Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tot Ziens

Author: Wendy Mussoline

Well...it is time to say tot ziens (goodbye in Dutch) to the friends we've made at IHE, the chilly summer days, and the late night sunsets. There are many things I will miss when I return to Florida. The amazing bike paths, the scenic canals throughout the city, the ringing of the church bells in the centrum, the weekly market, the lab staff at IHE, a gas chromatograph with perfect calibration lines, and especially my DUTCH bike. I sold my bike to a very kind student that placed the highest bid on marktplaats. She agreed to buy it two weeks ago, but was willing to let me hold onto it until I was leaving. Thus, today was the first day I had to walk from IHE to the dorm...thank goodness for my Dutch bike!

During my time at IHE, I have gained a much better understanding of anaerobic digestion processes and how different key parameters can provide insight as to what is actually occurring in the reactor. Jan, post-doc student and mentor, gave me confidence to try new things and orchestrate experiments in "real time"...to process the results from one set of experiments and apply that knowledge directly toward the next set of experiments. There was a set plan, but we always built in enough flexibility so that we could make certain adjustments based on new insights and discoveries. I've learned that plenty of data can be generated, however, success comes through processing, analyzing and discerning which data contributes most to the overall problem statement. I've also learned that making mistakes is part of the process...you just have to learn from them and move forward. I am excited and ready to continue investing in research efforts back at USF.

The atmosphere at IHE was always buzzing with stimulating conversations about culture and perspective. Whether we were having a group conversation with random students during lunch or attending a presentation given by staff and/or students, the focus was always on establishing global partnerships and implementing sustainable techologies in developing countries. Although everyone in the lab was working independently on their own research, there was a communal sense that we were all there to contribute to a unified vision - achieving the millennium development goals. That sense of community really provided the motivation to continue the daily work in the lab. The presence of the lab staff also made a huge difference since they were primarily there for help and support. The work that I accomplished in such a short 10-week period was made possible through the continued support of my mentor as well as the six lab staff. I conclude with a very special word of thanks to my primary mentors during this summer research opportunity - Dr. Daniel Yeh (USF), Dr. Piet Lens (IHE) and Jan Bartacek (IHE). I am certain that the investment that these individuals made in me this summer will strongly influence the direction of my dissertation as well as my life goals.

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