Adventures in Switzerland

My experience in Switzerland has managed not just to meet, but to exceed, everything I had hoped for in a summer internship in Europe. Let me preface my explanation by saying that I had already spent a year studying abroad in the UK before starting my internship at EPFL. When you come from the U.S., which is relatively homogenous, to a place where commuting is so convenient and the destinations so numerous and diverse, you take advantage of the opportunity to travel the first chance you get. As such, I had already packed my bags to see the world during my time in the UK, Eurailing from France all the way to Slovakia, and even flying to Turkey. So, by the time I arrived in Lausanne, I just wanted to unpack my bags, kick off my shoes, and unwind.

However, things started to pick up very quickly. Upon arriving in the Neurodegenerative Studies Laboratory, I realized that I would be able to work on my own project with the mentorship of a postdoc supervisor (shoutout to Dr Pamela Valdes for all her expertise and patience!). I was to engineer and clone my own plasmid of DNA to inject into mice, which would allow us to observe the aggregation and propagation of tau, a key protein involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimers as well as many other forms of neurodegeneration. In all my undergraduate experiences in research, this was the first time I had the chance to take ownership of a task so open-ended, with so many design points where my decisions and insight were crucial to a successful outcome. I immediately jumped at the chance to do so, treating this project as if it were my baby (I do really call it that out loud sometimes!). Every day, I woke up excited to go to the lab to continue my work. It was like falling in love, only instead of writing letters, I wrote protocols, and instead of picking flowers, I picked colonies of E. coli.

So there it was, my summer experience in a nutshell. Or so I thought. And I would have been perfectly content with just that. What I didn’t expect, and was pleasantly surprised by, was how friendly and welcoming my lab mates were. Without fail, everyone took the time to exchange greetings in the mornings. There would often be organized group outings, such as aperos in the afternoon or, even once, paddleboarding on the lake. Lunch hour was sacred, and the socializing that occurred would often be continued over a coffee after the meal. It made no difference if you were a graduate student, a technician, a postdoc, the secretary, or even a lowly summer intern; everyone ate together and talked to one another, whether to complain about an experiment or share their weekend plans. There was a real sense of community. The diverse international representation within our lab– a reflection of EPFL as a whole– made our conversations all the more interesting. I formed fast friendships with another fellow intern from Mexico and a graduate student from China, and also got to know some of the postdocs really well, including Pamela, who is from Chile, and Nathalie, from France. The technicians were also very friendly, but oftentimes would speak together in French, which everyone except me understood fairly well. So, to listen in on their lunchtime conversations, I decided to hit the books. Although I’m far from fluent at the moment, I can certainly understand a lot more than I did at the beginning of the summer. Sometimes I even find myself laughing along to their stories and jokes!

While life at EPFL was already wonderful and fulfilling, I also got to know and love the city of Lausanne its surroundings. Travel is expensive in Switzerland, and I had no intention of doing another grand tour of Europe, but I managed to have fun all the same. The key to sticking to a tight budget is to look out for deals, such as supersaver tickets, and to visit the local scenery. One weekend, I booked a discount ticket to Turin to visit a friend. Another time, I went hiking in the gorgeous terraced vineyards of Lavaux, only a 10 Franc ticket away from my apartment. A third time, I hitched a car ride with some of the grad students and postdocs and went rock climbing in the Swiss Alps. And some weekends, when it got too hot to go outside during the day or when I was in a lazy mood, I passed the time reading papers until the evening, when I would maybe take a break and walk down the streets of my neighborhood, or turn on Netflix to catch up on my favorite TV series.

I am about to leave Switzerland and Europe for good, and as I reflect on my experience, I know that my time here both in the lab and out have allowed me to grow immensely. I’ve made new friendships, learned a huge amount of practical and theoretical knowledge, confirmed my passion for neuroscience, become more independent both in research and in personal matters, developed a sense of confidence in my ability to adapt to other cultures, and… well, the list goes on and on. It’s a bittersweet farewell since I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to come back, but before I step on my plane back home, I want to say thank you to Switzerland and EPFL for one amazing summer.

Rock climbing in the Alps

Rock climbing in the Alps

Visiting a friend in Milan

Visiting a friend in Milan

Hiking at Zermatt

Hiking at Zermatt

Montreux Jazz Festival

Montreux Jazz Festival

Au revoir, jusqu’à la prochaine fois!

Xueyin Wen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Neurodegenerative Studies Laboratory, SV LEN, EPFL

Work-Life in EPFL

It wasn’t until my final day at EPFL when it suddenly dawned upon me — I have been here for 3 whole months, and I am now at the end of my internship. Everything felt (and still feels) so surreal. As I reminisce about my summer break, I thought to penning my thoughts into this blog post.

Ever since I received my invitation letter to the internship at EPFL, I was excited for many reasons. For one, I have been looking forward to visiting EPFL (one of the best research universities in Europe) for years. But apart from the academic/research reasons, it is also my first time visiting Switzerland and Europe.

My weekdays were spent in the BioRobotics Laboratory (BIOROB) in EPFL, under Professor Auke Ijspeert. My task was mainly software development work for the actuators the lab use for their robots. My works are made available online on github, for anyone who uses Dynamixel motors! (Let us know if you find these tools useful!) I worked closely with my supervisor, Dr Kamilo Melo, with other labmates and the robots in the lab. Being new to the field of robotic research did not set me back; instead, I have learned a lot about robotics and animal locomotion from my three-month internship here. Dr Kamilo has been particularly attentive and patient, being always present to answer my questions anytime (“Tell me”, as he always responds). The lab community was also a friendly and close-knit one. We go out to lunch together (often as a large group of 8-10) and talk about anything under the sun, from our research to life in general.

In my weekends, I ventured out, visiting different places in Lausanne, in Switzerland and in Europe. Here’s a few highlights of my weekend ventures.

Despite being a small city, Lausanne has several places worth visiting. Within the city, there are some walking tours through the old city suggested online — try it! The vivarium and the Sauvabelin tower are also some highlights in Lausanne that I highly recommend.

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Trip around Old Lausanne

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The Komodo Dragon in Vivarium

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Sauvabelin Tower

In Switzerland, I visited castles, museums and, of course, cheese and chocolate factories. (Things not to be missed: Tours@CERN, Visit to Maison Cailler [Chocolate]) Getting to these places were pretty convenient with an efficient and comfortable rail transport system.

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Free tours at CERN!

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Maison Cailler – A chocolate house/museum/factory

From Lausanne, it was also pretty convenient to take high speed rails to Paris and to Milan for my “European experience”.

At EPFL, the internship has been fulfilling and meaningful. But beyond that, being in Lausanne has provided me with a fun and relaxing summer break. I guess that’s what one calls “Work-Life balance”!

Gary Lee, Stanford University
BIOROB, EPFL

Homage to Switzerland

There is a river running through the Swiss city Basel that is a popular place for a swim in the summer. The locals all have waterproof, floatable bags to store their belongings while they swim down the river but another intern and I decided to swim the river with our backpacks – stuffed with clothes, towels, and books – which were quickly weighed down with water. We dropped the bags off behind a tree on the riverbank and continued down-river through the town, with just our shoes floating alongside us. My time in Switzerland was characterized by these adventures. I was so excited to get out, explore and experience the country that my weekend trips were usually poorly planned and I almost always had to run to catch the train home at the end but the spontaneity of it all is part of what made my summer in Switzerland so exciting and memorable.

I arrived in Switzerland from Montreal on a weekend in early May for the start of a four month internship. After spending a day recovering from jet-lag I went to EPFL for the first time where I was met by Dr. Lamirand and Dr. Frajtag in the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Systems Behaviour (LRS). The entire lab group was extremely welcoming and much of my first day was spent getting to know my coworkers over a few cups of coffee. At LRS, my main task was to make a 3D CAD model of the on-campus fission reactor CROCUS which is used for teaching and experiments. I went in without much knowledge of nuclear engineering but after several tours of the reactor and countless hours analysing the different systems for the computer model I learned a lot about the reactor safety and detection systems and I really improved my knowledge of CAD and finite element analysis software.

I really enjoyed the tight-knit work environment at EPFL. Every day our lab group would go for lunch together at one of the many cafes on campus and we would sometimes go for drinks after work as well. As they knew I was learning French they encouraged me to speak it as often as possible. If you are practicing your French I recommend finding a language tandem partner through the UNIL tandem site that matches learners with native speakers.

My accommodation in Lausanne was a residence operated by EPFL in Malley, halfway between downtown and the university. Living there was a great way to meet other students and interns and I highly recommend one of the EPFL residences if you’re in Lausanne for a short stay.

My summer as an intern at EPFL was really one of the best times of my entire life. I learned a lot about nuclear research and had a very fulfilling work experience, made some life-long friends and got to spend four months in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. À plus, Switzerland!

IMG_2125Michael Chadwick, McGill University

Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Systems Behaviour, EPFL

To Switzerland, or not to Switzerland?

I’m going to break with convention. I’m not going to devote very much time to sharing the narrative of my summer, nor am I going to spend very much time discussing my research. Instead, I’m going to talk about good reasons for doing such a program, and understanding what you can hope to accomplish if you come.

Let’s start at the beginning: who are you, if you’re interested in this program? Ideally, you’re a (recent) undergraduate, with an interest in research who thinks they may want to do a PhD. What can you get from coming? Well, you can answer the following professional questions for yourself:

  1. What is it like to work in a graduate laboratory in my space?
  2. What is it like to live as a graduate student?
  3. Am I cut out for the nature of research in my space? (E.g. for computer science, progress is very bursty – would that bother you?)

If you come with a mind to work, and get a bit lucky, you can achieve the following professionally:

  1. Contribute to some cutting edge research (and potentially be co-author on a paper).
  2. Impress a professor, earning a letter of recommendation for graduate school.

And regardless of how much you hope to achieve for work, you can definitely do the following:

  1. Meet people unlike any you’ve met before.
  2. Travel around Switzerland, exploring the nature and culture.
  3. Travel around Europe, exploring the nature and culture.

As some context, I’ll share with you my take-away from this program. I did some neat research on scheduling, made friends with people from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Italy, Ecuador, Switzerland, France, and Belgium, all while exploring Europe. At the end, I knew what it meant to be a graduate student (even my lab forgot I wasn’t one). When I came back to the United States, I didn’t have to imagine what graduate school would be like – I’d lived it, writ small. The scenery is incredible: look at some pictures.

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And seriously, if that doesn’t sell you, just think of the people and places waiting for you:

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The work is worth doing, the places worth seeing, the people worth knowing, and the questions worth answering. You should probably do it. And if you’re not sure, or even if you are, drop me a line. I’m happy to chat.

Elias Szabo-Wexler, Carnegie Mellon University
Discrete Optimization (DISOPT), EPFL
szabowexler.elias@gmail.com

A Summer in Lausanne

I was excited to receive my letter of invitation to spend the summer after my bachelor’s degree in the beautiful city of Lausanne, working at EPFL to improve my research experience and exploring Swiss culture.

Coming from London, it was particularly nice to enjoy the scenic landscapes of the countryside, as well as the beach of Lausanne. I would often go for a run in the morning after hopping out of bed and it was great to be able to enjoy the rising sun at the seashore. In addition, my fellow interns and I went to CERN near Geneva and got to know how the most famous particle accelerator of the world works, whose popularity increased dramatically after the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2013. So in contrast to Sheldon Cooper, I have been there! Later during my stay we went to the Gruyere cheese factory and the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc, where we found out about how these products are produced and got to taste different varieties as well.

I had the pleasure of working under Professor Stephan Morgenthaler in the Mathematics department on two different projects. One involved the application of stochastic processes to genetics and cancer development, while the other was concerned with robust statistical estimation of binary data. Fortunately I was not alone in my lab, but shared it with two PhD students. By the way, all you need for a Mathematics lab is a desk, pen, paper and laptop…

One of the perks of doing this programme was definitely spending time with interns from many other places, such as the US and Canada, as well as my housemates at the FMEL Rhodanie building, which is close to the Montelly metro station. As I spoke English almost all the time, I did not get to improve my French as much as I had hoped to, but fortunately everyday communication was mostly fine, apart from one or two awkward situations at the supermarket in the first few days…

Concluding, I have found this a really rewarding experience as I was able to strengthen my international experience as well as academic ability. My thanks go to the organising team of this research programme, my supervisor and the fellow interns I spent time with exploring Lausanne and Switzerland.

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Arijit Gupta, Imperial College London
Applied Statistics Section, EPFL

Switzerland, I Will Be Back

 

 

 

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After coming back to Singapore, all the 6 months I had in Switzerland was like a dream. All the breathtaking scenery, all the crazy things I have done, all the awesome people I have met, they are like existences in a beautiful dream and I finally woke up into the reality, in a hot rain forest with sunset at 7pm everyday.

I was lucky enough to have the exchange program and this summer internship, which made my six months’ stay in Lausanne, an important span of my life.

During my exchange semester, most of my travels were outside of Switzerland. After that I started my real exploration of Switzerland and I regretted that I didn’t find its beauty earlier.

A typical week:

Monday to Friday:  In the morning i rode my bicycle to my lab, went pass the corn field, seeing the Alps, sensing the cozy winds. I was working in the Applied Computing and Mechanics (IMAC) Laboratory under Professor Ian Smith, the Head of laboratory. I was working on a pioneer project that aiming to construct an teaching module about BIM (Building Information Modelling) Technology, which was a totally new area for me. The most challenging part of this project was to design the content and organization of this tech-related module in a tech-irrelevant way, which enables the module to be long-lastingly practical with the fast-changing technology.

I was glad that my lab mates , which are PHDs and scientists, are all very nice and helpful. Everyday we had lunch together and share our appreciations on similarities and differences among our cultures, foods and experiences. After lunch we usually had a relaxing coffee session to have a bit more fun. The work in lab can be tough and challenging but the relaxing time we shared added enough power to us.

Here comes the part of the after-work life. Inspired by my Belarus roommate Stas, I got my subscription of the water sports of our school. Almost every day after work I would just head to the lakeside riding my bike and do some water sports there. Lac de Leman is fantastic, doing windsurfing on the lake could be like flying within the heaven. Laying down and taking a nap on your stand up paddle board after going into the middle of the lake is like being in a place that you were the only existence.

water sports

Sometimes there were BBQ/party/picnics organized by the interns in the evening, having fun and talking to these lovely people from Oxford, Cambridge, Georgia Tech, MIT could be very enjoyable. Knowing how different ways people look at the world was inspiring.

A great thing about summer in Lausanne is that the sunset is always latter than 10pm, hence the time after work was just like the start of the day! we have 5 hours before sunset, and I will never forget how breath-taking the sunset at the lake is.

Weekend: Weekends are the free days that we could take day trips within Switzerland or go abroad. It was my dream to hike and cycle on Alps when I was a child and this summer I really make it. Switzerland transportation system is perfect for traveling with bike and I had took my bike to many mountains of this country. I don’t know how to express my feeling when I sped on the top of the mountain with the sound of the wind sweeping my head, it is like…I could feel that I am live in real.

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What is Switzerland? Crystal lakes, Alps and clear sky? Snow and glaciers? Swans, cows with bells and the fresh smell of the grass? All the nice people? It is all of them, all of them and many memories make the Switzerland for me. Switzerland, I will be back!

 

Recommendations:

  1. Purchase the half-fare and track 7 SBB card.
  2. Explore the Alps by hiking or cycling (buy a second-hand bike in campus)
  3. Get the water sports subscription to have great fun on Lac de Leman (Windsurf, kayak, stand up paddle) and swim a lot!
  4. Have fun with the awesome interns!

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Yuan Zijie, Nanyang Technological University,

Laboratory of Applied Computing and Mechanics (IMAC), EPFL

 

Debating the existence of Switzerland

At the time of application for this internship, I knew of two things: one, it in Lausanne, Switzerland, and two, they spoke French there. Despite the weeks of research I did on EPFL I somehow forgot to google Lausanne.

The acceptance letter arrived at the end of January. To my relief, I was no longer jobless this summer. This time, I was so swamped with technicalities for my exchange in Paris that I again  forgot to look up Lausanne (or Switzerland in general).

It was some time in April that a friend of mine showed me a photo of a brilliantly blue lake framed with snow capped mountains and told me she wanted to go to Lausanne. I could not believe it; I was going to be living there this summer?

Before I knew it, it was two months later and I was standing in front of Lac Léman, seeing it with my own eyes. After living in a bustling city like Paris for 5 months, Lausanne was like a breath of fresh air, literally. The bright blue skies with a fine crosshatch of plane trails brought out the lovely burnt umber of the roofs in the city. My apartment was located between UNIL and EPFL, which meant that it was nestled in a small forested area. Walking to and from work every day I would cross a bridge spanning a gurgling stream. It was tranquil and absolutely perfect.

At EPFL, I had the pleasure of working in the lab of Professor Jacques Fellay. For the last three months, I got to dabble into the world of genome wide association studies and nanopore sequencing of DNA. In other words, I got a taste of the intriguing world of genetics and the mysteries it contains. Coming into this term, the words LINUX and R were completely new to me and a couple of lines of coding might as well have been hieroglyphs. My supervisor, Chris, was amazingly patient and explained anything and everything to me with great enthusiasm, no matter what it was.

Outside of work, every weekend was booked with things to do, places to see. With fellow interns, we made the most of our stay. From hikes in the mountains and swims in crystal clear lakes to road trips to Italy and flights to Germany, we enjoyed every moment of it. Weeknights saw us converging for a drink by the lake and watch the mountains turn pink with the sunset.

There was a running joke this summer that Switzerland doesn’t actually exist but is all a dream. After all, there is no way a country can have this many mountains, cerulean lakes, waterfalls, emerald fields and picturesque towns… can it? Somehow, Switzerland is this beautifully kept secret. Where everyone I know wants to come the Europe to see France or Italy, I would come back to Switzerland in a heartbeat.

3 months gone… now it is time to leave and I do so with a sad smile. I have had an experience I will never forget and this internship has got me thinking about new possibilities for my career. À bientôt, Lausanne, tu vas me manquer beaucoup.

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Jennifer Lin, University of Waterloo
Laboratory of Human Genomics of Infectious Diseases (GR-FE), EPFL

I have found my second home.

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.

On the 5 Seenweg.

On the 5 Seenweg.

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

Research and Life in Confoederatio Helvetica

When I first saw the address for EPFL on paper:

Route Cantonale
CH- 1015 Lausanne

I wondered, how C.H. could be an abbreviation for Switzerland? After some research I found that it stands for Confoederatio Helvetica. Which, still made little sense.

Now, after spending the last 3 months in Lausanne, I understand. The latin name preserves Switzerland’s traditions while giving no preference to one of the four national languages. Yes, FOUR national languages. I have learned that Switzerland is a diverse land. In more ways than one.

I have been working as an intern in the BioRob lab led by Professor Auke Ijspeert at EPFL on a project to simulate compliant robotics parts. I have learned an incredible amount from my lab mates about robotics and about work habits. When an experiment in lab interests me, all I have to do is walk over and inquire about the project. In response, I receive a detailed description of what is happening and its importance. In addition, it is greatly comforting to know that any time I am struggling with my project, I can ask someone for help, and the person who responds is probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the given field. And they will gladly sit and talk with me as if they had all the time in the world. Kamilo, my advisor, was especially patient. Though I knew full well that there were many projects he was working, I still always felt like my concerns and my project were a priority. His mentorship has been absolutely invaluable to me.

Besides work, I enjoyed interacting with the people in my lab as friends as well. There is a huge diversity of cultures represented in my lab. I’ve met people from all over the world with different languages, backgrounds, and interests. I really appreciate that despite all these differences, everyone is good friends. As soon as I arrived in Switzerland, BioRob invited me in and I immediately felt as though I had many friends. Besides having lunch, and post-lunch coffee together every day, I learned that every Tuesday the cinema in Lausanne offers two for one price movie tickets, so we went a couple times. We also went to dinner on some Friday’s at this great Chinese place, near the Lausanne city centre, which was always packed.

Another amazing aspect of being here, is the traveling. On a weekend trip to Bern, some interns and I were looking at postcards for friends and family back home. I picked up a beautiful topographical map of Switzerland from the rack. As I ran my fingers over the paper, I was amazed. I always knew Switzerland was known for the beautiful alps. But for the first time I was struck by the fact that the ENTIRE country is mountains. But despite this, the landscapes of Switzerland are also extremely diverse: Mountains, check, lakes, check, valleys, check, old UNESCO site cities, quaint small towns, check, bustling industrial cities, check, ancient ruins, check, rolling hills with wandering cows, check, waterfalls, check. And, all of this in a country about three times the size of Los Angeles County. This means that everywhere I want to travel was a maximum of a 4 hour train ride away.

In summary this summer I have had so many incredible experiences, both academic and not, and I have learned more than I could have imagined. I am so grateful for the experience and I believe I have made many life-long friends whom I will never forget.

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Nina Mohebbi, Georgia Institute of Technology
Biorobotics Laboratory (BioRob), EPFL

Research Internship in Lausanne ? Yes, Please!

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.

Monteux Jazz Festival

Montreux Jazz Festival

George Varnavides, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Laboratory of Mechanical Metallurgy, EPFL