Back into the fray: From Swiss electrodes to Irish steak.

Hello everyone, here is a short update on my progress on my quest for mobile marine toxin detection along with some travel info regarding the land of cheese.  So first things first, lets pick up where I left off in my previous blog. Starting with work, then slowly moving to travel stories 🙂

Remember those screen printed electrodes (SPEs) I told you about last time? Well those little wonders turned out to be quite the nut to crack as it turned out that doing an indirect competitive assay on them (see my previous blog for a detailed explanation of what that is) was close to impossible… But, as most nuts, once you managed to crack them, they taste superb (evidently this is a metaphor, please don’t try and eat screen printed electrodes…). In this story the proverbial plyers were — can you guess? – nanomaterials (NMs) !!. More in particular: gold nanoparticles and carbon black along with some other, for the moment still secret, NMs… With the help of Davide Migliorelli (my supervisor at CSEM) I managed to effectively increase the performance of the SPEs by simply depositing a layer of those NMs. Moreover this step effectively reduced the background noise and greatly improved the repeatability of the experiments. Thus, once we noticed this great improve, we set out to characterize the NM doped SPEs with some detailed electrochemical studies. This was truly a great experience for me since, before I arrived at CSEM, I knew about as much about electrochemistry as I did about fermions and bosons (nothing except that they exists). However, hard work, a lot of reading, and quite some time of davide and safiye (THANK YOU GUYS!) spend explaining me the mysterious paths of these “flying electrons” resulted in formatting me into an electrochemist ( or at least for the basic principles).  After this interesting adventure it was time to use those NM doped SPEs for the detection of one of my target toxins, Domoic acid… And lo and behold, this actually worked  :-). Within a few weeks we managed to get very sensitive (ppb range) and reproducible calibration curves! Moreover, the system even worked for the quantification of naturally contaminated scallop samples. This work was then proudly presented at the POC symposium at Chur in a poster titled: “Evaluation of the electrochemical signal enhancement for domoic acid detection in shellfish using various nanomaterials”.  Ofcourse, the system is not ideal yet and will require further optimisation to move from “acceptable” to “ideal” recovery rates. Moreover, assay time needs optimized. But, overall, I really consider my time at CSEM as a great success and I left with a working assay, knowledge on electrochemistry and new friends. Thus I would like to thank everyone at CSEM again for accommodating me! It was a super nice trip and great to meet a team with such a great team spirit and enthusiasm. Sharing ideas and making them come possible. That’s the way to do science!

O yeah, I almost forgot to mention it, but, during my stay at CSEM I also got positive news regarding a review I wrote on the possibility to use smartphone based devices to monitor the crew health of astronauts on a mission to Mars. The paper, my first, is titled “The Smartphone’s Guide to the Galaxy”: In Situ Analysis in Space. It is published in Biosensors and I am very happy to have it out there and invite anyone who is interested in smartphone sensing to read it and get a better idea of the state of the art. Moreover, if anyone wants to place a bet to see if SBDs really will be used on Mars missions, feel free to contact me :-0


Alright now about the travelling part of the blog:

Switzerland is truly a mesmerizing place if you like the mountains (which I do). So for the interested, I will summarize some of the highlights of the trip here:


  • Trip to a Glacier.

This was probably the most exhilarating, and exhausting, trip we did: A two day hike to the oldest alpine hut in Switzerland. Pierced on a jagged rock above a massive glacier stands this alpine monument. It was a true fight to get up there with all the gear in the backpacks (it was over 1500 meter up and back down) but the sight was more than worth it! I must also say I am very proud of Sparrow who, with only seven years, managed to climb  up all the way and…jep… RUN BACK DOWN (I could hardly walk for a week from trying to keep up with him).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Glacier complete with SNOW TUNNEL 🙂



  • The biggest rodelbahn in Switzerland.


This rodelbahn (which slides down a mountain for about 800 height meters) can be reached directly from the city center of Chur. All you must do is take a cable ride up and then walk a few hours over the Alps to the start of it. Ride down (be prepared, I screamed all the way from the adrenaline jolting through my veins) and then take a bus back to Chur. A super day trip!


  • The Pinut Via ferrata

This historic via ferrata (it was first ascended in 1775) is a great way to get accustomed with this type of mountaineering. It is very well equipped and one of the most beautiful via ferratas I ever did. About 8-900 meter straight up a vertical wall, going through caves in the wall, scampering over ridges and hanging from edges are all part of this, about 6 hour long, experience. It was so wonderful that we did it twice! Again, very proud of Sparrow that he made it (twice)!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some pictures of this wonderfull adventure..


  • Finally, Partnunsee Should not be forgotten!


This lovely lake (at about 2100 meters) is a great hike. Once you arrived (we were exhausted with the bags) you can have a refreshing swim in the lake and even go for a little boating since a nice rowboat is freely available at the pier. There is wood available for a campfire and the grass is flat and ideal to pitch a tent. Well ideal is maybe a big word… since there is one small problem… COWS… Yes I understand you think, cows? Why is that a problem? Well let me tell you. In Switzerland cows are quite peculiar…. first off they are fitted with very, very, very loud bells! Thus it seems twelve o’clock at the saint Pieter cathedral 24/7. That’s fun for a while but in the night you start to wonder if they actually ever sleep.. The answer to that question is, yes, in the day. Because the night is way too interesting to roam around and bother innocent campers ….. Thus we found ourselves surrounded by 10-15 cows, stalking us at the fire and trying to eat our tent at night…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was very funny! But also slightly annoying after a while J

Thus I would recommend to  avoid pitching your tent right next to a cow hotspot like a lake 🙂



Okay folk that was it for this time! Now we are back in Ireland and enjoying some Irish steak (finally PROTEINS>>>>>) while watching the Ocean. Also great to be back!


So finally, thank you for reading my blog and hopefully see you next time with more adventures!


Hasta la pasta










1 comment on “Back into the fray: From Swiss electrodes to Irish steak.

  1. Truly amazing time … and a great writing over here….well done !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: