Fulbright Travels, Week One

The Fulbright. A scholarship designed to promote cultural and intellectual exchange between the United States, and over 160 countries.

I was lucky enough to have received a Fulbright grant to come to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to do some cutting-edge photosynthesis research with Dr. David T. Hanson at the University of New Mexico. I am deeply appreciative of having been given this opportunity from Fulbright Canada.

At this point, I’ve been in Albuquerque for one week, and it is already starting to feel like home. The people are friendly and polite here, and the city has a rich and diverse culture to explore. The city is full of cacti (see picture), small batch coffee roasters, craft breweries, and an excellent underground art scene. In other words, a millenial’s paradise.

Cacti.jpg

On the work side of things, I’ve had the chance to get my hands on the new Licor 6800: the next-generation photosynthetic gas exchange machine (see below). It’s a beautiful machine, and I hope to tap deeply into its potential over the coming months. It’s design differs from previous iterations in that it has much greater control over measurement conditions, reduces leaks (which can invalidate any data you collect), and provides an extensive interface for diagnosing problems on the fly. It is also, by far, the most aesthetically pleasing of the photosynthetic gas exchange tools available.

LI6800.jpg

However, the piece of equipment that I am really excited about is the tunable diode laser (TDL, below). While the Licor 6800 measures bulk carbon dioxide and water in an airstream, the TDL is capable of figuring out which atomic isotopes are present in the gas molecules. This allows us to dive deep into biological processes where the isotopic composition begins to matter. Few laboratories in the world boast a TDL optimized for use in biology.

TDL.jpg

I will be learning how to use the TDL very soon (which is codenamed the “Millenium Falcon”). And I am sure that I will have an ecstatic update when that happens.

I am looking forward to see what happens over the next eight months!

– Joe

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