Cassy Hastings describes her optics REU experience:
This past summer I had the unique opportunity to travel to Paris, France to do research at The Institut d’Optique Graduate School. I was swept off my feet the moment I stepped off of the plane and onto the streets of Paris. Right away I was introduced to my lab supervisor, Dr. Philippe Delaye, and for 10 weeks studied the optical transmission of liquid filled, hollow core photonic crystal fibers as a function of the refractive index of the liquid.
Having never done research before, I found the lab environment to be very stimulating, and the people I worked with very engaging. Much of my time was spent optimizing mirrors and lenses to effectively focus laser light through small optical fibers filled with liquid in order to record the transmission band gap emitted by the fibers. I also had the pleasure of having a lab partner during my time in Paris, with each of us bringing our own unique skills to the lab environment. Lunch time was spent eating with the whole lab, which proved to be a very comical experience as I got to share some of my adventures in Paris, while listening to lab members talk about their experiences traveling in the US. Overall, I learned that San Francisco was a bit hit with those who had made it to the States.
Working in the lab also gave me the opportunity to make connections with many physicists that will hopefully be colleagues of mine in the future. Not only did I get the chance to learn about the research that each person was doing, but I also got to learn some of their hobbies, and even had “band jam” sessions with one of the grad students in an effort to learn how to play the drums.
Paris of course, was amazing as well. It’s very hard to sum up my experiences exploring Paris in just a few sentences, but these are definitely some memorable things that stand out. For one, the food was fantastic! I’ve discovered that bakeries truly are miracles and that there is nothing better than waking up and eating a fresh baked croissant. Of course, there were other dishes that were just as wonderful and the overall French cuisine was exceptional.
Museums were also a big highlight of my trip. I was able to learn so much about French history and culture. I saw renowned paintings such as the Mona Lisa, famous sculptures such as The Thinker, and even got to see the tomb of Ramses III, a great Pharaoh of Egypt. In addition to my museum trips, I walked the floors of Notre Dame Cathedral, tunneled through the catacombs that ran underneath the city, climbed the hill at Sacre Coeur, and even made my way up into the Eiffel Tower. Of course, there was also nothing better than sitting in one of Paris’ beautiful parks having a picnic under the sun.
While I didn’t do much traveling outside of Paris during my time in France, there were a couple of weekends that I traveled to nearby cities to learn more about the country. I traveled to Bordeaux, France, and even made my way to the beaches of Normandy, where I stood in old Nazi-Germany bunkers, trying to imagine D-Day and reflecting on those who gave their lives in an effort to free Europe during World War II.
Overall, I had a tremendous experience in both the lab and on the streets of Paris. I can’t thank the National Science Foundation enough for providing me with the financial support for doing research in Paris as well as the University of Michigan for setting up the various lab experiences for the 13 students that took part in this opportunity. I am also extremely grateful for all of the professors in the NMU physics department who have helped me thus far in my physics career. I look forward to the many opportunities that I will now have in the future to share my research with others at student undergraduate conferences.