In the Zernike Institute Advent Calendar, we are presenting 24 short spotlights in December. In these specials, we highlight PhD students, postdocs, support staff, and technicians of our research groups and team - providing a glimpse in their typical day at work. In Episode 17 meet Kristin Becker, PhD student in the Optical Condensed Matter Physics at the Zernike Institute of Advanced Materials and in the Molecular Energy Materials group at the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry, jointly supervised by prof. Maxim S. Pchenitchnikov, prof. J. C. Hummelen and prof. Ryan C. Chiechi.
After living in three different countries in the past, I found not one, but two homes in the beautiful city of Groningen. I work both in the “Optical Condensed Matter Physics” at the Zernike Institute of Advanced Materials and in the “Molecular Energy Materials” group at the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry, jointly supervised by prof. Maxim S. Pchenitchnikov, prof. J. C. Hummelen and prof. Ryan C. Chiechi.
The goal of my PhD project is to synthesize organic dyes that can absorb sunlight in far near infrared regions and combine them with upconverting lanthanide nanoparticles. These dyes are very interesting for bioimaging of tissues under our skin, labeling of biomolecules such as proteins, and in our case, solar cells. We are aiming to combine thin films of these dyes with existing silicon solar cells to increase their efficiency. Most days I spend synthesizing beautifully coloured compounds in the lab, and if I am not there, I am running to the basement to measure spectras. When I am not in the labs I play tennis, videogames or try to find weird movies playing in small cinemas in Groningen.
Working in two very different research groups brings twice as much knowledge and experience, but also challenges. Being an organic chemist working in a spectroscopy group sometimes makes me feel like the odd one out, often hearing a phrase: “...but you’re a chemist…”. Even though it is a strange combination of skills, I wouldn’t change my project for any other. Being a chemist in a physics world is an experience that made me learn different things from ‘building a laser by myself’ to ‘communicating with people from different backgrounds’, but also to teach them that: “no, it is not an easy thing to synthesize molecules and you should not just throw them in the waste!” Respecting the challenges involved in other people’s work is something we all should aspire to do whilst doing our own research.
Contact: Kristin Becker
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