Upon arrival I was settled with a lovely Cypriote woman in St Prex who would become my second mom. Here’s why. On nights out with friends, I would occasionally miss the last train back home and she will be a call away to pick me up, something that not even my mom would do. Also on days where I worked particularly late, she would prepare lunch and dinner for me. Though I lived slightly far away from campus, the daily cycling trip to EPFL proved to be great training for my mental and physical endurance.
I chose to join Prof. Jeremy Luterbacher’s group because their work on biomass conversion and renewable resources aligned with my principles. At the time of my arrival, the research group was in its infancy and that allowed me to participate in much more of the frontline research than most other interns can. It was analogous to being part of a start-up, and I had to contribute both scientifically and sometimes administratively. The first three weeks were the most intense and I literally went to work 9.30 to 6.30, went back home to do some reading and then slept. I have even been in the lab on a Saturday! My main research here revolved around stabilizing supported heterogenous catalyst by chemical layer deposition. My supervisors, Florent Héroguel and Benjamin Le Monnier had been the most supportive and easy going superiors I have met, teaching me how to use the myriad of delicate instruments from the ground up. I would like to especially thank Florent for his patience and his inability to get mad at people. Through my contributions, my supervisors promised me to include me in the eventual publication of our research; something that is most rewarding to a scientist.
Besides the lab, on weekends I have traveled around Switzerland and other surrounding countries. Within Switzerland, my most memorable place by far was visiting Zermatt and the Matterhorn. Even though it was a 4 hour trip to go there, it was worth it. I have never been to a place so surreal and majestic. It made me realize how lucky I was. The day visiting Zermatt could not have been better, a bright sunny day for amazing views and photos with the right amount of breeze to keep one cool. Coincidently, the rain only started when I hopped on the return train.
Of course Switzerland isn’t without its drawbacks, the high price of necessities and difficulty in finding an apartment can be a problem when considering living or studying here. In fact, my supervisor, a PhD student, has been looking for an apartment for the entire duration that I was here. He was visiting countless apartments and calling hundreds of landlords.
Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to be accepted to several internships and the internship at EPFL appeared most interesting to me because I got to choose the research groups I want beforehand which to me was very important because I didn’t want to spend the first two months learning completely new things and only have the last one to contribute. Moreover, I have always heard that Switzerland has some phenomenal scenic views and I happen to be a big fan of them so it was the perfect choice for me. After the 3 months here, I know I have made the right choice and I did not regret any bit of it.
Juno Castillo Siu, UCL (University College London)
Laboratory of Sustainable and Catalytic Processing, EPFL