I have dreamed of visiting Switzerland since I discovered that The Sound of Music was filmed there in sixth grade. The endless, rolling hills, the majestic snow-capped peaks–even as an 11-year old, I couldn’t conceive there to be any other place in the world quite as stunning. By the time I received my internship acceptance letter nine years later, I had set tremendous expectations for my time in Switzerland. The research, the people, and the mountains I experienced this past summer, however, simply surpassed them all.
To start off: my research. My internship was in the Powder Technology Laboratory, under the supervision of Dr. Irena Milosevic and Professor Heinrich Hofmann. I worked on two projects, the first of which was measuring hyperthermia of iron-oxide loaded injectable implants to find an optimal heating formulation. My results were handed off for in vivo studies, with the ultimate goal of attaining more effective use of hyperthermia in cancer therapy. My second project involved physical and chemical characterization of bisphosphonate coated iron-oxide nanoparticles to investigate their potential as a multifunctional nanoplatform for cancer theranostics. Like much of wet-lab research, the labwork sometimes felt mundane or repetitive, but it was incredible to work with such state-of-the-art equipment and to know the impact my research could eventually have.
Next, the people. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Professor Hofmann and others in my lab. They showed such evident passion for the projects they poured their time and effort into, yet often made time to have coffee or barbecue together, and to make me feel welcome and supported. Similarly, other interns I met were fascinatingly invested in whatever they studied, whether it be astrophysics or microbiology, but were so friendly and easy to explore the region with. Taking an overnight train to Berlin, windsurfing on Lake Geneva, having homemade fondue nights, hiking in the alps–there was always someone up for the adventure.
And finally, this leads us to the mountains. In the 2.5 months of my internship, convenient transportation in Europe allowed me to travel to Paris, Zurich, Bern, Milan, and a myriad of other cities. While I truly appreciated the opportunities to see so much history and culture, nothing can beat the time that I spent in the Swiss Alps. During weekends that I spent surrounded by snow in the Jungfrau region, backpacking with a fantastic view of the Matterhorn, or climbing a via ferrata to a chorus of cowbells, I said the word ‘wow’ unsarcastically far more times than I’m willing to admit because every turn and summit revealed view after astounding view.
An internship abroad inevitably comes with its fair share of trials. For me, it was troubleshooting problems while my supervisor was gone for five weeks, managing the time difference between Switzerland and California, adjusting to living completely independently, and trying not to eat too much chocolate. These, however, only served to give me a touch of reality in a summer otherwise filled with dreams come true.