Metals, machines and microscopes – Katrin takes charge of her own experiments

First things I thought about Australia?

Australians are very open minded people. If you pass people in the street here, they are always asking, ‘How’s it going?’ and if you don’t reply, they’ll ask you again. I’ve also noticed that some people don’t wear shoes – probably because it’s often not that cold here. They even drive without shoes. In Germany, you would definitely get a fine for doing that.

As a part of my degree in Materials Engineering, I started writing my master’s thesis in May at the Institute for Frontier Materials at Deakin’s Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus. I was sick of investigating heterogeneous nucleation back in Germany without actually doing anything else at the same time.

Deakin's Waurn Ponds campus in Geelong

Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus in Geelong

My boss from my German university RWTH Aachen recommended Deakin University in Geelong, but I wasn’t quite convinced until he said that I could even use electron microscopes on my own. That’s it!

In Germany it’s common to let technicians do the major experimental work, which is why I would have only improved my Excel skills with squared eyes in front of the computer as I evaluated everything! Back in Germany, on one hand, it is easier to evaluate results of experiments that someone else conducted; however you don’t get to do those experiments yourself and therefore don’t get to see what is influencing the experiment.

It took me quite a while to settle in here and learn how things are going on the other side of the world – it got quite intense from time to time that cars drive on the WRONG side of the road. Geelong isn’t a big city like Melbourne, therefore, it is more personal and intimate. It is spread out so sometimes you have to take the bus to go somewhere. Geelong has lots to do and it is near the beach. I haven’t been to Melbourne yet because there is always something going on in Geelong, but at some point I would like to go.

Sitting on 'the Balconies' in the Grampians

Sitting on ‘the Balconies’ in the Grampians

People here are open-minded and happy to help, not really attributes I would link to Germans. The reason why you don’t learn the expression ‘no worries’ in school at home is probably because you have to worry about everything. In Australia, everything is bit more relaxed. I have found that being on time sometimes means people are five minutes late!

In regard to my project, I received a block of steel at the beginning to test the heck out of it. Therefore I needed to go through the whole process – rolling, cutting, polishing, testing and finally investigating the effects by microstructural analysis on a scanning electron microscope.

Sometimes I hate it. Sometimes I think my iPod playlist wants to give me a hint if suddenly a song of Rage Against the Machine starts. I often go through different emotions with my research – frustration, anger, sadness. But, my research also makes me super happy if it is a success and I appreciate that I have the opportunity to do the test and experiments on my own.

Sometimes it’s clear and sometimes it gets blurry in my mind, that it is all a progress. I reckon I’m lucky with my supervisors, as the German equivalents would have probably started to shake me at some point and ask the unpleasant “W” questions. In a few years I might review how that particular paper about ‘yield strength’ helped me broaden my horizon, but I will definitely never ever reset the load cell after clamping in my tensile sample…again!

Australia is a great place to stay. On the weekends I’ve made a lot of new experiences – climbing, surfing, hiking – things I haven’t really done before and are a lot of fun.

Australia is a great place to stay. On the weekends I’ve made a lot of new experiences – climbing, surfing, hiking – things I haven’t really done before and are a lot of fun.

Surfing with friend in Torquay

Surfing with friend in Torquay

Beautiful landscapes, animals like kangaroos and koalas, and a lot of other things are here to discover. And I arrived in winter – I’m already excited to get to know the Australian summer.

Despite the fact that insulating houses seems to be a no-go in Australia – a detail which means equal outside and inside temperatures – I haven’t regretted the decision to win the visa fight and leave my home from one day to the next, and I would definitely do it all again.

For further information about studying at Deakin and to view the many degrees on offer, visit our international student page.

You must be logged in to post a comment