'I gained a lot of confidence'


Claire Kaiser, at center, explores Heidelberg, Germany, with a group of Canadian, American and UK students she met through the DAAD-Rise program. At left below, Claire during a weekend trip to Amsterdam.

Sept. 11, 2015 --  “Every trip to the grocery store or to campus on the subway was such a departure from my normal life,” says Claire Kaiser, a sophomore in Biomedical Engineering who spent this summer as a DAAD-Rise scholar at Technischen Universität München (TUM) in Munich, Germany.

“At first I was self-conscious and uncomfortable talking, even though almost everyone spoke some English. But once I understood how to get around in the new culture, I gained a lot of confidence. I enjoy playing Ultimate Frisbee so I joined a league that met in the park twice a week, and that allowed me to meet some German students and other people from all over Europe!”

amsterdamAnd she got to do research in an area that interests her: medical imaging systems.

RISE Germany is a summer internship program for undergraduate students from the United States, Canada and the UK in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering. As the program’s website notes, RISE Germany offers opportunities for bachelor students to work with research groups at universities and top research institutions across Germany for a period of 3 months during the summer. RISE Germany interns are matched with doctoral students whom they assist and who serve as their mentors. Stipends and housing are provided.

Claire’s project involved a new 3D imaging technique called Cryo-Electron Tomography, which was developed to create 3d models of molecules, which can then be used in biological research. Because of some intrinsic defects in the imaging process, the 3D image is often warped, she explained. “My task was to research theoretical techniques for de-noising the 3D images, develop code based on the theories, and run simulations to determine which technique preformed best. My results were incorporated into an upcoming paper on the subject.”

As a result she gained a lot of exposure to a typical lab setting and the daily life of a Masters or PhD student, and also learned more computer programming and publication writing skills.

But the most valuable part of the experience, she says, was learning to get along  “in a totally new country where I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t speak the language.”

Claire said she chose DAAD-Rise because “I was interested in studying abroad but didn’t have any time in my schedule to take a semester abroad due to my demanding major and minor. This program allowed me to have a study abroad experience over the summer by combining a research position/internship with travel.” It also appealed to her because of the stipend it provided.

DAAD-Rise made it relatively easy to match up with a mentor. “The program is organized such that PhD students that want an English-speaking undergrad to help them over the summer submit a profile of their work. Then, as an undergrad, you can go through the submitted profiles and send applications to up to three PhD students whose work interests you.”

The program also holds a conference where its scholars share what they are doing and learn about further DAAD opportunities. “I met a great group of Canadian, American and UK students during the program and really enjoyed exploring the small town of Heidelberg with them,” Claire said. “We got along so well that a few of them came to visit Munich the next month.”