Incoming: Jessie from University of Cincinnati
Jessie Ringo is an American PhD student studying chemistry at the University of Cincinnati (Ohio, USA). From August to December 2016, Jessie carried out research at the University of Bordeaux. During her stay, she worked at the IMS laboratory (Integration: from Material to Systems) and the Institute of Molecular Science (ISM).
Why did you choose to carry out this mobility experience at the University of Bordeaux?
The existing strong collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and the University of Bordeaux was the main reason I first thought of coming to Bordeaux. What made my decision final, was the cutting-edge level of research and the collaborative nature of the laboratories/institutes which was all the more interesting and valuable for my project.
What work did you accomplish during your stay here?
Over the four months, I worked on a project that involves the fabrication of solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells (ss-DSSCs) combining porous semi-conducting metal oxide layers, plasmonic nanoparticles, organic sensitizers and organic hole transporters, in order to improve the light-harvesting abilities of existing ss-DSSCs. The majority of work completed in this field has largely been on liquid-based solar cells which can be challenging for large-scale production and use because of leakage and corrosion. With an all solid-state solar cell, the problem of leakage would be eliminated. At the IMS laboratory I worked on the actual device fabrication and testing, while at the ISM I worked on physical chemistry characterizations (i.e. thickness, morphology, optical properties) to compliment the work.
What were your impressions of the University of Bordeaux, the people, the city?
I have a hard time putting into words the positive emotions I feel about the university, the city, and especially the people. I felt welcomed and included from day one. Since I worked on a collaborative project between the IMS laboratory and ISM, I was exposed to two different research groups on campus. This was a really excellent opportunity that is not often possible at my home institution. As for Bordeaux, I was blown away by the architecture every time I visited the center. It is a beautiful city, rich in history, with so much to do and see. In addition, the city is safe and inviting with the tramway, a great form of public transportation.
What did you learn from your international experience here in Bordeaux?
First of all, I discovered a larger range of scientific fields. The research I conducted in Bordeaux was very different from my research in Cincinnati, and I believe this will be invaluable when applying for future jobs. Aside from the scientific benefits, I also learned a great deal about myself. I had never been out of the USA before this trip. I was nervous about a lot of things - the language barrier (I didn’t know any French), the cultural differences, and living away from my family.However, these seemingly big, scary things quickly became small and manageable. Upon my arrival, I immediately signed up for a French language course, and my new labmates became my family away from home.
Immersing myself in another culture was a wonderful experience. It’s forced me to see things that I consider “normal” with another perspective. I think this is an extremely important aspect to learning, especially within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. One of the goals of PhD programs is to develop students’ ability to think deeper or in a different way, and what better way to help develop this capacity than to engage them in another way of life!
Jessie’s outgoing mobility experience from the USA to France was supported by the Chateaubriand Fellowship. This grant, offered by the Embassy of France in the United States, supports outstanding Ph.D. students from American universities who wish to conduct research in France for a period ranging from 4 to 9 months.
Chateaubriand fellows are selected through a merit-based competition, through a collaborative process involving expert evaluators in both countries. The program is divided into two subprograms: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) and Health / Humanities and Social Sciences.