Master Thesis at
the Plasma Diagnostic Lab at the University of Kentucky
cand. aer. Christian Arnold
From April 2015 to December 2015, I was invited to write my Master Thesis at the University of Kentucky`s Plasma Diagnostric Lab. In order to qualify materials used for the design of re-entry space vehicles, tests in equivalent re-entry conditions are necessary. My topic was hence the “Design of a Material Sample Holder with variable supplemental Heating” in regard of plasma interactions with the said materials. The University of Kentucky is located in the city of Lexington, one of the two biggest cities of the state of Kentucky. The total University is said to have about 40 000 students, which is pretty similar to the University of Stuttgart. In comparison, the class rooms and the research facilities are not as big as in Germany. However, there are more buildings for students to study or spend time in. When I told people, that I will go to Kentucky, most people asked me where Kentucky is and why people should go there. The state of Kentucky, birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, is neither the Midwest nor the South of the US. It is below the states Illinois and Indiana, which have access to the Great Lakes. Formally said, Lexington is about 6 Hours away from Chicago, 6 Hours from Atlanta and about 8 Hours from Washington D.C. Kentucky with its two major cities Lexington and Louisville has a lot of natural parks and attractions. One of those can be seen in the picture below and is known as the Natural Bridge. The natural bridge is a rock formation representing a “bridge” over a cliff. There is a hiking trail leading up to the bridge and the bridge is walkable as well.
Normally Americans know Kentucky because of the 3 B`s – Bluegrass (special planted grass), Basketball (University Basketball Team always ranks in the top five position) and Bourbon (there are a lot of distilleries in Kentucky like Woodford Reserve).
However there are other “famous” attractions in Kentucky, besides Bourbon and Bluegrass. The famous “Kentucky Derby” horse races are happening every year in May in Louisville. Lexington has a racing area called Keeneland, where the pre-races are fought.
Spending 7 months in Kentucky allowed me to not only finish my Master Thesis, but to do a little sightseeing as well. Everything in the US is big and most of the time far away. As a German, I was used to using public transportation to get around. However Kentucky only has a bus system, which is not that good most of the time. Luckily I got the chance to rent a bike for my stay, which made things easier. Nevertheless going shopping with only a bike requires patience and the ability to balance heavy things on your bike J. One thing to prepare for is the fact, that food in the US is more expensive than in Germany. There is an ALDI in Lexington, who offers the lowest price of the available grocery stores. However the ALDI is about 4-5 miles away from the University ground, so most of the time you had to choose the more expensive Kroger grocery store. Contrary to popular opinions, you can eat healthy in the US, it is just more expensive than the non-healthy stuff. A stay in the US can be difficult without having a car, especially if you want to see different things outside the city. That is why I am grateful for the people from the lab, who did some sightseeing with me. The rent of an apartment is expensive as well, if you want to live closely to the university. The University of Kentucky offers entertainment options during the semester, which I really enjoyed. German Universities usually do not offer such things. Besides allowing students to watch Basketball, Ice Hockey, Football and other sports for a cheap price, there are also cultural things like classical concerts for students.
During the semester, you could always find something to do and someone to do things with. There are a lot of clubs at the university (University lead like for example the German Club), which are great for creating a connection to the locals. There are a lot of pubs in Lexington, as well, because the bourbon has to be sold somewhere J. However during the summer months may till august, there is not much going on at the University and in Lexington. Most of the students are going home or work over the summer free time. If you manage to find other things to do during that time, you will never be bored in Lexington, Kentucky. All in all I can only recommend a stay in Kentucky, because it is similar to Germany in some ways. Mostly because a lot of German heritage exist in Kentucky, with German being the third most spoken language in this state! I want to thank the Reissner Stiftung for providing me with the financial aid, which helped me to do my Master Thesis at the University of Kentucky! Your support enabled me to this wonderful project.
Thank you very much!