Jackie Le, ME’16, Describes Summer in Dresden
Jackie Le is from Abingdon, MD and is in her junior year in Mechanical Engineering at The Cooper Union. The Cooper Union has a program that encourages students to study abroad which Jackie took part in during the summer of 2014. Link to CU Study Abroad Program This past summer she performed research at the Technische Univeritaet in Dresden (TUD), Germany Link to TUD.
Mary Lynch, ChE’82, interviewed Jackie in August, 2014.
How did you decide on Engineering as a career and why did you choose to study at The Cooper Union?
When I was young, I wanted to be an architect and I first heard about Cooper Union’s architecture school. While in high school, I took a course called “Principles of Engineering” at my high school and that piqued my interest in engineering. I started as a Civil Engineering student but switched to Mechanical Engineering.
What attracted you to Mechanical Engineering?
While in high school, I had summer jobs at a US Army base near my home in Maryland, and my research there was mechanical engineering related. Then, during my freshman year at Cooper, I took the EID 101 course and that cemented my desire to switch to mechanical engineering.
What did you like about that EID 101 course?
I liked that it was a hands-on course and that we had an opportunity to build something. I found that I enjoyed working in the machine shop.
How did you find your recent research position in Germany?
Last fall, Jennifer Margherito organized a presentation where students who had performed research abroad the previous summer each spoke. These students had worked in Spain, Germany, Iceland and Ghana. Following that presentation, I went on the internet and explored opportunities that involved research in nanotechnology. I chose the program at Technische Univeritaet of Dresden – Institute for Material Science. My supervisor there was Klaus Kuehn.
What is it like to work in a German laboratory and do you speak German?
The working language in the laboratory was English. We were an international group. The other students were from Portugal, Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, Iran and Germany. The head of our department was Italian. Our group was about half female and we had a great time.
What type of research did you do?
Our research dealt with the use of photo-catalysts to remove pharmaceuticals, specifically antibiotics, from wastewater. A photo catalyst increases the reaction rate for the photo decomposition of organic chemical to carbon dioxide and water. The photo-catalyst that we were working with was titanium dioxide. My work consisted of performing experiments using a bench scale continuous flow chemical reactor. I made the test solutions, setup the pumps, and did the sampling. We analyzed the simulated wastewater samples with a UV spectrometer.
My lab was set up to research different aspects of nanotechnology and materials science. Some students, like the ones I worked closely with, did experiments with nanoparticles. Other students worked on modeling the reactions of the nanoparticles. For my experiments, the nanoparticles came in a powder form. I used a scale to measure the mass of the powder and to measure out the amount of nanoparticles I needed. The nanoparticles were added to a solution of ciprofloxacin and water. I used a magnetic stirring fish to disperse the nanoparticles and to keep the nanoparticles from accumulating at the bottom of the beaker during the experiments. After the experiments, the samples were centrifuged so the particles would accumulate at the bottom of the Eppendorf tubes. I used a pipette to extract the liquid part of the sample.
Did you do any technical writing?
The Cooper Union requires us to write two reports. One is a technical report about our research. The other is a cultural report.
How did you go about gathering information for the cultural report?
To learn about Germany, I went to see a different German city each weekend. That was not difficult because the public transportation system is very good.
And what are some interesting things that you observed or learned?
I enjoyed the tour of the Volkswagen factory in Dresden. I was surprised to see how much of the work is done by hand. Germans come right to the factory to pick up the cars that they purchase, and the cars wait for them in a storage tower. The tower holds about 800 cars and is impressive to see. I was also surprised and pleased to see that the factory rents out it open spaces to the Opera Company and other music groups for performances.
One of my favorite places is the Military Museum. The exhibits there illustrate how war has affected everyday culture and vice-versa. It was interesting to see the toys on exhibit. These toys were designed to help children cope with war. The doll houses had black-out curtains. This museum also has an exhibit that shows how the United States affected Germany and it includes an American washing machine.
Would you like to go back to Germany?
Yes I would, and I may do some graduate study there after my graduation from The Cooper Union.