Himmelbjergegnens Natur-og Idrætsefterskole

As a PhD student in my first year at Victoria University of Wellington, my research is primarily focused on modeling the melting of small gallium clusters (30-55 atoms). I recently had the pleasure of embarking on a two-continent, monthplus journey as part of my PhD professional development. I started the journey visiting our experimental counterparts at Indiana University and finished with a two-week stint at the Sostrup Computational Quantum  Chemistry Summer School sponsored by Aarhus University in Denmark. It was a journey that spanned not only two continents but also the experimental to theoretical/computational spectrum of science.

At Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, I had the pleasure of visiting Martin Jarrold’s experimental chemistry group. The Jarrold group has done extensive work on experimentally measuring the melting transitions of small metal clusters (gallium, aluminium, tin, and currently silver). I was able to observe the melting experiments real-time which was incredibly helpful to my overall understanding of their work. Their “melting apparatus” includes a vacuum chamber, pulsed laser, two mass spectrometers and more knobs and buttons than I could imagine. To a computational physicist who spends much time manipulating (albeit complex) data and code streaming through her terminal, it was quite an impressive assembly. With the help of Professor Jarrold and two PhD students working under his supervision (Katie Leslie and Oscar Judd), I learned a great deal about the experimental process that delivers a large portion of our data.

In addition to great science and the Jarrold group’s generosity and kindness, Bloomington is a charming Midwestern town. Many town and campus buildings are limestone, which among the green of the surrounding vegetation looks both beautiful and classic.

Following the Indiana visit, I left the US for my summer course in Denmark. I spent two nights in Copenhagen before catching a train to Ry, a small town in the Danish countryside near Aarhus. Copenhagen is a very beautiful city with more to see than possible during even an extended visit.

The summer school was held at a small school about 7.5 km west of Ry called Himmelbjergegnens Natur-og Idrætsefterskole!! The professors hosting the school are “giants” within the computational quantum chemistry field and authors of one of its more respected texts (Molecular Electronic- Structure Theory) – Trygve Helgaker from the University of Oslo, and Poul Jørgensen and Jeppe Olsen from Aarhus University. There was also a surprise guest lecture from Jürgen Gauss, University of Mainz. The course was packed with both ”computational techniques” and ”quantum chemistry theory,” consisting of 46 lectures and 23 hours of exercises covering electronic structure theory and calculation of molecular properties.

The course was a lot of work but also a lot of fun! Professor Helgaker’s motto, ”work hard, play hard” became the theme for most of the students … and I must admit that I laughed and talked late into many nights with fellow students. We all agreed that formulating connections for future collaborations was a very important part of the summer school experience.

I would like to thank the MacDiarmid Institute, the Marsden Fund and my two supervisors, Nicola Gaston and Shaun Hendy for this wonderful opportunity. I learned more than I thought possible in such a short period of time and had a lot of fun while doing it.