Profintern organized an internship in a Chemistry Laboratory specializing in Surface Technologies for me. During the first week of my internship I was introduced to several of the research groups. Different members explained their current projects to me, giving me an insight into the wide range of projects the laboratory is involved in (many interdisciplinary projects).
Thereafter I was placed in a group of one specific supervisor, assisting different team members with basic tasks of their research, such as preparing solutions, Petri dishes or polyelectrolyte coatings by Layer-by-layer assembly. I was able to get involved in research related to Liesegang Rings, preparing them in Petri dishes and test tubes to later on analyse them using an optical microscope, Polyelectrolyte Coacervate Films, produced by Layer-by-layer assembly, and the preparation of an ion-selective adhesive tape for potentiometric measurements, being developed for a biosensor.
The entire team was very welcoming, always willing to help even with mundane tasks, such as looking for specific pieces of equipment or reactants. They were tremendously patient when explaining how to use different equipment to me, rephrasing their descriptions in Russians and occasionally switching to English when I did not understand what they were talking about.
Every day was different, once I even had to prepare a presentation of a scientific article. However, my favourite day was definitely my last day since I got to use the SEM microscope. Over the course of the internship I learned how to work independently in a laboratory environment and how important teamwork is in a scientific field. Furthermore, this internship made me realize how much work is necessary to be able to publish an article in a scientific journal.
With regards to Russia, I do not think that anything in particular surprised me, admitting that I sat next to a Russian girl from Togliatti for four years in school. Besides, I had participated in an exchange to Saint Petersburg about three years ago. Nevertheless, there are new things to discover and since I almost always communicated in Russian at the laboratory, the frequent use of rhetorical questions struck me. I remember that on my third day the supervisor described a specific procedure to me, starting out with the question, so how do we do this? In the beginning I was very confused since I was not used to the regular use of rhetorical questions in spoken language. Furthermore, I am now familiar with a different work approach which involves procrastination, a moment of revelation, followed by intense work. Deadlines are met but the day beforehand is incredibly stressful. Other than that, I am very fond of the general hospitality in Russia, whether it is sharing food or lending a sweater or scarf.
I am extremely grateful, for the chance to intern at the laboratory Profintern chose for me. I honestly could not have imagined a better place and the internship definitely exceeded my expectations. Looking back, I wish that I had decided to stay longer for two or three months. There was always someone available to answer any questions and making sure that everything was fine. Moreover, they also were at the laboratory during the interview and accompanied me to the office on the first day. Therefore, I definitely recommend them, since they give everything a lot of thought and they are accustomed with all legal procedures, in particular regarding VISAs.