Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Destination Deutschland: My Summer Research at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

It has been one week since I returned home from my summer research internship in Germany, and I figured it would be as good a time as any to let you know what I was up to for eight weeks in the land of sausage, potatoes, bread, and chocolate.

Did I mention chocolate?

Let me start by saying that my first time flying in a commercial airplane was when my Levine cohort left Charlotte three years ago for our NOLS excursion in Alaska.  However, my trip to Deutschland marked my first time out of North America, my first international flight, and my very first passport stamp!  And, once I landed in Frankfurt, I also made the abrupt realization that it was my first time being a country where English is not the primary language (Yes, I promise I did know that before I chose this internship, but it still made for an anxious airport experience!).  And to clarify, yes, I did go to Germany without previously speaking any German...

View from my apartment balcony (The church bells rang every morning)

My internship was part of an exchange between UNC Charlotte and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), one of Europe’s largest and most prestigious research and education institutions.  My research project focused on the use of electrochemical battery storage systems in residential applications in an effort to increase renewable energy use and reduce electricity grid inconsistencies or failures.  My papers and documents will provide my colleagues with in-depth information and possibly lead to further projects or publications.  The energy-related research at KIT directly corresponds the variety of exciting sustainability, engineering, and energy projects at UNC Charlotte and in the Charlotte region (one of the prime reasons why I chose UNC Charlotte and the Levine Scholars Program).

Tour of the Smart Energy Home
KIT Battery Lab Visit
My Research Team along with other UNCC Interns
KIT's PV Research Field

I really enjoyed my time exploring Germany and being immersed in the culture.  I will thoroughly miss walking and biking around the city and other aspects of the ingrained, environmentally conscious German lifestyle.  My inner civil-engineering-and-sustainable-development nerd was overwhelmed by the mixture of old and new architecture, high-density and pedestrian-oriented development, integration of the environment with indoor spaces, and the prevalence of city plazas and other populous social gathering places.  The U.S. still has a LOT to learn in this respect.  I will also add that Karlsruhe is known as the “fan city” because of its unique spoke-like street design that leads to the city’s central palace and gardens (my favorite place to people watch)!

Karlsruhe Palace with Levine alumnae Bethany Hyde and Anna Swartz

I will always look back on my summer in Germany with fond memories of people, scholarship, travels, and food.  Thank you EPIC and UNC Charlotte for helping foster such an amazing educational, professional, and social exchange opportunity.

My Favorite Part of Germany?  CASTLES!

My other Favorite Part?  German Food!

My institute really liked to play Foosball (aka "Kicker") - I actually got third place in this tournament 
(only because I had a talented partner...)