Monthly Archives: February 2018

Secondment in Brazil

Panos Kirmizakis, an ESR at Queen’s University Belfast, travelled with Dr Ulrich Ofterdinger to Sao Paulo for a secondment. Here are his thoughts on what seems like a very valuable experience!

The benefits of an overseas placement are numerous, including the opportunity to travel and develop your career simultaneously. Secondments to participants in our network give us the opportunity to gain skills in techniques and technologies not available to us in our host labs, ensure the multidisciplinary nature of our training, whilst also broadening our outlook and exposing us to other academic and non-academic environments to improve our employability.
I completed my first secondment at the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Sao Paulo, one of the leading academic and research centers in Brazil. Professor Carlos Alberto Mendonça kindly gave us the opportunity to connect with USP students working in applied geophysics and participating in the Geophysical Summer School on current topics in groundwater geophysics. The aim of my secondment, in collaboration with USP, was to start a pilot project with the Department of Environmental Engineering at the Piaget de Suzano Faculty. The project that is being developed in Suzano deals with methodologies for remediation of areas contaminated by organic compounds, with risks of contamination of groundwater or of methane generation and escape through soil. Circular experimental cells were installed on campus, with monitoring instrumentation, physical-chemical and biological analyses.


As well as that, Dr Ulrich Ofterndinger and I got the chance to present the REMEDIATE project and spoke with Piaget de Suzano students and professors.


Sao Paulo is incredibly diverse, boasting large communities from Portugal, Italy, Bolivia, and Japan (Sao Paulo has the world’s largest Japanese population outside of Japan) among many others. This makes Sao Paulo feel like dozens of cities rolled into one, meaning there is always something to suit everyone’s tastes. It follows that Sao Paulo would have a diverse and exciting nightlife. The richness of alternative culture in the city is hard to beat anywhere in the world, and one could go out every weekend for months in Sao Paulo without ever doing the same thing twice. Events take place each week that encapsulate different music styles, cultural scenes, themes and settings: there really is something for everyone.


I could not fail to mention the Carnival in Sao Paulo. The city’s Carnival may not have the same reputation as Rio but does know how to throw a party during the Carnival. Big events with samba schools, parties on the streets with many blocos or street parades.


After 30 fruitful days, I headed back towards Belfast, aware of having gained skills for continuing my work and a consolidated friendship with many people there.

Turin network meeting – November ’17

Remediate welcomes a new ESR to the project: Matthias Metzger is working at DCU, and his first impressions of us were formed at the network meeting in Turin!

First Remediate group meeting in Turin, Italy

After the warm welcome I received via Whatsapp and Twitter, I really looked forward to the Remediate group meeting on the 23rd and 24th November in Turin, Italy. I joined up with Coren and Peter on the flight from Dublin to Milan and we shared a rental car to Turin. Shortly after arriving in Milan, we noticed the smog that engulfed the city and most of the countryside. The locals told us that it was becoming a real problem and that they were hoping for strong rain and winds to clear the sky once again.

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Turin itself is a lovely city with lots of very old culture, architecture and history. It was also much less crowded than expected and had a brilliant public transportation system that could get you anywhere for just €1.50.

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photo 5Typically German, I arrived too early for the meeting, but soon met up with all the other ESRs and supervisors. It was great to finally meet everyone whom I only knew by Whatsapp or email. The presentations were very interesting and it was great to see so many people of different cultures and backgrounds working together towards a common goal. I also gained a bit of inspiration for my own project and hope to be working closely with some of the other ESRs in the near future. On the second day of the meeting we had the opportunity to meet some of the people from SMART GROUND and discuss possible ways of improving our respective work or even working together.

All of us were eternally grateful to Giovanna for organising the delicious group dinner and the lovely tour of the city, with the hot chocolate coffee at the end. Turin is a place to remember and revisit.

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To get the most of our trip to Italy, Peter, Coren and I took an extra day to visit Acqui Terme, to the south east of Turin. It is a nice little town with the ca. 75 °C hot spring “Fontana della Bollente” and a lovely restaurant where we had an unforgettable Lunch.

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All in all it was a great experience and I look forward to the next meeting in Germany. Hopefully I’ll be able to show the group some of the great things about my home country as well.