Short Stay in Mulhouse (January 15 to February 1, 2009)


J@E@ Somlak Ittisanronnachai
Research at Institut de Chimie des Surfaces et Interfaces, Mulhouse, France
This program was a kind of three-year research exchange between Institut de Chimie des Surfaces et Interfaces in Mulhouse, France (Institute) and Kyotani Laboratory of Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan (our lab). We shared information and discussed how to produce carbon nanotubes by using anodic aluminum oxide (AAO) film as a template and how to put protein into the tubes for biological applications. The preparation of carbon nanotubes was performed by our lab and how to put protein into the tubes was the responsibility of the Mulhouse Institute. As part of our program to exchange data and ideas about research, staff members and students of our two organizations visited each other's laboratories for short periods of time. In the last year of this program, one Master degree student (Kanno) and I were assigned to do research at Mulhouse. Firstly, I prepared 150nm diameter carbon nanotubes embedded in AAO films (C/AAO) and took them with me to Mulhouse. Then at Mulhouse, VJ (postdoctoral fellow at the Institute), Kannosan and I did experiments together. Briefly, solutions of two types of proteins (BSA and cytochrome c) in PBS were prepared at various concentrations: 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0. 4, 0.6, 0.8 and 1 wt%. Then the BSA or cytochrome c was adsorbed into the tubes by dropping an excess amount of protein solution onto the top of C/AAO. This film was then incubated at 23oC for 3 h followed by washing with PBS solution 3 times and drying in air overnight. Finally, the amount of adsorbed protein was analyzed by temperature programmed desorption /mass spectrometry (TPD/MS) analysis. Because both proteins contain sulfur, H2S was generated by heating in the TPD reactor and detected by MS. Thus, the amount of absorbed protein could be determined from the amount of the detected H2S. The TPD experiment was done with Sappi (technician at the Institute). Some possible applications of this research are as follows: 1.) protein immobilization for biosensors, biochips, bioreactors and many diagnostic techniques; 2.) membrane based separation process (for use in dialyzer to clean the blood of kidney disease patients); 3. bio-compatible materials (drug delivery devices); 4.) various other applications. In addition, I also shared my knowledge by giving a presentation entitled "Functionalization of Water-Dispersible Carbon Nano-Test-tubes by the Insertion of Other Material into Their Cavities" in front of the Institute's members. After finishing my presentation, they asked many questions. They were really curious about how we easily can put permalloy and polymer into nano-spaces of carbon.
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Logistics of stay in Mulhouse
1. Visa.
Even for a short stay in France (less than 3 months), a visa was required in my case (but not for Japanese). Who requires a visa is determined by several factors. Information on this can be found at the following website: http://www.ambafrance-jp.org. Getting a French visa was somewhat difficult for me. It took a few months of planning and emailing and document-gathering before I was finally able to be interviewed at the French Consulate. I would like to share a little advice that might be helpful for others.
1) You should have all the documents (original ones) needed for going to France before going to interview for a visa. If some documents are lacking, they will ask you to send them later.
2) It is better to buy refundable airplane/train tickets because if your visa application is denied, you can ask for a refund. In case you have to travel from one hotel to another in France by using a train or an airplane, they will ask you to show your train/airplane tickets on the day of the interview.
3) You need to have your hotel reservation document received from the hotel where you are going to stay.

2. Hotel.
We flew from Narita International Airport by Air France on January 15, 2009. We arrived at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport that same night. From the airport, it took about 40 minutes by train to get to the hotel named "Timhotel Gare Nu Nord in Paris". This hotel is a little far from the center of Paris (71.25 ? per night including breakfast). The Eiffel Tower is about 1 hour southwest of the hotel by train. On the second day, we took the TGV (like a shinkansen in Japan) from Paris East Station to go to Mulhouse Ville Station. Phillip (2nd year PhD student from the Institute) picked us up at the station and took us to the Centre Sportif Regional Alsace where we were going to stay while in Mulhouse. Including breakfast, it cost 26 ? per night. To the institute, it is only a 10-minute walk from the Sports Center. Cathie Vix-Guterl (head of the Institute) and Nathalie (staff member at the Institute) kindly made room reservations at the sports center and took care us during our stay in Mulhouse.

Party and Travelling
Every Friday morning, everyone in the Institute always has breakfast together. Two volunteers (anyone from the Institute) have to prepare food such as bread, cake, pie, etc., and bring them to share with everyone. Kanna san and I had a chance to participate in this kind of party two times. I feel that it is a good idea to hold such a gathering: everyone can enjoy eating and talking. That makes them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. VJ and Geninar (2nd year PhD student) invited us to their house to have a dinner once. On our last day at the Institute, Cathie and Roger (researcher) invited us for lunch at a famous restaurant. In the evening we went for dinner at a restaurant in town with students from the Institute. We appreciated their kindness. Mulhouse, located in eastern France, is not widely known to foreigners but it is a quiet, beautiful and safe city. People here are kind and have smiling faces. There are famous museums such as train and car museums. Each year more than 200,000 people visit one of the world's most prestigious car museums named "Cite de l'Automobile" in Mulhouse. Bugatti, Rolls-Royces, Ferrari, Panhard, Mercedes and other car enthusiasts can admire some 400 models made by over one hundred European manufacturers in 17,000 m2 of exhibition space. Another big city, located in northeastern France close to border with Germany, is Strasbourg. It can be reached in 1 h by train from Mulhouse. You can experience a mixture of traditional French and German life styles, enjoy original dishes, and see Strasbourg Cathedral. Beside this, you can take a boat ride along the Ill River to admire the Grande Ile which was declared to be a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988.
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Words of Thanks
I feel very fortunate to have been chosen to be a representative from our lab to do research in Institut de Chimie des Surfaces et Interfaces. I am truly grateful that during my time in Mulhouse every Institute's member warmly welcomed me. I could make friends from different countries and learn about different cultures. My stay in France was definitely a once in a life time opportunity and a memorable experience.