The EPFL Laboratory Experience

Despite the many challenges of living on a new continent and living in one of the most expensive places in the world, I am very happy about the most important aspect of my entire research internship: my work!

Operating the Transition Electron Microscope (TEM)

My lab (the Powder Technology Laboratory) is very spacious and well-equipped. It is very nice to have a lab secretary take care of the work that the professor and students often have to bare at other institutions. Further, the campus is beautiful and architecturally interesting (re: Rolex Centre), and the views to the French Alps and Lake Geneva are a real treat. The EPFL has been a very positive experience so far and has made me feel like I have joined a world-class research environment.

This physical scenario is the best money can buy, but it would be worthless if it was not animated by amazing people. And it is!

The people of my lab are warm and inviting and have made me feel like a member of the team in no time at all. Lab lunches are fun and time in the office often feels like hanging out with friends. Professor Heinrich Hofmann, the person at the centre of it all and my research supervisor, is the best part of the whole experience and I’ll explain why.

When resources are so plentiful and when skilled researchers are attracted to the same place, I think intelligence and curiosity concentrate and this is certainly the case for the EPFL. In this sort of environment, a culture of trust and respect exists because everyone is a strong link in the chain, so instead of acting like a boss or a manager, Prof. Hofmann has helped me as an advisor and collaborator from the very beginning. I don’t think he has once told me what to do, and the way we interact has been very much up to how I want to communicate my research.

Instead of telling me to deliver reports, I’ve immersed myself in the research and sent him my thoughts when I am ready and I give him my best work in personalized documents. Instead of telling me to accept things and deal with them, he works with me to help me understand the situation and to do the best I can. I feel that I am treated like a human being and I believe this is a result of the EPFL’s culture of respect.

I look forward to the rest of my stay here to get good results with Prof. Hofmann, and possibly to publish a scientific paper!

Alex Grant, McGill University
Powder Technologies Laboratory, EPFL

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