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The last day of congress was good. It ended up with the final plenary talk by Grubbs and closing ceremony. Even though it was not my field of research, I enjoyed listening to his research.  I watched his lecture three years ago, talking about his future work, and today he successfully completed the work.

We had Kristin Brown, one of awardee, presented her work which was related to Structural dynamics of covalent perylene-based systems probed with femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy! She got more questions than other presenters I ever seen so far. She handled all questions. She did a wonderful job!

I am glad I was fortunate enough to be one of the award winners. It was totally my pleasure to meet all of the awesome and remarkable people around. I would like to thank ACS, Steven Meyers, and Madeline Jacob for awarding us to come to Czech Republic to present our work. Now I am going back home with full of knowledge.

“I discovered the best in chemistry with ACS”

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Culture-Day 5

Posted by terrence.neumann Sep 5, 2012

Experiencing a new country involves using all of one’s senses. New sights, sounds, and tastes are abundant.  I particularly enjoy trying the food of the region and my trip to the Czech Republic was no different.

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My first experience with Czech cuisine was a platter of traditional fare.  Dumplings—both bread and potato—formed the starch base for two types of cabbage and four different meats: sausage, roast pork, ham, and duck.  This platter was enough to feed three people and cost roughly $12.

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The most impressive item that I encountered was a so-called Wedding Feast.  On the recommendation of a dining companion, we ordered this feast for four people, which could have easily fed eight.  The platter was similar to the previous platter with the addition of a bacon dumpling.  The dishes offered similar flavors and it was all excellent.

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Street food in different countries can yield new experiences. My father had traveled to Prague previously and encouraged me to try the street hot dogs.  For a dollar, a vendor cores out the center of a roll, garnishes the space with spicy ketchup and mustard and drops in the hot dog. By placing the condiments inside the roll, the odds of a spills are significantly reduced, although not guaranteed.

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When traveling abroad, a cooking class provides a unique souvenir. My wife and I took a Czech cooking class to learn how to make some of the traditional delicacies we were enjoying. We learned to make a traditional potato and mushroom soup consisting of carrot, potatoes, turnips, and mushrooms.  The main course included roasted pork, white cabbage, and bread dumplings. Dessert was a simple apple strudel.  Surprisingly, these items were quite easy to make and we plan on making them again soon.

Restaurants in the U.S. typically serve tap water free-of-charge. Water in Czech restaurants is bottled and mineral water is popular.  I found it particularly curious that the cost of a bottle of water—usually $2-3—is often more expensive than a serving of beer, which is just $1-2. During this trip, I was introduced to so-called “new wine” which is wine that is allowed to ferment but is consumed before aging. 

 

Overall we encountered a European dining experience that is much different than the predominant culture around Milwaukee.  Restaurants are small and usually offer outdoor seating areas. The pace of meals is slower, more relaxed.  Comparatively, the cost of dining out in Prague was less.

 

I enjoyed traveling to Prague to experience the food, take in the sights and attend a great conference.  I’d like to express my gratitude to the ACS for this opportunity.  

Opportunities-Day 4

Posted by terrence.neumann Sep 5, 2012

Our group of travel award winners visited the American Embassy in Prague to learn about funding and research opportunities in the Czech Republic and across Europe. I live by the philosophy that one needs to put oneself in the line of opportunity, and I found this panel especially intriguing.

 

The city of Brno, CZ is a hub of scholarly activity.  The city is home to eight universities, totaling 80,000 students.  The University of Brno Department of Chemistry Chairman Ctibor Mazal spoke about the ongoing research and facilities in his department.  He noted that there has been a recent swell of investment funds supporting research centers in Brno.

 

Jan Neuman spoke on behalf of Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC), a partnership of the Brno-area universities.  This project has seven research centers devoted to advancing knowledge in life sciences and advanced materials.

 

Global and regional funding opportunities abound for adventurous researchers.  The longstanding Fulbright program sends students or scholars to participating nations at a host institution. Marie Curie Actions is a program that funds applicants for stays at European universities to work on projects of their own interest. SoMoPro is an organization from the Monrovian region of the Czech Republic that supports scientific projects by inviting applicants to study at their selected universities.

 

These opportunities could open the doors to new international collaborations for scientists, young and old. I am considering an international postdoctoral experience as part of my career and ongoing education.  Learning about these opportunities inspires me to further pursue this avenue.

The plenary talk by Roger Tsien, 2008 Nobel Prize winner, was fantastic. I liked the way he involved us with his work. He talked about different research that was done by his group and collaborators, and it was totally easy to follow without getting bored. He is so passionate about his work, and this makes me more eager to listen. I have listened to fabrication of nanowires and its properties. I have attended mostly to the nanochemistry and super molecular lectures which are more related to my current research. Darci one of the ACS travel winner gave a talk which was great. She presented their work very well.

During lunch the employee from Evonik and EYNC talked to us about how to get ready to get a job and they look over at our resume. Linkedin is strongly suggested to connect you to opportunities. It was interesting to know the difference between American and European curriculum style. I have heard good tips regarding to the job interview. Evonik (http://corporate.evonik.com/en/Pages/default.aspx) is hiring more researchers now, ANYONE? They have more than 20 different location in North America which I have not heard anything about the company.

Our group went to US Embassy to discuss funding and scholarship opportunities in to have a meeting with Czech Republic agent. They talked about how we can apply for different scholarships, and do more studies in the Czech Republic. Then it was followed by some talks by professors and researchers from different university and institute. We were informed they are hiring researcher. As day pass, I am realizing the opportunity that I have received to come to the congress is awesome. I would recommend for everybody to give a shot. I would not have known about all this opportunity without coming to the congress. Then we went shopping to the mall which called Palladium (what a coincidence!)

After lunch time we went back to the congress for more talks and poster! I was impressed with researchers works specially the one that is related to my work. Most of speakers and poster presenters are European. Beside all fascinating works that have been done, I am impressed with all gifts they have. I would say almost 90% of them know at least 1 more language beside English and their mother language. How motivate it is!

Last day to blog. I woke up later than planned but I made it to the morning plenary lecture anyway.  Then I attended sessions in the organic chemistry and educational chemistry areas, including Steve Meyer’s presentation on the GREET program. In the afternoon there was a workshop for university professors and each team had to discuss different aspects of how to deal with student issues such as turning in late assignments, talking in class, and inattentiveness in class.  It was interesting to hear the different perspectives presented by university professors from many countries.  It seems that similar student issues arise no matter where the location of the school. The last ACS awardee presented today, Kristen Brown.  Due to presentations starting earlier since someone before her was a no show, I only got to hear 2/3 of her presentation, but she did a great job.  She had more questions (4) than any other presentation I attended and she fielded the questions well. 


Several of us went out for lunch at Maestro restaurant in Old Town and then we did some more shopping. We all returned to hear the final plenary lecture by Professor Grubbs and then the closing ceremony.  It was great to see that several research awards for the European Young Chemists were granted to women. 


Then 7 of us went out for dinner and back to the hotel.  This has been a wonderful experience for me – I will have lots of good memories.  Good food, friends, and fun in a beautiful city – Prague!  Thank you to ACS and to Steve Meyers and Madeleine Jacobs for awarding me this wonderful opportunity!!  ACS rocks!!!

The day began with the plenary lecture by Roger Tsien, 2008 Nobel Prize winner for the discovery of the green fluorescent protein.  This was a phenomenal lecture and a lot of work toward imaging has been done to make cancer surgeries more successful.  Then I heard some educational lectures involving the teaching of chemistry, and some lectures in the life science and analytical chemistry areas, along with a talk about the challenges for green chemistry.  Darci Trader’s talk followed, and she did a phenomenal job – she is a very polished speaker.  During lunch the employees from Evonik and EYCN helped us with a curriculum clinic with tips on job applications, using social network sites to search for jobs, and reviewing our CVs.  I learned a more proper method to organizing my education and work history.  I will revise my CV and email it to one of the EYCN people who said he would critique it again.


We also met up with Madeleine Jacobs again for a 5pm cocktail at the Corinthia hotel.  She took our group picture on the bridge between the Congress Hotel and Corinthia Hotel and put it on Twitter.  I will now have to log onto Twitter so I can see the photo.  She is always interesting to talk to and takes a genuine interest in the ACS members, which is really nice. 


During the evening we took a boat trip along the river and had dinner on the boat.  The food was wonderful and it was fun socializing with the EYCN chemists and the chemists from the Colorado group. I took a lot of people photos on the boat. 


Later several of us went dancing at a club with an ice bar – I did not go to the ice bar but did a lot of dancing with the group.  Some of the music is the same as they play back in Illinois at the places where I go dancing with friends.  But this place had a smaller dance floor and was more crowded than I am used to.  Some of the EYCN guys are great dancers! 

Today our group met people at the US Embassy to discuss funding and scholarship opportunities for research abroad in the Czech Republic.  Then we ate lunch, did some shopping at a mall called Palladium (a mall with an element name – how cool is that!!), and returned to the convention center to view the poster presentations.  Many of the students did very impressive work and some had only been pursuing their Ph.D.s for one year.  One poster was detailing research on photodynamic therapy (PDT), so I talked to this student for a while, since my project is also involving PDT.  He is working on a photosensitizer (PS) using a core of phthalocyanines that had been derivatized with alkyl groups containing a N atom as well as a S atom to create a more water soluble system.  He also tested three types of derivatized phthalocyanines – one with Mg metal coordinating with N atoms of the core system, one with Zn metal coordinating with N atoms of the core system, and one reacted with HCl to remove the Mg metal and bond two H atoms to the N atoms of the core system.  He tested the singlet oxygen quantum yield and fluorescence yield with the PS dissolved in DMF and also used DMF as the solvent for testing the maximum wavelength absorption which was about 700 nm.  The Zn coordinated to the N atoms of the core system yielded the highest quantum yield of singlet oxygen. 


I am looking forward to tomorrow morning’s plenary session – the speaker is Roger Tsien who won the 2008 Nobel Prize for his work with the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). I studied this work extensively since I took a cumulative exam on it back in October, 2008 during my first year of graduate studies. 

We started out the day with a breakfast at the Corinthia Hotel with Madeleine Jacobs who discussed chemistry careers, her personal story in great and fascinating detail, and the importance of gaining leadership skills and networking to move ahead in our chosen careers.  Ms. Jacobs told us she would even set aside time in her busy schedule to personally talk to us if we would like.  Now that is something you do not see too often by people who are CEOs of companies. I think other companies can learn from her example to take time to really listen and help their employees (or in this case members).  Then on to the conference to hear the plenary talks, oral presentations, and present my poster.  The discussion of publishing in JACS by Peter Stang and Sonja Krane was very informative. I learned a lot more about services provided by the ACS which will be very helpful to me as I begin to look for employment in academia. 


The poster session went well and throughout this conference there was no shortage of good food and a variety of drink options.  The one area I would like to see improved upon is the scheduling of talks. Since we have to navigate on three floors, we have to leave talks before they are finished and I don’t want to seem rude in leaving, but I also do not want to be late for the next talk.  Also, if some talks go too long and we have to leave to get to the next talk in another room, or if some talks start earlier than I arrive, some of the continuity gets lost.  If we had 5 minutes between each talk to allow for time to get to rooms on different floors and locations, this would solve the problem of leaving too early or arriving late.  I do realize then that the entire day would either be longer to accommodate the extra time, or less talks would be scheduled to keep the same length of time for talks for each day.  Just my thoughts on this. 


I am really enjoying this conference and finding that the people I have met have been very friendly and positive people.

Well today is my birthday and we took a wonderful tour of Prague Castle, Old Town, and New Town. It was a walking tour so we did a LOT of walking, but saw some beautiful architecture.  I took so many pictures that my batteries went dead.  Then six of us (myself, Darci, Nasim, Terry, his wife Andrea, and son Gus) went to eat at Mlynek and had a buffet lunch with beef, salmon, lamb, vegies, potatoes, cabbage, and several desserts.  The scenery of the St. Charles Bridge and the river below were breathtaking to view while eating and socializing with the other graduate students.  Three of us then went to shop for souvenirs in the city center and met up later with the rest of the group at the Prague Convention Center for a reception.  We met Madeleine Jacobs who talked to all of us for awhile about careers in chemistry and encouraged us to never give up the job search in spite of the bad economy.  Employers want what we chemists can do and that is to think critically. Ms. Jacobs is a very nice and down to earth lady.  I enjoyed talking with her.  We also met Dr. Peter Stang (editor of JACS publication), and Susan King, who also works in the publication department of ACS.  Then I visited several booths, picked up journals and bags, and headed out with the group to the Medvicka restaurant for a socializing dinner with the European Young Chemists Network.  We met two students (Frederic and Alex) also working on their Ph.D.s in Belgium and Switzerland.  They both know an impressive number of languages, and one even told us he likes to dance (something I also love to do when not doing research).  Tomorrow is an important day as I will discuss my poster during the poster session.  Signing off until then…….

This is the first time I have travelled internationally (besides Canada, which doesn’t count since it is connected to the U.S.) and I would like to describe the differences in the hotel in Prague compared to American hotels.  The rooms are quite a bit smaller, including the bed, which is a twin size (typical American hotels have two queen or king beds), but this makes the room cooler with the air conditioning since there is much less space to cool.  The door is opened with a real metal key instead of a keycard, and to activate the lighting you have to place the metal tag key chain into a little square holder with a light.  When the light goes on the electricity is activated.  This probably saves on electricity as the outlets do not operate either without placing the key chain tag into the holder.  Also, the flush mechanism for the toilet is not on the tank itself, but on the wall behind the toilet. 


The city is almost entirely made of cobblestone sidewalks and streets, although some of the streets are smoothly paved.  Also, the buildings are all connected to one another.  In walking through the city, I  feel like I have been transported back in time to the period of the Renaissance. The architecture is very beautiful. The cable car system reminds me of San Francisco, although the Prague cable cars look more modern than those in San Francisco. 

On the first evening here, we ate at the Fleka restaurant.  It was about a 25 minute walk from the Hotel Beranek, but a very nice restaurant.  I noticed that most of the street signs are not on street posts at the corners, but rather, are posted on the sides of buildings at the intersections.  Two gentlemen played the accordion to serenade the entire group at the restaurant throughout the dinner.  All of the ACS award winners got the chance to meet and talk with one another over dinner.  I even tried a shot glass full of an interesting liquor called Becherovka, which tasted like it was made with anise and cinnamon.  I had to learn more about this interesting beverage so I googled it and found that the exact ingredients are very secretive, but it is known as an herbal liquor and two ingredients listed in it were anise and cinnamon.  It is also 70 proof so I am glad I nursed it for the entire evening since I had to walk back to the Hotel Beranek.  LOL