The program offered by the University of Stuttgart and organised by SFB 1313 in collaboration with the Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman, MT, USA, has the goal to connect young academics with similar research interests on an international level and give insights into the everyday student and research life of the partner university. Among the participants of this year's program were Master’s students and PhD candidates in the field of environmental, civil, mechanical and chemical engineering.
According to the program's plan, the participants from Bozeman visited the Department of Hydromechanics and Modelling of Hydrosystems of the University of Stuttgart and SFB 1313 in May/June 2023 (Review). In October it was time for the group from Stuttgart to visit the Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE) at the MSU in Bozeman. The scheduled workshops, laboratory tours and excursions aimed to give insights into the scientific possibilities of the CBE, bring students into contact with research on an international level, improving their writing and presentation skills, and of course to give insights into cultural aspects of the US-American partner university MSU. Hereby, the Stuttgart group thanks SFB 1313 external partner and Mercator Fellow Prof. Em. Al Cunningham and Assoc. Prof. Stephan Warnat and the entire CBE team for the excellent organization of the week’s program and for hosting the group from Stuttgart.
Among the numerous visited laboratories was a highly equipped cleanroom, which is used among others to manufacture microfluidic chips with different structures to mimic various real-life flow scenarios in porous media, e.g., flow through sand grains in subsurface soil layers. This comes in handy to investigate biofilm growth in the said soil layers. To do so, distinct imaging techniques are provided by the Bioimaging Facility of the CBE. The group from Stuttgart got an extended elaboration about the growth of biofilms and the possibilities on how to image them from Asst. Prof. Heidi Smith, manager of the CBE Bioimaging Facility. Numerous other laboratories were visited to give insights into current research activities at the MSU/CBE ranging from the Subzero Research Laboratory used to investigate for instance glacier drill-cores to MICP facilities currently used to investigate the sealing of fractured shale rock.
In the middle of the week, Stephan Warnat took all participants on an excursion to the world-famous Yellowstone National Park. Related to the CBE, the group stopped at the Mammoth Hot Springs where huge areas of different colored biofilm can be seen. Each color represents a different bacterial colony and hence a different environment regarding temperature and flow velocities.
During the stay at the CBE, the participants of the program took part in a writing workshop where various strategies for writing scientific texts were discussed and applied to the current works of the participants. The writing course was given by Erin Strickland, the manager of the MSU Writing Center. Jill Story, the graphic designer of the CBE, gave a workshop regarding graphical thinking. The goal was to improve the skills of the participants in presenting their work, especially with regard to the frequently required graphical abstracts for paper submission. Part of the workshop was attending a seminar talk given by Asst. Prof. Laura K. Jennings to discuss afterward her meaningful use of graphical elements and what could be improved.
On the last day of the week, all participants got the opportunity to present their research topics while keeping the learned aspects of the workshop in mind. The participants and the program’s supervisors gave direct feedback with regard to the presentation technique and use of graphical elements. The official program closed with a lunch with the dean of the faculty where all participants had the possibility to share their impressions collected during the two workshop weeks in Bozeman and Stuttgart. To wrap up a week filled with new insights and impressions the group was invited for an all-American BBQ at the beautiful family cabin of SFB 1313 external partner Assoc. Prof. Adrienne Phillips (CBE) on the mountainside close to Bozeman.