Stockholm Summer Starts

Editor’s Note: Five undergrads are taking part in an NSF Funded IRES program in Sweden this year. Here they start to chronicle their adventures. They are Vanessa Esaw (University of Minnesota and 2015 UWRF REU, Nick Kulacz and Nick Jensen (UWRF), Jack Nuckles (UW-Madison), and Samantha Pedek (UWRF)

After three flights over the course of a full day, we all made it safely to Stockholm, Sweden on Sunday May 22, 2016. For many of us, this was the first time out of the country. The flights, though long, were uneventful. Vanessa and Sam are staying in an adorable apartment in northern Stockholm for the first week before moving to southern Stockholm for the rest of the time.

Samantha's and Vanessa's Apartment Building
View from Samantha’s and Vanessa’s Apartment Building for the first week.

Nick, Nick and Jack are staying in a tiny apartment in northern Stockholm. The doors have been the biggest adversary as they open the wrong way almost all the time, and the shower is not enclosed and therefore gets the bathroom floor all wet. One of our first tasks when we arrived was finding a grocery store. It is unbelievably difficult to shop in a market for things in a different language and are not where you “expect” them to be!

Minnesota Maple Syrup
Found here: Minnesota Maple Syrup
American Peanut Butter
and : American Peanut Butter

The people here are very hospitable and friendly and almost everyone speaks English. Overall, Swedes seems happy and content. The fact that summer holiday is right around the corner may have something to do with that. Summer holiday is from the end of June until the beginning of August. Basically the entire country vacations during that time!

The weather here is very similar to weather in Wisconsin when we left, which is welcoming. One major difference though is how long the sun is up. The sun starts to rise at around 4:00am and doesn’t set until about 10:00pm. The majority of our first week consisted of settling in and adjusting to the new environment.

Midway through the week we all settled on projects for the summer. As a brief overview: Nick and Nick are working on building a one meter cubed to scale LED model of IceCube, Jack is modeling cosmic ray sources in the galactic plane, Vanessa is using machine learning algorithms to optimize muon track reconstruction and Sam is simulating a version of Gen 2 to check the likelihood of detecting extragalactic supernova.

The work environment here is very relaxed. Both the professors and the grad students are very helpful and flexible. Once a week we have fika, which is a staple of Swedish culture. Everyone from the office gets together for a coffee break with a light snack. It is a chance to socialize and catch up with everyone in the office.

This Friday, Kip Thorne visited the University of Stockholm to give a talk on gravitational waves, which were recently discovered by LIGO. Kip Thorne was one of the original founders of LIGO. The talk was very comprehensive and we all enjoyed it.

Faint signal of Kip Thorne at edge of image.
Faint signal of Kip Thorne at edge of image.

Here  is the University of Stockholm Astronomy Building where our office is located.

University of Stockholm Astronomy Building
University of Stockholm Astronomy Building