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Real Time Feature Real Time Feature
March-April, 2003 - VOLUME 2, NUMBER 2

The French Connection

For the last several years, the CAER has participated in a student exchange program with a materials engineering school called the ESIREM at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France. Each year in February a small group of French students arrive at the Bluegrass Airport looking somewhat tired and bewildered. CAER representatives greet them and take them to their lavish student apartments here at the University of Kentucky. After recovering from their initial shock, the students sleep about 24 hours and head to the university with the CAER's personnel representative who helps them untie the red tape that could easily bind them together as they negotiate administrative procedures.

When they finally reach the lab, they are assigned a mentor/supervisor who trains them and guides their work for the next five months. Because these are materials science students, they tend to work in the Carbon Materials and Clean Fuels and Chemicals Groups.

Over the years, the staff has come to adopt each set of "French kids." One of our engineers actually sold them his car. Now, each new group buys it from the group who owned it the previous year. When the students are away, it is housed behind the lab and staff members take turns starting it occasionally and maintaining it.

The first year of the program, the director picked the students up at the airport and discovered when they arrived at their apartments that they had no bed linens or towels. He called his wife, who took their children's bed sheets and quickly came over to set them up. Looking over the collection of household items that have been handed down from one group to the next, I see my grandmother's frying pan, our librarian's mop, a television from one of the scientists, and miscellaneous odds and ends. When last February's ice storm knocked out most power in Lexington, one scientist who lives in Frankfort, gathered the students up and brought them to his house to live for a week!

The cross-cultural exchanges work both ways. Last year one of the students taught my then eight-year-old daughter to make crepes. The student said, "In France all children know how to make crepes." Now my daughter makes both dinner and dessert crepes for us - and currently wants to be a pastry chef when she grows up.

In addition to bringing a better understanding between our institutions of higher learning, the program has made parents - or at least ambassadors -- of many of us at the lab.

The students leave in June, returning to France with both professional and personal stories that they will always retain. The following September they deliver presentations on their work to their advisors, faculty members, and the department chair. This is their last step toward graduation.

Their experiences may best be described in their own words. Click below to read what the 2003 students have to say about their time here so far.

Marybeth McAlister

Emilie Chenu
Francois Liblin
Bruno Nasone
Ouria Slimane

Emilie Chenu

I'm working on fuel cell reformers during my internship at the CAER. The aim of my study is to find the most efficient and cheapest metal, which is able to catalyze the water gas-shift reaction. This reaction transforms the carbon monoxide produced at the same time as the hydrogen in carbon dioxide. So in order to know the best metal, we use the BET method to determine the best surface area.

I'm from a little town near Paris named Saint-Chéron. I lived there for 20 years. Then I left it in order to do my studies in Dijon (3 years), just before coming here. After finishing my work in Kentucky, I'm going to complete my education with one more year of study in business management.

The biggest adjustment to America was the size of all things, because here all things are bigger than in France. It's why US is so impressive.

Francois Liblin

I'm Francois Liblin, I will be 23 years old on May.12th. I come from France where I live in a little village near Saintes, in Charente-Maritime. It's about 40km from the Atlantic Ocean, and 30km from the famous town of Cognac. Since September 2000 I have been in Dijon, in Burgundy, a famous region for its wines, in order to study material sciences and will graduate as an engineer in October, 2003. But in order to graduate I have to do an internship.

That's why I'll be at the Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) in Lexington, Kentucky from February.5th to June.30th. I'm working on the surface treatment of nanotubes by steam or chemical activation. Specifically, I have to do experiments to find the best way to achieve a high surface area and specific components on the surface of the nanotubes. Working in this place is very interesting because nanotubes are new for me, but I try to use my competencies and share my experiences with a great team to finish this project.

Otherwise, I'm very happy to study and to live in the USA, and in Kentucky, the Bluegrass State. And even if sometimes I miss my family and my friends from France, everyday I try to enjoy life in the USA because there are a lot of things to do here. For example I went to watch horse racing for the first time at Keeneland, to a hockey game to support the "Man O' War", and to a Mexican restaurant. And in fact I met very nice people at work, in Commonwealth Village where I live, and in bars and in clubs as well. In April I was in Chicago and had very good time. It was unbelievable to be in this town because when I was younger I couldn't imagined that one day I would be in one of the tallest towers of the world, looking like a child at the billions of points lighting up Chicago at night.

And I have a lot of projects for the 90 days that I will have to live in the USA. I plan to go to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, to see the Statue of Liberty in New York, and to visit the Capitol in Washington D.C.

Thank you USA for being so nice a country!

Bruno Nasone

I work with the clean fuels and chemical group. My supervisor is Mark Crocker and my project deals with desulfurization for fuel cell processing. The fuel cells' catalyst (platinum) doesn't allow sufficient amounts of sulfur. More specifically, I study the characteristics of anionic clays that are known to be carbon dioxide sorbent and consequently may work well for sulfur.

I come from Quimper in Brittany on the west of France near the Atlantic Ocean. I am here for my internship thanks to my engineering school in Dijon, ESIREM.

When we arrived in Kentucky we received an exceptional welcome from all the staff, especially Rob Spicer and Dennis Sparks, who welcomed us at the airport after midnight! We had missed our airplane at Atlanta earlier that day, so we were very late. In the time we've been in Kentucky, we have known a special climate, especially the ice storm two months ago and now we have a climate which can be compared to the summer climate in France.

We live in a student residence where we have met a lot of people from other foreign countries and we share our different cultures: it's a human experience. Because of these things, the adaptation was easy for me and even though I obviously miss my family and my friends, I really enjoy Kentucky. At the end of my internship, my friends and I will travel around the U.S. for three weeks. When I go back in France I will look for a job as an engineer in the field of research and development in materials.

Ouria Slimane

I'm completing my internship in the Carbon Group at the CAER. The broad objective of my project is to determine whether the introduction of Fuzzy Fibers (quartz fibers on which carbon nanotubes grow) into a polymer matrix would have a significant effect upon its physical properties. The study is carried out by fabricating varying concentrations of Fuzzy Fibers with epoxy resin and characterizing them.

I come from France. I used to live in a little town called Montbrison with my family, but three years ago I left in order to go to Dijon for my studies. I'm an engineering student in Materials Science at the University of Burgundy in Dijon. In order to graduate, I must do an internship for five months. I chose to do it here because I think this is a good opportunity for me to improve my knowledges in polymer composites and my English skills, but it's also a good opportunity to discover another culture.

Actually, I do not know yet what I want to do later. After my internship, I will go back to France and look for a job there. I'm very interested in research, so I would be very happy to find a job in the field of polymers, where I could do research and development new materials.

I'm glad to be here in Bluegrass Country. Everybody is very kind, and very helpful to me. I've met nice people at work and in the Commonwealth Village, the residence where I live. There is always something to do here. I went for the first time to the horse races at KEENELAND and to a hockey game to support the Lexington Team, Men o'War. I also went to Chicago. It was wonderful even if the weather was cold. I was very impressed because everything is much bigger than in France. Even walking down the street is impressive because of the skyscrapers surrounding you. I went to the highest level of the second tallest building of the world. All the lights of the city were on, and the view was splendid!!!