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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Geneva Getaway

During my freshman year as a physics major at UTD, I had taken an honors mechanics course with a fantastic professor named Dr. Joe Izen. Two weeks after spring semester ended, he left for Geneva, Switzerland on a year-long sabbatical. He worked on a project at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research and world-famous location of the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator and a theoretical physicist’s dream laboratory. However, we kept in contact through e-mail, talking about bicycle lane projects on the UT Dallas campus he would eventually come back to and my progress as a physics major. He even wrote the main professor’s recommendation for my successful Udall Scholarship application, all the way from Europe. However, perhaps the most exciting message came approximately a week after I arrived for my ten-week internship in the Netherlands:
“Well, you’re not too far away now and staying the entire summer! Would you be interested in coming to visit us at Geneva for a weekend?”
Opportunity’s knock drummed in my ears as I immediately logged onto easyjet.com and searched for a flight between Amsterdam and Geneva. Ninety dollars. It was almost too good to believe, only $90 between me, and CERN, and Switzerland.
My trip? Absolutely fantastic. A lot of school tours visit CERN, and students can walk through halls of old particle accelerators and see the progress of modern computing before their eyes. Did you know that the CERN campus was the birthplace of the World Wide Web? Nowadays, they have a direct working relationship with Intel and often beta-test their newest computer technology before it hits the market. And the second day, the tiny environmentalist inside me was completely captivated by the sight of Mer de Glace, a glacier in the French Alps. I was even more excited when I got to climb down to the icy wonderland and walk and jump all over it, taking photos as evidence that will be mere memories in 30 years’ time.
There was a small issue with locating the glacier at first, since it’s been receding for the past few decades and the original “view point” when you first cross the mountain ridge doesn’t provide much of a view anymore:
[donde esta glacier? Photo]
But ultimately, we were successful and another “Whoosh” site was found, right next to a deep crevasse.
[Whoosh! Glacier photo]

But I really don’t want this article to focus too much on the small, sight-seeing details of this trip. Although it was entirely unrelated to my internship, it fit perfectly according to my interests as a physics student and climate change researcher. I could spend my whole summer—and beyond—exploring every last nook and cranny and hydroengineering feature in the Netherlands, but then I would have missed out on this incredible opportunity to visit CERN and Mer de Glace. What I’m trying to recommend is, don’t get bogged down in the big picture of planning your whole semester and summer down to the wire, so that your eyes are shut to small, but significant opportunities like these. Take a leap and see what you make of it! At the very least, I hope this encourages you to strike up a conversation with (or e-mail) your honors mechanics (or equivalent) professor, and see how they’re doing.

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