday I flew to Los Angeles to attend the Austrian Research and Innovation Talks (ARIT).

After a successful networking day on Saturday in LA, we explored the city for two days. On Sunday, the Getty Museum and Santa Monica were on our list. I finished the day with a concert of Asking Alexandria and The Hu (a Mongolian Heavy Metal Band). On Monday, we went up to the Observatory and then hiked to the Hollywood sign and the Walk of Fame.

Last week, work was not that eventful. I mainly focused on fitting the synchrotron data and started plotting the fitted data. All in all, good progress was made but there is still some stuff left.

On Wednesday, I visited a game of the Red Sox (the baseball team in Boston). Their stadium, the Fenway Park, is the oldest one still in use today. While the atmosphere and entertainment is really fun there, the sport itself is definitely not the most exciting. But we got to see a dance off between fans and even a proposal. On Saturday, I visited the White Mountains in New Hampshire with two friends. The trees were already really colorful and the hike up Cannon Mountain was incredibly beautiful, even though the day got really eventful (not particular in a good way) once we reached the summit. But that is a story best shared in person.

Last week, I was finally able to start the first synthesis for my experiments here. Unfortunately, the XRD and XPS equipment (two techniques I require for my work here) are unavailable for the next two weeks; so I will have time to focus on paper writing again.

During the weekend, I visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston which has amazing exhibitions from ancient Greek and Roman statues, Egyptian sarcophagi to paintings of European and American masters such as Van Gogh and Frida Karlo.

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