I woke up on the 24th of March on the sound of my beeping phone. It was a mail from FuseNet informing me that I have received a scholarship to undergo an internship at DIFFER, one of the most prestigious research institutes in the world. Few months later, I took the plane and travelled to Eindhoven (Netherlands) to start my project on dynamic deuterium retention in Tungsten after plasma exposure in Upgraded Pilot-PSI (UPP), a one of a kind linear plasma device designed to undergo Ion Beam analysis (IBA) and plasma exposures simultaneously in order to study plasma-wall interactions for nuclear fusion relevant applications.
The first step in my project was to learn about the topic by reading the literature. This crucial part helped me design the experiments and choose the right parameters. Next step was to prepare the Tungsten samples that will be plasma exposed in UPP. It included polishing the samples to a mirror-like finish, anneal them, and undergo scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) on their surfaces to be able to compare and pinpoint the consequences of the plasma exposures. Before the experiments start, I had to learn how to find my way around the control room, thus I got a thorough training that covers safety instructions and the use of various diagnostics. I was also taught the basics of Ion Beam Analysis, mainly Nuclear Reaction Analysis (NRA) and Rutherford Backscattering (RBS). During the experimental week, I was helped by technicians, and of course my supervisor, who guided me through every step. After plasma exposing and undergoing in-situ IBA on the samples, they had to be analysed in various steps. They were first subjected to electron microscopy, then to ex-situ IBA, and finally destroyed with thermal desorption spectroscopy. The final step comprised to process all the data and analyse them.
During my time at DIFFER, I was guided by my supervisor and helped by everyone around me. I was surprised to see how everyone was happy and relaxed. Luckily, it was contagious. It is very safe to say that this was my favorite summer. I have met people from different backgrounds and cultures, made new friends, and most importantly, had fun while learning. I would recommend anyone to undergo such an internship. If I could go back in time, I would do it over and over again!