Synthesis of silver nanoparticles 09.2016-12.2016

After finishing my master degree in physic and biomedical technologies at the ‘Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’, I was looking for a new experience abroad. I was really attracted by Asia, as I have never been there and I have never had experience in a developing country. I wanted to discover this continent via a voluntary project or working experience. A friend of mine introduced me IAESTE program, and I applied for an internship in Vietnam.

Arrival and accommodation:

At the airport, everything was well organized. Two students from Thai Nguyen University of Sciences picked me up at Hanoi airport and we went to Thai Nguyen city by taxi. They showed me my room, I had a private room in the dorm reserved for students in Sciences. My room was quite big and comfortable with fridge, washing machine and hot water, more than expected. Then, we had a dinner all together. I had no kitchen for cooking, but cheap (about 0.5-1€, crazy) and good street foods were easy to access all around.

The second day, Hai (friendly student) woke me up at 6am to have a breakfast. We had the famous Vietnamese “Pho”, noodle soup with leaves and chicken. Welcome to Vietnam, I was very quickly immersed in the Vietnamese living style. I had less than two days to change my habits: I had to forget sleeping late, bread, butter and jam and be used to wake up early, rice and noodle. It was not really difficult to adapt myself. When people are nice, everything is easy.

At the beginning, the most challenging part was the language barrier. I had to use google translate and body gesture to order food and communicate with other students. Generally speaking, it was working but sometimes… my meal did not look like what I have ordered… People are so friendly and smiling, weird situations were always fun.

Internship and work:

The first week, I met my supervisor, Mr Hoa. He showed me the campus, the library (impressively good and modern), my office and the laboratory. He explained me the project and plan for the following weeks. He was really helpful, organized and efficient. I had to read papers and design a protocol, we started experiment the 3rd week.

My project was about the synthesis of silver nanoparticle via chemical reaction. I had to create the nanoparticles and analysed the optical properties. This topic was both related to my physicist background (nanoparticles) and new (chemical method). I learned how to design a chemical protocol and analysed synthetized nanoparticles by spectroscopy. I did several experiments in the lab in order to test different parameters and design the most efficient protocol to obtain high quality nanoparticles.

This project was very interesting, but not always easy… I had to face challenges that I have never faced before as student in Switzerland. The lab was not well equipped. I had to look for bakers, chemical components, pipettes, gloves, glasses… Thanks to my supervisor, we collected everything in few days and started experiments quickly. Then, I had to analyse the obtained samples with a spectrometers. However, the spectrometer was broken, it was not possible to transfer automatically the data from the spectrometer to an USB key. At least 3 months were needed to fix it. I did everything by hand, taking pictures of the table on the spectrometer’s screen and writing values in excel table. Quite long job… but it was working.

Finally, the most challenging part was to get access to the different laboratories for working. I was working in three different labs, with three different keys, kept by three different teachers… Consequently, I had to organise and reschedule the experiments several times. “Don’t worry, take your time, smile and drink green tea” were the key words. It took me 2 or 3 weeks to be used to, afterward, the project was progressing well.

I also taught English to kids during my free time. I never expected teaching English, it was an enriching experience. I had to think about ludic games to teach English vocabulary and work with kids. I really enjoyed it!!

Life:

I had a very good time in Vietnam and I met many people.

The Thai Nguyen IAESTE committee is very welcoming, active and organise events every week. I met other trainees and volunteers the second week, and we were used to drink juice or beers once a week. We travelled together in the north of Vietnam almost every weekend. We went to Sapa, Ba be lake, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Hanoi, Cao Bang… The time was going really fast (too fast) and my internship was a perfect balance between working and travelling. I was allowed to take some days off for travelling around with my friends.

I also took part to traditional Vietnamese events and parties. We went to temples, pagoda and discovered a rich traditional culture. I met very friendly and thoughtful people taking good care of me.

The food is also really good and tasty!! I learned how to make nems, I plan to make it soon at home. =)

I want to thanks IAESTE Vietnam, Mr. Hoa (my supervisor) and my friends. I had a good time in Thai Nguyen thanks to all of them.

I highly recommend an internship in Thai Nguyen city.

By Gaelle Prigent,

French Alumni at TNUS, Thai Nguyen, Vietnam

2016