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Intern Abroad: Ph.D. Student Ashish Kapoor on German Summer

RISE study abroad group

By Cameron Walker

How do you say “best summer ever” in German*? Ask NC State Wilson Wilson College of Textiles Ph.D. student Ashish Kapoor, who spent 10 weeks in Jena, Germany working at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering through the DAAD RISE Professional Program, a scholarship-funded research internship program for master’s and doctoral students.

“I consider this one of the best personal and professional experiences of my life,” said Kapoor, who plans to graduate in 2019 with his Ph.D. in Fiber and Polymer Science and a minor in Electrical Engineering.

From mid-May to late July, he worked full-time on a project researching the 3D printing of optical mirrors.

Inkjet printed silver mirror next to 1 euro coin for scale
Inkjet printed silver mirror next to 1 euro coin for scale

“The mirrors we encounter around us are mostly manufactured by deposition of optical coatings on substrates like glass,” he said. “In my project, we envisioned additive manufacturing of optical mirrors by a well-studied and commercial technology: inkjet printing. I was printing silver nanoparticle ink on glass slides using an inkjet printer, and post treating the samples by exposing them to thermal and plasma treatments…We were able to achieve a reflectance of more than 90 percent, which is a very high value for a nanoparticle ink-based printed mirror. This research is unique and promising, and we plan to publish it soon in a journal.”

Through this experience, Kapoor learned to use new tools and techniques and made connections with other bright minds.

“I have come back with wonderful research and personal experiences, lifelong friends and connections which I believe will be helpful in my career,” he said.

NC State Wilson College of Textiles Ph.D. student Ashish Kapoor Working in Inkjet printing lab in Fraunhofer IOF
Kapoor at work in the inkjet printing lab

Although he worked long days, Kapoor still found time to explore the city and travel widely. He found Jena to be a lovely juxtaposition — a picturesque medieval town surrounded by forested hills and the remains of a 15th-century monastery, and also a thriving university city invested in research and the arts. Jena calls itself the “City of Light” due to its long history of research into light-based and optical technologies; city attractions include the Optical Museum Jena, which houses eight centuries of optical instruments, and the Zeiss-Planetarium, which is the oldest continuously-operating planetarium in the world.

“I used to spend my time walking on the cobblestone streets around the vibrant city center area, where there were nice restaurants and shops,” he said. “The streets were always full of students and people from across the world speaking multiple languages, enjoying the cool evening breeze. I really liked living in Jena and it was the best summer of my life.”

Kapoor at the farewell dinner for interns and researchers
Kapoor at the farewell dinner for interns and researchers

Kapoor lived in a fifth-floor apartment that he shared with students from Korea and California, and commuted to work via bus and tram. In his spare time, he explored the city’s hiking trails, river, museums and historic monuments. On the weekends, he traveled with a group of new friends and fellow scholars throughout Germany and beyond.

“A few wonderful places I traveled within Germany include Berlin, Frankfurt, Dresden, Leipzig, Eisenach and Heidelberg,” he said. “Heidelberg was the venue for the DAAD conference, where all the scholarship holders from the globe had gathered together.” He also journeyed 16 hours — one way — by bus to Budapest, Hungary, where he soaked in one of Europe’s largest natural hot spring spa baths. Along the way, he stopped to explore Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires.”

During the summer, a bit of serendipity led Kapoor to attend a smart textiles conference, where he learned about the newest developments in the field.

“I luckily learned about the Wear It Festival 2018 happening in Berlin through Ben Cooper’s post on LinkedIn,” he said. “Ben visited the Wilson College of Textiles for the Executive-in-Residence Program in 2017 and we work in the same research area…The event focused on wearables, smart clothing and fashion technology. It was an incredible event where experts, enthusiasts, startup founders, etc. came together to share their contributions in the field of wearable electronics. This was where I witnessed the power, beauty and usefulness of art and science combined. I also realized how wonderful it is that my Ph.D. research under my advisor Dr. Tushar Ghosh is a contribution to this growing field.”

NC State Wilson College of Textiles Ph.D. student Ashish Kapoor at work in the lab
Kapoor’s winning entry in the DAAD RISE Professional photo contest

Kapoor was recently notified that he has been awarded first place in the DAAD RISE Professional photo contest.

Find out more about internships and study abroad opportunities.

*Der beste Sommer aller Zeiten