April. 7, 2017
I am working from April 1 to June 1 at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia (in Slovak it is called Univerzita Komenského v Bratislave) with with Professor Tibor Hianik, in the Department of Nuclear Physics and Biophysics. One of the main focuses of Professor Hianik’s research is biosensing. Some of his PhD students were users at CNMS, and I worked with them over a 6 month period to perform experiments for optical- and gravimetric-based biosensing. They recently traveled back to Bratislava and now they are hosting me there to continue our experiments and work on finalizing their results for publication.
The research we are doing is under the European Union project FORMILK (http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/199923_en.html), which is aimed at developing technologies for detecting enzyme activity in milk, and may result in methods that are useful for broader applications for biosensing in the future. The project is funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) for over 1 million €. Our collaboration with professor Hianik’s group was in part grown by a paper we wrote in 2016 about an acoustic wave sensor platform we developed which has elements that may be applicable to aims of the FORMILK effort (http://proceedings.spiedigitallibrary.org/proceeding.aspx?articleid=2563458).
I spent a night in a hostel in Budapest on my way to Bratislava to explore the city. Budapest was an awesome place and I will go back when I have more time.
I took a bus from Budapest to Bratislava, where the university is accommodating me in some of their dormitories, which are very close to the labs where I am working. You can see the Danube river on the left, part of the city of Bratislava in the center, and Comenius University buildings on the right.
The walk to the city center is about 40 minutes from my room. On the way, you pass by the Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad). From the tower in the castle you can see Vienna, Austria, parts of Hungary, and the city of Bratislava stretched along the Danube River. In 1536 when the Ottoman Empire conquered present-day Hungary, the castle became the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, ruled by Austrian Habsburgs. The site of the castle has been occupied for thousands of years as a strategic fort controlling traffic along the Danube River.
The city center is full old old architecture, churches, shops, restaurants, and bars. It is a beautiful area and very enjoyable walking along the cobblestone streets, which date back to medieval times.
I have been working in the laboratories in the department of mathematics, physics, and informatics. We are developing an in situ cell for simultaneous gravimetric and spectroscopic measurements of protein cleaving using quartz crystal microbalance and spectroscopic ellipsometry. We are also using gold nanoparticles to enhance protease detection, which is part of the FORMILK project. I hope to learn a lot from the techniques we develop here and bring some expertise and ideas back to our lab in CNMS to continue the research. I have been here almost one week and look forward to the next 7 weeks!