From A to B - Atlanta to Blacksburg

By David Mee; Analytical Technician in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham

My first ever trip to the USA started by landing in the world’s busiest airport of Atlanta. I was met from the airport by Micromeritics, the company who were providing the training course I was out there to attend. Their hospitality was out of this world. Their slogan is “Why We’re Here: Your Business, Our Family” and I was certainly treated like family with all that Southern Hospitality.
During the five day training course our evenings were kept free, and on one of the evenings we were taken to a minor league baseball game to watch the Gwinnett Braves versus Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Of course we all had homework to do before the game as we were not fully aware of the rules of the game. I managed to catch a foul ball, much to the amusement of my host, after beating a local to it on my first ever visit and only the second ever international guest to do this.
Gwinnett Braves versus Lehigh Valley IronPigs Baseball Game
Another of the evenings we were treated to the sights and dizzy heights of Downtown Atlanta. We were taken up 73 floors and 723ft in a glass elevator, Willy Wonka style, to the Sundial Restaurant and bar. The views were absolutely amazing and it was only up there that I finally realised the true size and space of the country. From there we made a short walk to the Centennial Olympic Park built in 1996. Today it serves as Georgia’s lasting legacy of the Centennial Olympic Games and it anchors efforts to revitalize residential and commercial development in Georgia’s capital city of Atlanta.
Looking up at and down from the Sundial Restaurant in Downtown Atlanta
Oh and the course !!!! Operator Training on the 3Flex a High Resolution, High-throughput Physisorption and Chemisorption Instrument recognized as the most advanced instrument in the field for material surface characterisation. This was five days of intense laboratory and classroom activities. At the end of it I was left with a mind full of information and ideas on how to further advance the work back in Nottingham and possibilities to develop the GERC international partnership with Virginia Tech (VT) and the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research (VCCER) further.
So with all this information I boarded a plane to my next destination; Blacksburg, Virginia (home of Virginia Tech). I fully expected another big and brash place similar to that of Atlanta, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. A small town with people actually walking.
Me at the gates to the Lane Stadium - home of the Hokies
On the Monday morning I had a pleasant walk through the campus of VT to the office of Dr Nino Ripepi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering. We spent most of the day looking at their facilities, the work they are doing and discussing ideas to further our joint venture. The following day I was taken on the ‘short’ drive (150 miles each way) to the field site, to look at how they obtain their samples. Nobody told me we were in bear country until we spotted a little baby black bear up a tree! Strangely enough I do not have a photograph of this as I was more concerned about the location of Mummy bear.
On the way back from the field site we met up again with Dr Ripepi and I was treated to a couple of hours fly fishing in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. I even managed to land a Native American Brook Trout.

Left: Fly fishing in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Right: Native American Brook Trout
Did you know?
Our GERC Director, Professor Matthew Hall, visited Virginia Tech in October 2015 to discuss the research relationship between VT and the University of Nottingham. He wrote a blog about his visit, you can read it here

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