Sweden via Istanbul – Stuck in Transit

Hello everyone,

My name is Sahl Sadeghi and I am a PhD student in the FoodSmartphone project that focuses on “Plasmonic Imaging Smart Phones”. I will be working within the Optical Device Laboratory at Linköping University as ESR9. Since I am not in Sweden yet due to never-ending visa formalities, which does not allow me to report on my first weeks of research in Sweden, I am taking this opportunity to introduce myself to all of you, to share my impressions of the project and my current involvement in it from afar, and, lastly, I would like to give you some information about the mesmerizing place I currently live in.

Once upon a time, my scientific journey started with a vivid interest in the energy conversion sector, especially in the way in which internal combustion engines, automotive industry and renewable energy interconnect as the backbone of our modern industries. It goes without saying that I had to learn more about these fields, which led me to complete an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. One thing led to another, and here I was in Turkey pursuing a graduate degree focusing on fuel cells. My master’s in material science began with polymer synthesis, something that would have never crossed my mind during my undergraduate studies, but which also happens to be a topic that I soon became very passionate about. Additionally, I learnt a great deal about organic chemistry, especially because my supervisor was a chemist and we somehow had to speak the same language. This immersion in organic chemistry led to exciting discoveries for me, enabling me to know more about the building blocks of life: proteins, RNA, and DNA. From organic chemistry to biology there is a very short path, so I started to educate myself more about biology, not only because of the fascinating intricacies of the living matter, but also because of its resemblance to machines that never ceases to intrigue modern science. Equally intrigued, I began thinking of ways in which I could connect my engineering skills to biological applications, and this materialized itself in my second master’s degree focusing on lab-on-chip devices for cancer studies, which was successfully completed just recently. (The aftermath of both master theses in 2016 and 2017 – in vino veritas.)

  IMG-20160809-WA005  IMG-20170731-WA0008

Although, at first glance, the FoodSmartphone project  seemed to revolve around another high-tech gadget feeding into the current compulsive technomania, I found it to be a very intellectually stimulating project that holds the promise of revolutionizing the way we employ technology as a means to meet our most basic needs. Henry Kissinger once said: “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people,” which points to the ever-growing concern about food as a power-infused tool even in the 21st century. It is, therefore, our duty now more than ever before to bring our own contribution to the creation of a a new generation of consumers who are not only more in control of their own food choices, but also consumers who become more concerned about the ethical practices or lack thereof in the global food network.

Secondly, another thrilling aspect of being a part of this European project is the opportunity to join a large research team bringing together researchers of various expertise. The internationality and interdisciplinarity of the whole enterprise is bound to result in extremely fruitful collaborations, and I can hardly wait to get started on this vibrant exchange of ideas and knowledge.

It was very unfortunate that I could not participate in the Summer School in Wageningen due to visa delays, but I hope that during the next ESR meeting I can finally  meet all of you personally. As previously mentioned, I am currently still going through visa formalities which are daunting but not uncommon for Iranians, so I am trying to stay positive. Meanwhile, with the help of Prof. Filippini from Linköping University, I am already deeply immersed in the beauty of optical designs, while also avidly reading some related scientific papers, so I am keeping busy despite being away.

While you were all in Wageningen, I had to console myself with visiting the fascinating city of Istanbul, a place of sharp and beautiful contrasts. Below you can see some of the historical landmarks of Istanbul. The first one is a photo from Galata Tower overlooking the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn area. The second photo depicts the Cistern, a relic of Roman architectural ingenuity, and the third photo shows a small part of the inner garden of Topkapi Palace. It takes a lifetime to get to know this huge metropolis with its delightful weather and incredibly friendly people. I have to confess that I am going to leave Istanbul with a bit of a heavy heart. Week 33.2

Lastly, I met the love of my life in Istanbul, and we are happily living steps away from the Black Sea, far from all the hustle and the bustle of this grand city (See the images below taken from the neighboring areas of my home). Besides working on the project and keeping in touch regularly with Prof. Filippini, I am pretty busy caring for the small community of stray dogs that live around here. Not only will I regret leaving behind the city itself, but I have come to truly care about Istanbul’s stray animals, in the same way the kind people of Istanbul do. However, life goes on and I am extremely eager to embark on a new research adventure in Sweden!

Week 33.1

To add a few final remarks, yesterday I received the distressing news about Barcelona, and I hope that our research colleagues from Barcelona are all safe and sound, while I am also feeling very saddened by the fact this unfortunate incident caused a number of victims. Such events always leave us feeling more insecure and helpless, but I hope that solidarity can make us stronger in the face of such adversity.

In my next blog entry, I hope to include more technical details about my research as it will naturally progress into something more tangible, and I also hope to be able to share my thoughts about the wonders of Sweden.

All the best from Istanbul,

Sahl.

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