Outside his comfort zone: RISE alumnus Kurtis Malecha on his internship at the Institute of Nuclear Chemistry at Mainz University

"Frontiers," the student magazine of Minnesota State University, Mankato reports on Kurtis Malecha's experiences working as research assistant to Nils Stöbener at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz


The words "TRIGA MAINZ" appear in bold white letters on a red background on the pocket of the lab coat worn by Kurtis Malecha, an undergraduate student of Minnesota State University, Mankato. The coat is a souvenir of his internship at the Institute of Nuclear Chemistry at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany and his time there is the subject of an article published in the latest issue of "Frontiers," the student magazine of Minnesota State University. In summer 2011, Malecha left his home university on the Minnesota River take up a research internship as a member of Professor Tobias Reich's work group at Mainz University. With the help of his mentor, Nils Stöbener, the American chemistry student Malecha investigated the oxidation state of radioactive neptunium present in the pore water in claystone, the objective being to find out whether the radioactive element binds with the clay or migrates through the material.

The "Frontiers" article entitled "Outside his Comfort Zone" reports on Malecha's experiences in Mainz. And the RISE alumnus concludes that it is sometimes good to step out of your comfort zone. He advises those of his fellow students who wish to gain experience of international research to emulate him because "it makes you look at the world in a different way."

Malecha's academic stay in Mainz was made possible by the Research Internships in Science & Engineering (RISE) program of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which offers summer research internships in Germany to undergraduates from North America and the UK. Doctoral students at German institutes of higher education and research institutes can apply to the DAAD for the appointment of such undergraduates as research assistants to help them with their projects; these latter need to have completed two years of their undergraduate courses at a university in the USA, Canada, or Great Britain. The program covers the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, the geosciences, engineering, and life sciences. Of the 1,670 applicants for a RISE scholarship in 2011, 305 candidates were successful. It was Nils Stöbener whose application brought Malecha to Mainz. Stöbener is a stipendiary of the Trace analysis of elemental species Research Training Group. His research focuses on the analysis of neptunium in pore water by means of capillary electrophoresis coupled with resonance ionization mass spectrometry (CE-RIMS).