Tag Archives: Lehigh

Das Orchester

What’s fantastic about having this internship and basically living on campus is that I can still be involved in Lehigh activities.  For instance, the Lehigh Philharmonic Orchestra had a concerto concert this February where ambitious student musicians played orchestra-accompanied solo pieces.  Here are me and my fellow flute players, who, along with the rest of the orchestra, accompanied the prodigies that performed:


I will absolutely miss orchestra when I go abroad.  Even though three hours a week is a heavy commitment, it is worth being able to rehearse amongst the violins and violas in Baker Hall.

Having not been in an orchestra until coming to Lehigh, I remember when I first heard everyone warming up on stage.  Not only was I ecstatic about making the cut, I was super intimidated because of how amazing everybody sounded.  But above all of these feelings, I felt so relieved that I was going to be a part of a musical organization for another four years of my life.  Playing in orchestra is the ultimate stress reliever (as long as you practice so you’re good enough to not be stressed during rehearsal) because the music kind of envelopes you like a giant supportive and comforting cloud.  I’ve definitely gained some insight into the world of classical music over these past three years too, in addition to learning from my uber talented peers.  This past fall, we played Symphony No. 7 by Shostakovich, which was basically the music-form diary of his survival in war-stricken Leningrad during WWII.  It’s really amazing learning the history of the composers whose pieces we play, because it gives you that much more attachment to the piece.

Hopefully in Freiburg, Germany during study abroad, even though I won’t be in an orchestra, I’ll still be able to play my flute!  I have this horrifying image of a native German rapping on my door, pointing to my flute, and sternly saying, “nein!”  So, we’ll see if I have the guts to try playing or not!


Some Data and Muir Woods

This weekend we took a road trip up the 101 (yes, that’s the highway quoted in the song California by Phantom Planet) to the San Francisco Bay Area where the Redwood trees grow.  We found ourselves walking through Muir Woods, gazing up at these 200 foot trees the writer and conservationist John Muir wrote poems about a hundred years ago.  He’s the one who said,”When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  How right he is!

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Fun fact: some of these redwoods have been standing for a thousand years and are pretty fire resistant thanks to their moist bark.

We also came across a sign indicating that the surrounding space is a “First Amendment Area”.  This must be where groups can stand to petition for their cause.  From my previous experience as a petitioner for the Food & Water Watch, I can say it would be nice if parks everywhere set aside a place like this for petitioners and speakers!  California and especially the Bay Area seem to be very forward-thinking compared to the rest of the United States, so I wasn’t too surprised to see a cool sign like this.

Our drive home on Highway 1 was breathtaking, both because of the beautiful scenery and the fact that our car could fall off a cliff if the driver tried to appreciate the view with the rest of us.

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The picture on the right is a similar view off of California Highway 1 after the clouds rolled in.  You literally cannot tell how high up you are and feel like you’re floating in the sky.

Back on the ground, there have been some discoveries made with the phytoremediation plants.  The three native California plants I have been working with–Coyote Brush, Mulefat, and Purple Needlegrass–were tested to see which chemicals they were emitting and if these chemicals happened to be the organic contaminants from the soil they were planted in or not.  It turns out, my method of capturing volatilized chemicals worked, because the gas chromatogram showed peaks for molecules that plants are known to emit!  Of these are stearic and oleic acid, which are fatty acids, and D-Limonine, an essential oil.  This is what one of my chromatograms looked like.  Each peak indicates a chemical that was essentially volatilized by the plant.Sorbent In

And this is what the computer tells you when you click on a peak:


To me, it’s so exciting to be able to determine what chemicals an unknown sample consists of.  All you have to do is run it through the GC-MS and voila, the database lists all of the possibilities of what the chemical could be.  The crazy looking molecule pictured above is Stigmastan-3,5-diene, an antimicrobial compound found in tree roots and emitted by the plants I was testing!

Though none of the organic contaminants were captured, establishing a working system for determining what the plants give off was a necessary step.  Next, some independent variables will be changed in order to increase the likelihood of capturing a contaminant from the soil that the plants are potentially phytovolatilizing.

Horizons End

I have greatly enjoyed my time here in Abu Dhabi. There are definitely many new buildings and opportunities arising out of this desert, changing and creating new horizons. It is amazing how much the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have grown in just a few decades of time. From small desert outposts to growing international communities. There are people working and living in Abu Dhabi from every known corner of the world. It has been wonderful to spend time learning from and talking to people from other places and other cultures. As much as I have enjoyed seeing and learning about the architecture and structures in the UAE, it is the people I met here that I will miss the most.

Kalifa Port End

Although figuratively for me since, it is also nearing the end of my trip here to the UAE. This is the end of Abu Dhabi Island. Literally, these rocks prevent the sand from eroding away at the end of the Khalifa Port. They also provide a beautiful view for sitting down and looking out at the Arabian Gulf.

As it is with most journeys then end of one, is also the beginning of another. There will be more horizons waiting back in the USA.

Al Bahr Towers – Gulf Facades

The Al Bahr Towers have a wonderful façade design for the climate here in Abu Dhabi. Designed by Aedas Architects and Arup Engineers worked together to design a folding active geometric patterned façade that actively moves throughout the day to block the sun from having a harsh direct impact on the building, but allowing a wonderful view out the windows when the sun is at an acceptable angle. I have had the opportunity to drive past these towers during different times of the day. Although unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good photo of it several times. I also learned that here in the Gulf region it is rather common for the architect to come up with a general façade concept and the sub contract out the actual technical design of the final façade. I don’t know how that worked for the Al Bahr Towers, but for many of the building surfaces here the facades can be quite complex.

Al Bahar Towers

Check out http://inhabitat.com/abu-dhabis-stunning-al-behar-towers-are-shaded-by-a-transforming-geometric-facade/ for more great info on the Al Bahr Towers.

FIFA World Cup – Congratulations Deutchland!

I watched the World Cup final from Stars and Bars on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi! Of course, since it is Ramadan there were no alcoholic drinks being served, but plenty of food and other refreshments since the game didn’t start till 11pm local time (well after sunset). It was a very good well played match on both sides. This was the first game I had watched in an American themed restaurant, so the game had already been on for several minutes before I realized that I could actually understand what the commentator was saying, because it was being broadcast in English! The few 8pm games that I had previously attempted watching were all broadcast in Arabic. Luckily, I do understand the basics of futbol, so that wasn’t necessary for me to understand what was going on. Although I think Argentina did well, I was glad to see Germany win especially since they had been playing well consistently through the entire tournament. 20140714_015219

Ramadan Kareem – UAE

Ramadan Kareem. Have a blessed Islamic holy month. Just like people put up Christmas lights everywhere to celebrate the Christmas Season in the USA, people also put up twinkling lights to wish each other a blessed and happy holy month of fasting and feasting in the UAE. These lights are usually in the shape of various phases on the moon, particularly the crescent. You will also find them wrapped around palm trees instead of around evergreens. The main tradition of Ramadan is fasting from all food and drink, including water, from sunrise to sunset. Followed by sunset and pre-sunrise feasts to celebrate with family and friends as well as to consume enough food to last for the next day of fasting. Also like you find in the USA not everyone is not celebrates the holiday, such as expats or any workers from other countries who may also hold other religious beliefs and Muslims who can not fast for medical reasons. However out of respect for those who are fasting, no one is permitted to eat in public. Hotels and international restaurants with blocked windows are still permitted to serve food to guests and residents who cannot be seen while they are eating. . . at least until sunset.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Burj Kalifa – Dubai, UAE

20140620_164548Honestly, I couldn’t call my civil engineering / architecture student visit to Dubai complete without visiting the top of the Burj Kalifa. At over 800 m tall the Burj Kalifa is currently the world’s tallest building with the highest outdoor observation deck located on its 124th floor. After the high speed elevator ride of 10 m/s I stepped out of the elevator to see nothing but sky through the giant panoramic windows. Stepping closer to the windows, I could see the city of Dubai far below me. Cars took on the scale of ants. All of the other tall buildings in the city looked like very well done architectural models. The tower itself rises in levels as it soars up to reach the sky. Held up by a buttressed core structural system. Check out the Burj Kalifa’s website with lots of cool information and facts about the building and its construction: http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/TheTower/TheTower.aspx20140620_181802

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