Saturday, July 31, 2010

...The End...

On our last full day available in the Netherlands, De and I walked around to some local shops to buy goodies for our loved ones while induldging in some of our favorite foods including fried fish and mussles (left), french fries and mini spring rolls from daily wok. We walked through the market for the last time and even ran into some friends. It was, in my opinion, the best way to spend our last day in Holland. 

I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to study in the Netherlands provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and organized by the University of South Florida and Dr. Yeh.  Prior to this summer I had only worked in the labs at USF and I feel that traveling to IHE and working in the labs there taught me a lot about myself as a researcher and as an individual. I am also grateful to have had the opportunity to live abroad for a period of time, something that I may never have been able to do otherwise. 

I hope that one day I may pass through Delft again, and until then I will always remember the calm and uplifting spirt of life in the Netherlands.

Here is to hoping that I sleep past 4 am tomorrow! (De you were right! :-) )

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Algae grown on shakers
Won just like the Lakers.
The ones in light
Put up a fight,
But algae in dark are fakers.

Optimization of productivity of Chlorococcus sp. using response surface methodology....

After many problems with the beginning of our experiment, we were able to obtain some useful and conclusive results! Take that Acid Fairy!
It appears that my species does not grow well in continuous dark conditions, but is able to use acetate for growth....... however, it doesn't like ammonia much... which leaves room for further research....

Overall, this experience has been wonderful... everything from the labwork to experiencing European culture; I have definitely learned quite a bit and have many new ideas to take home with me, including lab methods as well as preparing new culinary dishes from around the world. The last month has been very very busy and I can't believe how fast the end came. I will be reflecting on this experience for quite some time and truly appreciate the opportunity to study in the Netherlands.

Although I don't feel quite ready to go home, as I have a lot more lab work I would like to work on, the weather is getting colder here which is making Florida look much more inviting. Also, my Dutch assimilation was confirmed today when I rode two large boxes of things to mail home on the back of my bicycle without falling. Although I still can't ride without hands, riding with two boxes balanced on the back, holding them with one hand still felt like an accomplishment.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good bye, South Holland

by Laurel
It has been very useful this summer to experience  such things in the lab as to learn how to do things "old school." For example: destructing duckweed plant material via boiling in concentrated nitric acid, and then adding hydrogen peroxide in order to oxidize the carbon and finally analyzing the resulting liquid for zinc concentration. Old school methods make you understand better what is happening in the reaction. Also pipetting with glass pipettes brings images of the past. Growing the duckweed for my experiments was also a new experience, and it gave me an introduction to working with aquatic plants in my field, environmental engineering.

I love the small town of Delft, and its historic center. Also, the Netherlands is in an ideal location in Europe for traveling in both Eastern and Western Europe. Train and air travel are very easy with the public transit system the Netherlands has. Also bike travel is very safe and it is very easy to bike into and out of a city (much unlike the US). 

I will hopefully be leaving for Dominican Republic in no less than 3 weeks, and I will see where my research takes me from there.

My advice for the future team is to enjoy life in South Holland, enjoy the food such as stroop waffels and belgian frites and belgian chocolate.... And make sure to go to your favorite European country... I didn't go to mine (Spain).

Thank you to IHE and NSF for the support that made the IRES program possible.

Thank God for this Holland Experience.....I lost 7 pounds!!!

It was so nice being here for approximately three months. As Audrey said in her recent blog, people here actually bike and walk a lot. For the first time in a long while there were many people biking and walking and drivers were in the minority, very unlike in Tampa and the US in general. As promised, I have not biked a single day (since I do not think I could remember how to and I did not want to get run over by expert cyclists here) and I walked to and from our hostel and IHE every day except Sunday. This is about two miles round trip. This together great will power to resist all the Milkshakes that Ana has coninually tried to get to indulge in has led to me loosing 7lbs...........I know it is not a lot for most people but for those like me, with near zero metabolism, it certainly is. Hopefully I can keep this walking activity going back in the US least 100lbs more pounds to go.....wishful thinking *sigh*sigh*sigh*


Monday, July 26, 2010

So many pieces

A few weeks ago my mom and step dad were here in the Netherlands. I went and met them and we traveled just north of Amsterdam to a city called Alkmaar. Here, they recreate the cheese auctions that used to take place in the town in front of what is now a cheese museum.  It was a lot of fun to see all of the big rounds of cheese being carried out and weighed. Although I believe I read that the cheese is no longer actually auctioned like this, it was interesting to see.

If you can't make it to Alkmaar don't worry though, you can always see the recreation of the Alkmaar cheese auction at Madurodam (mini holland)! 

 If you love small things, like I do!, then mini-holland is definitely for you. Just a tram ride away from the Den Haag Centraal Station awaits a fantastic journey into some of the most recognizable areas of the Netherlands. De, a group of our newly found friends, and I finally got around to going only a couple weeks ago and wished we had gone earlier. Visiting gives insight on some of the largest points of interest and can even help you decide what you would like to see in actual stature.
There are model train stations, tulip gardens and even concerts that play real music. There are theaters (from which you can hear plays like Mary Poppins), a little schipol complete with airplanes, and wooden shoe factories that, for only 1 euro, will deliver a pair of shoes on a small truck for you to take home. 
 There are tiny bikes, small streets and the Dam Square in Amsterdam. This year everything was also decorated with orange in celebration of the world cup. 
And the best thing about little holland is........................................................................................................


So, we are beginning to near the end of our time here in the Netherlands. I have been very busy trying to get all of the stuff we need to do done while enjoying the country in the time that remains. We do final presentations for IHE on Wednesday, which has been quite a challenge to get together. I look forward to catching up on my sleep when I return home since staying up until 1am and waking up at 8am has become a habit. The alarm on my phone has also given up on me, probably because it is so tired of being ignored. I will miss a lot of things about the Netherlands and Europe in general like the public transportation systems, the bicycles and mostly my new friends. Especially the ones who share their apple juice boxes with De and I when we go shopping in the Hague!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pressure's On!!

by De

We are now entering the final 7 days we have left here in the Netherlands!  I can't decide if the time went by fast or slow.. but now the pressure is definitely on!  Not only is there a lot to do to finish up our goals in the lab, but we have found ourselves struggling to see everything we had hoped to see in Europe.  We have been here about 11 weeks now, and until last week I had not even done the "must see" things here in Delft!  So, Audrey and I spent a quick afternoon at the New Church in the city center.  The church itself has so much history.  The Oranje Royal Family is all buried at this church, the stained glass windows are gorgeous, and then there is the tower of the church.  Without a warning of what we were about to embark on, Audrey and I paid our token and began the journey to climb the tower to the top of the church.  Little did we know, 365 steps later, we would make it!  There were points along the way where you could go outside onto a very small ledge/ balcony and have a gorgeous view of the city.  Each time we thought "there can't be more steps, could there?!" But, we did it! We made it to the top!  We counted the steps on the way down to see if we were just wimps or if we had really climbed to the top of Mt. Everest or something!  365 steps was right, our legs were definitely still shaking once we reached the bottom again! But I'm so glad we decided to do it!

This week is crazy busy trying to put all of our data together from our time in the lab and put it into presentation form.  We are also working on writing a paper about our experiments in the lab.  This is the first time that I've had to anything like this, so I am quite nervous (especially for the presentation next week!)

Packing up all the stuff we brought here (along with everythinggg we've acquired since we've been here) is going to be a difficult feat in itself!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Dutch team lost the world cup to Spain. But they played dirty in my opinion, and I was cheering for Spain, so I wasn't disappointed. It is a little strange to be without futbol now, but it is okay because there is much to do before we leave Nederland.

The lab is busy; I am working on more duckweed experiments as well as preparing a final report, presentation, etc. I am getting better at the experimental methods which is good, since experiments take rather a long time, and getting better at the method means that I am faster than I was when I first started. Of course, I also am familiar with all the materials I will need, which also helps a lot.

I am off biking this weekend if the weather cooperates; this time to Arnherm area.


Friday, July 9, 2010

The Infamous Dutch Wooden Shoe

By De

Up until now, the history and purpose of the Dutch wooden shoe was just a mystery.  We had heard different theories and made our own assumptions.  BUT, this week I was lucky enough to visit a cheese farm where they harvested cheese, as well as carved the infamous wooden shoes.  Not only do the wooden shoes have one purpose, but many purposes!
The plain wooden shoe was traditionally used for farming or gardening

The yellow wooden shoe (the most widely known shoe) was traditionally used for working
The red wooden shoe was used as a dancing shoe
The blue and white wooden shoes were considered "Sunday best".  The white worn by females and the blue worn by males on Sundays.
And lastly, the crazy cow wooden shoes, typically used as an irresistible souvenir for many tourists that visit this establishment!
This is a quick video of the machine that is used to carve the inside of the shoe.  In the past, when the wooden shoes were cut and molded into their traditional shape, everything was done by hand and took hours upon hours to make just one shoe.  Now, they use machines like this one to produce the wooden shoes in just  matter of minutes!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Time flies

by Laurel
There are so many interesting things going on in the Netherlands in summer. Did you know, for instance, that the Tour de France time trials were right here in Rotterdam, the Netherlands? I didn't either, but the time trials are here, and then the riders ride to Belguim for the start of the race. We attempted to catch a glimpse of Lance, but alas, it was raining and we have an addiction to futbol, so we had to watch the Germany Argentina game instead of staying around for the real time trials after the warm up for the time trials, which is what we saw.

The Netherlands turns orange during the world cup. The color of national pride is because of William of Orange, although the Dutch flag is red, white, and blue. There are orange streamers everywhere, and orange jerseys on everyone.

I am  leaving for Peace Corps service in slightly over one month. Peace Corps preparation includes more paperwork, officially, but it also includes speaking Spanish with my Latin friends and trying to improve my grammar which has gone down hill in the past 3 years.

As for research, I am always thinking about what I could be doing better during my experiments. My duckweed finally seems to be growing happily without problems because it is getting fresh twice a week the nutrient supplies it needs.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Dear Blog reader,
Please take a long look at the "old" church, located in Delft, pictured below...

If you thought that this church is outrageously crooked, please raise your hand.

If you partook in this short exercise and did indeed raise your hand, this just goes to show that there are some mistakes that even an attempt at optical illusions cannot fix. During our second week in Delft, our group took a canal tour that boated us down the old canal. As part of this tour, small tidbits of the towns history and present were bestowed to us. One of the things discussed on this tour was this church, its tilted tower and the things they did to try to fool us into thinking that it wasn't as crooked as it is. Please see their solution below.

Now, if we weren't even tricked by the woman they hired, I feel safe to say that optical illusion has failed them.
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