July 13, 2011
When I arrived in Kolkata, I was surprised. It was a culture shock for me to see all the different religions, architectural styles, historical monuments and modes of transportation (!) around me. It was a weather shock for me as well; it was humid, rainy, and hot as can be expected of a tropical area during monsoon season. I realized how much I took the California weather for granted. But all this aside, I really have come to appreciate the way of life here as I begin to understand the ways in which people run things around here.
When I reached IIT Kharagpur, I didn’t really know what to expect. However, after meeting my professor, Dr. Sen, everything fell into place. I was taken around the labs and was introduced to very friendly graduate students and research scholars. Because I’ll be working with algal photobioreactors, I was given some instruction on the many different types of reactors (race ponds, bubble column, airlift, flat plate, flat panel airlift, etc.) and how they work.
At the moment, I’m designing a photobioreactor of my own. I’ve worked out the schematics after reading and summarizing dozens of articles and papers on the engineering aspects of reactors. I have to consider every minute detail, including gas hold up, mass transfer, fluid dynamics, sparger type and size and even clean up. As a molecular biology student, I’ve never considered any of these things.
Dr. Sen has agreed to the fabrication and the testing - and hopefully it will all work. I interact with many of the other research scholars on a daily basis, and I talk to Dr. Sen very often, so things are going smoothly. The team has asked me to work on several side projects as well to help me get accustomed to working with the algae. It's a great atmosphere -- though I have to admit I am only slowly getting used to all of the bugs.