My journey to Frankfurt, Germany started on 13th June. Thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, I was heading to ACHEMA 2015, a week-long conference and exhibition for process engineers. The main reason why I wanted to visit ACHEMA was to learn more about the engineering industry and gain new knowledge of process design. On the plane though, I was a bit apprehensive. Attending such an event as an undergraduate while most of the surrounding people are established industry professionals seemed both daunting and exciting at the same time.
Although I had done my research and knew which lectures and exhibition stands interested me the most, I was not prepared for the full scale of ACHEMA, when I first arrived to Messe Frankfurt Convention Centre. There were about 3800 exhibition stands divided over 12 large buildings. A lot of the stands, especially from larger companies such as Siemens, Merck and BASF were huge with multiple stories and top-notch engineering equipment worth of millions of pounds. I felt like a kid in a candy store with the only exception that I couldn’t bring any of the “candies” home with me. Except for actual candies, because as it turned out, sweets are still a popular way to lure visitors to your stand.
Before the event, I had been more excited about the extensive lecture series accompanying the exhibition, but in hindsight, the exhibition itself astonished me the most. Exploring different stands, chatting with professional engineers and seeing full-scale reactors, distillation columns, mixers and other equipment familiar from design lectures on display was an amazing experience. It made me once again realise how grand and creative engineering is. I felt overwhelmed, because so many demonstrations and talks were taking place in different buildings at the same time.
During the congress, I attended lectures on biochemical engineering, catalysis, pharmaceutical industry, reaction engineering, heat exchange and separation processes. I learned so much new about engineering practices and industrial approaches. It was thrilling to hear of new technologies and relate them to my current studies. My favourite lecture from the congress was given by 2014 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry Stefan Hell. The way how he engaged with the audience and made an intricate topic such as super-resolved fluorescence microscopy understandable was truly remarkable for me.
Since I arrived before the conference and left a few days after, I managed to do some sightseeing as well. Besides Frankfurt, I travelled to Mainz, Heidelberg and Karlsruhe. I tried famous German beers and discovered Rewe- a supermarket chain with an amazing salad bar. I also practiced my rusty German, but unfortunately people switched over to English quickly.
Once again, I’d like to than Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for the opportunity!! Attending ACHEMA gave me a lot of new industrial engineering knowledge and helped me determine which topics of process engineering interest me the most.