Monthly Archives: September 2018

Work hard, hike harder

Three months have never flown by so quickly. From the first day I arrived, I began my busy summer of exploration, work, and adjustment to life in Switzerland, supported all along the way by my fellow interns and boxed ice coffee from Migros.

Let’s start with my lab. I interned this summer in the Medical Image Processing Lab under the supervision of Professor Dimitri Van De Ville and Elvira Pirondini. During my time, I aided the efforts of a largescale project investigating stroke recovery in monkeys following a brain lesion. In my work, I recreated a processing pipeline from literature designed to preprocess primate fMRI and MRI data. I also employed mathematical tools based on graph signal processing theory to find coactivation patterns in the resting brain activity. Throughout my work, I had to do plenty of literature reviewal, both to learn the theory behind everything and in order to solve the many issues that came up trying to accurately process the MRI data. The process definitely required a lot of creative thinking. But the lab was super helpful with any questions I had and it was a lot of fun to meet such a group of people with diverse backgrounds. What was also fun was being a part of such a large scale project. Although I lived in Lausanne, the lab was located in Geneva at Campus Biotech and all of the monkeys were in a lab at the University of Fribourg! I even got to go there and help in the collection of new MRI data, where I was able to see the monkeys firsthand. A lot of commuting was involved, but the costs were covered and the comfort and reliability of Swiss trains meant that I didn’t mind it at all.

Speaking of trains, that brings me to the rest of my summer for I spent an uncountable number of hours on those trains. There is just so much one can see and do in Switzerland. First off, there are plenty of touristy things to do. From visiting cities like Lucerne to wandering the picturesque vineyards, learning some history at the Chateau de Chillon, or eating cheese in Gruyeres, one can never go wrong. But there is also so much more, especially hiking. Although many things are closed on Sunday, hiking trails certainly aren’t and if you aren’t a hiker, you should become one anyway. One could spend a lifetime exploring the trails of Switzerland, getting lost in the beauty of the rolling hills and water so blue it looks fake. From a leisurely group hike up Dent de Vaulion followed by fondue to catching a 6am train and running the 25km Hardergrat trail in time to catch the last train home, there are hikes for everyone. Definitely check out the amazing trails of Interlaken and recover with a dip in one of its lakes. There is nothing like swimming in the shadow of the Alps. Regardless, it’s hard to go wrong spending a summer in Switzerland.

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Ronan Perry, Johns Hopkins University

Medical Image Processing Lab (MIP:Lab), EPFL

Improving solar cells for a brighter future (pun intended)

“If you want to change the world, even if you can’t, at least you die trying.” – Such were the words emblazoned above the door of my office at LIMNO (Laboratory for Molecular Engineering of Optoelectronic Nanomaterials – led by Prof. Kevin Sivula), which was the lab I spent my 3 months of summer at. EPFL was one of the universities I had always wanted to visit, largely due to its location in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (cheese + chocolate + views!), as well as their prowess on new generation solar cells. New generation solar cells such as perovskite photovoltaics have the advantage of being produced via solution-processing methods, which means a cheaper and less energy-intensive fabrication process compared to the standard silicon solar cells currently dominating the market. For my project, I looked at the impact of various factors on the morphology of quasi-2D Pb-based perovskites, and how the different treatment methods could affect solar cell performance. Working on this research at LIMNO led me to realize how lucky I was to have gotten this opportunity. The lab environment was really like an embodiment of the quote; my lab mates were all very motivated, passionate and eager to help each other out. Thanks to their welcoming and friendly nature, I had an amazing and fruitful time with my lab!

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Dinner with my wonderful lab

Other than the lab work, I spent a lot of my time in Switzerland hiking. Since most shops are often closed on Sunday, and close quite early on Saturdays, I ended up going hiking and sight-seeing at various places with the other interns. Although this has been mentioned by the previous interns as well, I would definitely recommend purchasing the Half-fare card as you can easily make the money back within several weeks. Also, downloading the SBB app is useful as sometimes they will have ‘supersaver’ tickets, which are discounted tickets for certain journeys available when purchased earlier online.

Places I would recommend visiting (despite the distance) are the Rhine Falls for the Swiss National Day firework celebrations, Aletsch for the glacier trail (before global warming gets to it!), Oeschinensee for the beautiful lake, Gruyère for the chocolate and cheese factories, Creux du Van for the ‘Swiss Grand Canyon’, Lugano for the risotto and gelato, Montreux for the Jazz Festival, and Zermatt for the almighty Matterhorn (on a clear day!). In particular, for those who like water sports, taking a dip, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking in Lake Geneva (or any of the other lakes) are all definitely recommended. Switzerland also has some wonderful thermal baths for relaxing in, such as Brigerbad and Lavey-les-bains, which are nice for when you want to wind down and chill during the weekends.

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Overall, I had a brilliant time in Switzerland thanks to all the fantastic people I met.

I’ll be back!

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Matterhorn, Zermatt

Narumi Nagaya Wong, Imperial College London
Laboratory for Molecular Engineering of Optoelectronic Nanomaterials (LIMNO), EPFL