Labwork complete, finding food shops from Sart Tilman and heatwave

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Samples waiting for injection into the GC-MS machine. Each sample takes several hours to inject and run through the column.

With two working days to go before I’m due to fly home, I’ve finally completed all my laboratory work! I’m very happy and relieved to have got all our samples ready for analysis in the month I’ve had here, it means all the people here at CART have to do now is run the samples through the Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) machine and they can do that without me. As it turns out, the analysis will probably happen once I’ve left anyway as this week the summer has finally arrived here in Belgium and all the GC-MS machines are overheating because its so hot! So I will have to wait to actually get our results from all this work, the people at CART will just have to email the complete dataset to me once the analysis is finished.

Our samples will go through various GC-MS machines three separate times to detect different types of persistent organic pollutants (POPs),  once for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), once for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and once for pesticides. We already have one set of results, all the samples have been successfully run for pesticide concentrations. If the machines start working again I also may have some PCB results before I leave. In the last two days I have at the lab, I will hopefully get to discuss what the concentrations mean with my supervisor here, Dr Gauthier Eppe. Then I will head back home to St Andrews, ready to get back to work at the Sea Mammal Research Unit. That next field season is fast approaching after all…!

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Poor overheating GC-MS machine!

Meanwhile, back at the student halls… life has got a lot quieter now that the conference has finished, and the few people left are all trying to stay cool and avoid the thunderstorms that seem to roll round every few days. I’ve had to try and explain to a few people how to get to the nearest food shops to the halls over the last 3 weeks, so I’ve made a map of how to get to the two nearest supermarkets from a ‘google maps’ image. I’m sharing it here in case anyone else needs it! You take the 48 bus towards town from the main campus road outside the halls (take a right from the halls, then at the crossroads take a right again and the bus stop is just opposite RCAE- CRU building. Bus tickets are €2.10 for a single journey and its valid for several bus rides for 60 minutes). Then after a 10ish minute bus ride, get off at the stop opposite a Lukoil petrol station at a big intersection. Then follow the directions in the map below to get to either a medium sized supermarket (the ‘mini market’, which is acutally pretty big and has most things in it in terms of food supplies) or to get to a mall called Bell-Ile which has a big Carrfour inside. The Carrfour has everything you could ever need for supplies, including cutlery if you need to get kitchen equipment for using the cooking facilities in the halls. There are also loads of clothes shops and a pharmacy in the mall, and two good chocolate shops, Leonidas and Darcis. Belgium is of course famous for its chocolate so these two shops are great places to start sampling some! Darcis also sell the most amazing macarons, which I have become addicted to. The walk is only a 10ish minute walk from the bus station to Belle-Ile, so its a good idea to have a big bag you can sling over your shoulder to carry food shopping back in.

How to get to Bell Ile from Sart tilman
Directions to get to food shops from the 48 bus stop from the university halls

I went to the other local restuarant at the Sart Tilman roundabout this weekend as it’s now re-opened after the owners were on holiday. Marco Polo is a large, italian style place and the food there is really good! Its very affordable too, so I really recommend it to anyone at the halls. Its also the only place on the roundabout that is open at the weekends, and has quite late opening hours (open until at least 10.30pm, sometimes later depending what day it is) which is a nice change from everywhere else on the roundabout. It was really busy when I went so service was a little slow but everyone was really nice and made an effort to understand my terrible french and talk in a little english to help me order.

With only a few days left of my visit its almost time to start packing and trying to work out just how much chocolate I can fit in my luggage to bring home. Can’t believe how quickly time has gone, but it will be good to be back in Scotland!

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Ahh macarons, I think I will miss you the most…

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