A PhD Student's Experience in Bergen, Norway

Learning Crystallography and Gaining New Perspectives

February 23, 2023

As a PhD student, Zunain Ayaz was facing a serious issue in his project. He had been working on a metal organic framework (MOF) for CO2 adsorption, but the MOF's rigidity was in question. The scientist who had published the work claimed that the MOF was rigid, but when Zunain Ayaz synthesized it in his lab, he found it to be flexible. After struggling with this problem for four months, he reached out to Professor Pascal D.C. Dietzel at the University of Bergen (UiB) for assistance. After presenting his project and the concerns related to it to Prof. Pascal, who, being a great crystallographer, understood the issue and accepted Zunain Ayaz as his guest researcher.

Zunain Ayaz landed in Bergen on October 7, 2022, and stayed for the next two months. The accommodation was arranged in one of the guest houses of UiB, located in Sydneshaugen, which was just 10 minutes away from both the university and the city centre. He was working in the Natural Sciences Building of UiB, under the supervision of Prof. Pascal.

The primary goal of the stay was to learn the basics of crystallography and master the use of the TOPAS software in just 60 days. This software is used to refine powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) data, which is necessary to claim the phase purity of the product. Zunain Ayaz didn't have access to this software at our home institution, so it was important for him to learn it while at UiB.

During the stay, he found the weather in Bergen to be delightful. As someone from Lahore, Pakistan, where the temperature often exceeds 40-50 °C, he was thrilled to experience the rain and ice-cold weather in Bergen. Additionally, he was fortunate to meet some great people at UiB, especially PhD candidates at Realfagbygget. They became close friends and shared some wonderful moments together.

Although the stay went well overall, the first month was quite stressful. Working with chemists as an engineer was challenging, and there was a lot of pressure to perform well. However, Zunain Ayaz felt that he had a moral obligation to do his best since the IMPRS had invested a lot in arranging this trip. Zunain Ayaz remained committed to performing well and delivering as expected, which impressed Prof. Pascal and helped him gain his trust.

In conclusion, Zunain Ayaz would highly recommend the experience of being a guest researcher in another institution, especially for PhD students, who wish to broaden their research horizons and gain new insights, skills, knowledge and perspectives. We, at the IMPRS, are delighted to offer our students the opportunity to travel and work with other research groups and experts in different fields.  Zunain Ayaz experience is a testament to the value of these trips. To quote him: „Under the umbrella of IMPRS, arrangement of these kind of business trips is a real bliss for PhD scholars. As, it allows you to leave your comfort zone, go to a new research group with expertise in different research fields, in short period of time you have to learn and deliver as expected from you. It’s a very demanding job but it’s really worth it.“


These new experiences, like this one in Bergen, Norway, can allow our PhDs to learn and grow as a researcher, as well as enjoy a new cultural experience and we at the IMPRS engourage our PhDs to make this kind of experiences while persuing their studies.

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