I had been working with a Professor back at MIT for quite some time in various capacities and I was fortunate enough to notice the EPFL Research Internship info-session around the time he inquired what my summer plans were. It was a no-brainer at the time, and proved to be one of my best internship experiences yet.
I arrived in Lausanne June 1st and worked at the Laboratory of Mechanical Metallurgy (LMM) at EPFL for two months under the supervision of Prof. Andreas Mortensen. The lab focuses on various processes and applications of metal-material composites (MMCs) and my project was to simulate and understand the physics behind capillarity in metal infiltration.
Even though my project was largely computational, I was fortunate enough to do quite a bit of practical work under the guidance of PhD student Gionata Schneider. One of the greatest learning experiences I had during the internship was precisely between the interplay of practical work and simulation. A side-tool developed during my first week there as an analysis tool, was only used during my last week at the lab due to the difficulty in obtaining a clean-enough sample to send for additional tomographic processing to a collaborator in Lyon.
The lab had a great work-atmosphere too with various communal activities. From the morning coffee break, to having lunch all-together every day to lake-side picnics and barbecues at the lab I met a lot of interesting people and made good friends.
I stayed at student housing in Bourdonette which struck a nice balance between being close to campus (~10 minutes by tram) and city center (~10-15 minutes by tram). Admittedly though there were times when, due to the tram and buses closing early, living closer to the city center would have been more convenient for going out and meeting up with friends. I had the pleasure of having awesome flatmates during my first month there and was sad to see them go end of June when their exams finished.
My Lausanne experience was made even more enjoyable due to the numerous people I had to hang out with and all the available activities. With other MIT students I knew beforehand and other interns I met through the program, we explored Switzerland quite a bit with day visits to Bern, Lucern, Zermatt and Gruyeres. During the summer there’s also a number of really fun festivals and concerts with the Paleo festival, Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival and Montreux Jazz festival to mention a few. Switzerland is also ideally located in Europe so make the most of it, I usually visited friends around Europe during the weekends and got to see Barcelona, Madrid, Lyon etc.
Finally, a word of caution: Switzerland is an amazing place with an abundance of activities to do but it can quickly leave you wondering how you managed to spend all your savings. I would say the half-fare travelcard is a worth while investment and even if you don’t end up paying it off (highly unlikely) it motivates you to go out more. Also, cook home for yourself or even in groups with your flatmates as eating out is prohibitively expensive.
George Varnavides, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Laboratory of Mechanical Metallurgy, EPFL