My stay in Switzerland this summer was truly unforgettable, especially after a year of remote learning and travel restrictions. I worked with Professor Athanasios Nenes in the Laboratory of Atmospheric Processes and their Impacts (LAPI), and my project focused on how aerosol acidity and macronutrient deposition affect plant growth and ecosystem health. Throughout my internship, I conducted hands-on fieldwork (at a remote forest site on the shore of Lake Geneva, close to Lausanne) and learned how to extract samples of inorganic atmospheric compounds and analyze their composition using ion chromatography back in the lab. I then used a thermodynamic model to predict variations in aerosol pH and regional gas-particle partitioning. I am especially glad I was able to get a taste of atmospheric chemistry modeling and connect that to my experimental work from earlier in the summer.
I am also grateful for the guidance of the PhD students and postdocs at LAPI for welcoming me so warmly into the group. Collaborating with my postdoc mentors was an invaluable learning experience, as they patiently taught me how to handle both hands-on laboratory techniques as well as chemical software programs. Although I certainly built up my science and engineering knowledge in our research group meetings, I also learned so much about the different career pathways and life aspirations of my group members during our lunch breaks, apéro conversations, and hiking trips. I have been inspired by their advice and stories, and I hope to pursue similar international collaboration opportunities in my future studies.
And of course, Switzerland is a lovely place to explore. I still sometimes cannot wrap my head around the fact that I was able to so easily hop on a train to a different city or hiking destination during my weekends and experience such beautiful sights. From chocolate and cheese-tasting in the town of Gruyères to hiking in the mountains of Villars to frequenting the many bakeries in the heart of Lausanne, there was always an adventure to go on.
In all, I am thankful to have been a part of the Research Internship Program at EPFL and to have met so many wonderful people while living the spontaneous, vibrant Swiss life. It has been a pleasure!
Megan He, Yale University
Laboratory of Atmospheric Processes and their Impacts (LAPI), EPFL