A Summer of Research In Paris Senior Christopher Valdes on his overseas internship

This summer, Christopher Valdes, a senior physics major with a minor in Spanish, became one of only eight undergraduate junior level students across the country to become an intern for Optics in the City of Lights, a summer internship program in Paris, France. 

Optics is the scientific study of sight and the behavior of light, so the internship gave Valdes the opportunity to spend two months in a variety of laboratories in Paris performing research with a wide range of ultrafast lasers.

Students in this program had the opportunity to experience strong collaborative science that is currently taking place among Universities all around the world.

Valdes specifically worked at the Photophysique et Photochimie Supramoléculaires et Macromoléculaires Laboratory (PPSM) at ENS Paris-Saclay, where he worked on “Optimizing a Set-Up Coupling Electrochemical and Fluorescence Microscopies.”

“My lab has a set-up that combines an electrochemical microscope with a fluorescence one so researchers can study a molecule’s fluorescent characteristics while simultaneously applying an electric field. However, recording data from this set-up was very inefficient, so my project focused on developing a more efficient data-acquisition system,” Valdes said about his internship project.

In addition to learning about optics and the multitude of uses of it, Valdes claimed that his internship helped him become a stronger researcher and taught him how to better articulate his own ideas and implement them into a research project. 

“Being able to work independently and use my own ideas to try new things definitely boosted my confidence,” Valdes said.

Valdes also explained how living in Paris for two months was an added bonus that made his experience this summer that much better.

“I lived only 20 minutes away from the Louvre, and I went to the Louvre every Friday night to explore the corridors. Having access to some of the world’s most famous museums was incredible, not to mention eating the 2018 world’s best croissant.” Valdes added.

“There was always something to do in Paris, whether it’s go to a museum or walk around the city and be mesmerized by the architecture.”

Valdes described the program as a life-changing experience. 

“I loved it so much to the point where I’m considering going back to France for graduate studies,” Valdes said, “Maybe I’ll end up living there for the rest of my life, but who knows?”

Heading into his senior year, Valdes is the Vice President of the Student Ambassador program, works as a receptionist in the Welcome Center, is a brother of the coed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, and is also in VITAL, under campus ministry.

Valdes’ overall goal is to get his Masters/PhD in Medical Physics, but preferably his doctorate, so that one day he can do cancer research in a hospital setting. “I want to use physics to find an alternative cancer treatment method and use it to help my patients.” 

While the program is highly selective, Valdes believes that others should apply, his advice being, “I would definitely recommend that you talk about how you’re heavily interested in learning about optics, and also the potential to be culturally immersed in a foreign country. It’s definitely a learning experience that you’ll want to gain from both inside and outside the laboratory.” 

“All I know is that this experience has changed my life.”