Internship on the intersection of biology and electrical engineering.


Hi all, my name is Victor, I am a 4th year electrical engineering student from UFMG in Brazil. At the moment I am in Breda, the Netherlands, on an internship at MNEXT (Materials and Energy Transition), a group that is part of Avans University of Applied Sciences and HZ University of Applied Sciences. 

Back in Brazil I first heard about Living Lab Brazil by a friend who participated in the program, I asked him about the details, because I always had the dream to have experiences abroad, then I decided to apply, even though, at first, I couldn’t see much correlation between the topics presented and my studies. In my course, the interface between the biology and electrical studies is not really worked, despite that, I had an interest in developing new skills. So, when I discovered the Smart Energy department, a department that would work mostly on the energy transition at MNEXT, I decided to apply for topics in that subject as it would feel closer to my background. 

In the end, I was selected for research on the effects of electrical treatment in mycelium bio composites. Mycelium is the underground network of fungi and when grown in a substrate in a desired shape, it can form a resistant material. This was interesting for me because it would allow me to use my background knowledge to find better results. At first, it was a bit overwhelming with so many new information, but I was kindly helped by Sander, Stefano and Ilse, my supervisors. Afters this first adaptation, I was able to apply all my knowledge for the research and start experimenting on the lab, which you can see in the image with one of my supervisors, Ilse Rovers. 

Before getting to the Netherlands, I had to talk to my school to understand how I could deal an internation internship, the rules, and the preparations I needed for them. Later, I registered and sent all the documents so that I could apply for the Visa and later pick it up. Lastly, I had to apply for housing and packed everything to fly. 

The first impressions of the Netherlands were that it would be a bit too cold and sad because of the almost always cloudy weather. However, that was just the first impression, because when I met the people, all changed, I was so well welcomed that all the winter weather went by quickly and I was able to adapt. Also, once you are settled you can explore more the Dutch culture and its beautiful places. The experience has been amazing, I learned so much from the people and the problems I had to face here. Also, as a non-Dutch speaker I thought I would have more trouble communicating, but everyone here speaks good English. 

If I could give you any advice for further interns, especially those coming from a distant background from biology or chemistry, is that your knowledge will be valuable here and you will be able to add a lot to the research you are involved in, also you will be helped by the amazing professionals that work here. Smart Energy was a nice surprise for me as I was able to find myself among people from a closer background at the same time I was dealing with biologists. If you are interested, prepare your rain coat and warm up your legs for cycling and then you will have an amazing experience. 


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