The final step on my way towards a Master’s degree in Chemistry was an eight-month-long project, immersed in a research group. I decided to find a place in the Heterogeneous Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry (HCSC) group, under the supervision of Amanda Garcia. I choose this because of the group’s emphasis on sustainability, and particularly electrochemistry. As I expected, I was taught the ins and outs of electrochemistry. What I did not know was that I would also get to experience the fun of scientific conferences and international collaboration.
In September 2022 the HCSC group went on a trip to the Izmir Institute of Technology (IYTE) in Izmir, Türkiye. The purpose was to attend the ‘Catalysis: a Key to Sustainability’ conference that was co-organised by HCSC and IYTE. I was invited to join and indeed was able to do so thanks to the RPA Sustainable Chemistry supporting the travel of the master students!
After an early start, we left behind grey and rainy Schiphol and flew to Izmir airport on the sunny Aegean coast. A coach took us through the country side, littered with citrus trees and fields of cotton, to our hotel, where we had nice food, took a swim, and saw some flying fish.
My first scientific poster
On Monday we were picked up by our bus driver and taken to the impressively large campus, surrounded by green hills and with a view of the bay. The Turkish organisers had arranged a warm welcome and equipped all attendees with pens, paper, programmes, and stylish conference hats.
This kicked off three days of interesting talks and lively discussion, as well as opportunities for more informal conversations whilst enjoying a virgin Cuba libre or a green ice tea. There was also a range of posters presented by students and researchers, including my own first scientific poster. It was great to practice explaining my work to people that are new to the topic, and to gain different perspectives for future endeavours.
On the last day, we were shown the facilities at the institute and saw how well the hard work of the institute’s director and management in the past years had paid off. The variety and quality of the equipment certainly made us a little jealous at times. It was all in all an enjoyable and productive conference.
A taste of Izmir
With the scientific part of the trip finished, it was time for a taste of the real Izmir. Our hosts took us around the bazar in the city centre, in a whirlwind of trinkets, crockery, jewellery, spices, and Turkish delight. This was a great opportunity to acquire some souvenirs, especially with the help of our local guides. To relax and recover from all the impressions, we sat down to try some real Turkish coffee, before heading to the ferry.
The city of Izmir is built around a bay, and with a population of about five million it can be very crowded. We were taken on a ferry from one side of the bay to the other and got the see the city from a new perspective. The calm of the water, with the wind in our hair, brought an appreciation for the efforts and collaborations that go into keeping such cities liveable and comfortable for all inhabitants and visitors.
We concluded our trip with a guided tour of the Ephesus archaeological sites, an amazing experience – particularly for those of us who spent six years studying the classics through school books – and a sailboat trip along the coast. Their incredible jumps and dives of off the boat deck gave me a new appreciation for my colleagues. As I am writing this, back on dry land, I also very much appreciate not constantly having salt water up my nose. Although the sailing and swimming was of course some minor discomfort. Then, after only a seven hour delay filled with Uno and frisbee games, we flew home, back to autumnal Amsterdam.