Winter is Coming – by Stefan De Raedemaeker, RADMEP Intake 2021-2023

In the previous blog post I left off by telling you about the courses we had thus far and our first experiences there after three months of studying and living in Jyväskylä. I also promised to show you the beautiful snow landscapes we were going to see, so let me start with that.

Some of us from the RADMEP programme decided to go on a Lapland trip at the end of November to explore the “true” Finnish experience. After a long bus drive of more than 12 hours, we arrived in a world where no words exist to describe it. Words such as cold, white and untouched nature loose completely their meaning after being there. Do you know that the Finnish language has 40 different words for describing snow and ice substances? And we could clearly see where they got the inspiration for that, snow is a way too big umbrella-term to describe so many different shades of white and different watery textures!

Two igloos in Rovaniemi, Finland. © Stefan De Raedemaeker

Besides seeing snow everywhere we looked, there were some other surprises for us in Lapland. For example while trying to sleep on the tour bus (which was not so easy) the bus needed to emergency brake to avoid a collision with wild reindeer on the highway – twice!  But we were lucky and didn’t have an accident. But at some point on the trip we saw reindeer we could get close to and even take a sledge trip behind!

Reindeer pulling a sledge in Rovaniemi, Finland. © Stefan De Raedemaeker

One of the other things we really wanted to experience in Lapland is to see the northern lights, and we got really lucky with that too. We saw the magical phenomenon while swimming in a Norwegian fjord at -20°C, after which we went back inside the sauna because it’s way too cold outside of course!

The Northern lights above a fjord at -20°C, Norway. © Stefan De Raedemaeker

Beside swimming in the freezing cold water, we walked for hours in the white nature. We needed some adaptation in our clothing such as wearing extra socks, mittens, snow-boots and way more layers than we ever expected could be possible.

Walking trough untouched snow landscape © Stefan De Raedemaeker

Alright, I think my promise of talking about snow is fulfilled now I guess? Time to move my story back to Jyväskylä and the university, because the study is still the main reason of the whole RADMEP programme.

Back home in Jyväskylä there was also a permanent layer of snow for the rest of the semester, but luckily the temperatures were more “mild” and our extreme clothing style was not needed anymore. The view from the university was breathtaking, looking over the frozen lake with people skating on it and snow falling at the windows.

You would be excused for thinking for a moment we were in Finland only to enjoy the fantastic nature, culture and snow landscapes, but we also did some studying and experiments too of course!

The most important course in the second part of the semester was Applied Semiconductor Physics, which provided a deep dive in the fascinating world of how semiconductor materials behave in different situations. It gave us a strong and comprehensive understanding of the subject and is undoubtedly a core piece of knowledge we need to understand in the microelectronics and photonics fields.

Another important course was our first RADMEP Workshop, which is about the different kinds of radiation, the defects that can occur in electronic devices and how to test and simulate them. We even did some experiments with a radioactive source to determine the impact of ionization on a memory chip. This is also a core knowledge piece to understand in our field, and in the third workshop at CERN we will have a week of hand-on simulations for this type of characterization.

In December the end of the semester was getting close, which meant that we needed to do some exams to prove that we had learned something. We were used to the method of Finnish examination, and everything went very smooth. This meant that we could all enjoy our last week of the year with a good feeling, and celebrate with friends and family. Some of us went briefly home, while others did some traveling in Europe. But in the back of our mind we were already thinking about the next semester at KU Leuven in Belgium.

Winter landscape in Jyväskylä area. © Stefan De Raedemaeker

We needed to be in Belgium at the beginning of the new year, making it a little logistic exercise for some of us to get all our snow-proof clothes shipped to Belgium. While settling in our new student homes in Geel we had already our second RADMEP workshop, this time a full week of courses all about photonics and optics. Professors and experts in this field from the Free University of Brussels (VUB), University of Ghent (Ugent), Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) and Université Jean Monnet (UJM) came to the city of Geel on our technology campus to give us a dive into the wonderful world of photonic systems, chips and sensors. At the end of the week some of us were doubting our choice of specializing in microelectronics instead of photonics, so captivating and interesting were the topics handled in the lectures.

Luckily we got some weeks off after that to recover from that very intensive workshop week.

The new semester in Geel started on the 14th of February, and it promises to be a very interesting semester with a lot of hands-on experience on analog and digital chip design.

I will keep you informed with a next blog post about our (study) adventures in Belgium!

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