Monthly Archives: September 2014

Dear Switzerland

As I sit in my room facing the beautiful Lake of Geneva and the mountains, I think back to all the things that I have  learned, shared and encountered during my 3.5 months of summer research internship in Lausanne. Unlike many other interns, I have been luckily selected to do an academic exchange after my internship and stay here for another year.

The first day when I arrive, it was at the end of May, and students were still in exam period.  I was welcomed by my roommates in my apartment at ‘des Cèdres’ (FMEL residence). This place is just fantastic!  It is a great location, near to Ouchy and the beach. On the same day, we went to a little party organized by my neighbors who were living right beside my apartment. I met many new friends and that was just the beginning of my adventure in Switzerland…

I have a multitude of stories to share and I don’t even know where I should begin with.

Transportation in Lausanne : BIKE

One thing that I would recommend everyone to do is either bring your own bike or buy a bike and sell it before you leave. It is definitely worth it ! Biking around Lausanne is really easy since Lausanne is a small city. I have been biking from my place to EPFL every day  and I take the bike trail that goes along the lake and enjoy the magnificent view. Be aware that Lausanne is on a hill, but don’t worry at the end of the summer you will have very strong legs. If you don’t like to bike, the public transportation is really good too!

Be Swiss and go to ‘Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises’ (The Vaud Open Wine Cellars event)

I went with Kate Schuler to this event and we had a great time tasting wine from the region. You pay 15CHF and you get a glass of wine and a passport for the whole week-end to visit many different wine cellars and taste the local swiss wine.  It gives you the opportunity to visit the production sites . Bring some bread because at the end of the day you might be a little bit dizzy.



Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises

Mountains are not too far from you

Hiking time ! Thank you Switzerland for allowing me to enjoy the beautiful landscape surrounded my enormous mountains! In addition to their punctual and slow lifestyle, I found that swiss people are very outdoorsy types. Their usual week-end activties is to go high up in the mountains. Tour d’Ai, Glacier d’Aletsch, Creux du van, Rocher-de-nayes and many more.. This is THE place for hiking! Bring good hiking shoes and explore the mountains during your week-end, you will be amazed the the landscape.


Glacier d’Aletsch

Festival, Festival, Festival !  Sonnentanz Festival


At Sonnentanz Festival

There are many festivals from classic to techno/electro in Lausanne and Switzerland. Work is good but it is always better to take some time to have fun and get crazy!

Finally, my summer research internship

My internship was mainly on passive sampler, a tool to monitor and investigate pollution in water. My lab is using passive sampling in cohesion with a forensic methodology. I worked under Nicolas Estoppey, a doctoral student who is using passive sampler (LDPE and PDMS) to investigate the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a harmful pollutant, in the Venoge river.  Luckily, when I arrived they were in the deployment phase of the project, so I got to go often outside to do some field work. I also worked alongside with a Spanish student, Inma Carpeinteiro, who was working on a different type of passive sampler (POCIS) in the Valais. My research experience has allowed me to use different field equipments and do laboratory analysis.  I expenrienced all aspects of science research, the long day, the planning, the autonomy, the repeated experiments, field work, lab work and finally and not the last, I learned about myself. Being surrounded by highly knowledgeable, passionate and motivated people  was really encouraging and gave me a good learning experience.


Working in the field

After spending 3.5 months in Lausanne, I have noticed myself adopting a Swss lifestyle !

I have given Switzerland my hard work, my smiles and my curiosity; in return, I have come away with an insurmountable amount of knowledge, culture and appreciation for Switzerland. Thank you Karen Undritz for this amazing opportunity !

Relax and breathe, come to Switzerland!

Camille Fong, McGill University

Laboratoire Central Environnemental GR-CEL

Swiss Reflections

Switzerland, you treated me so well! Lausanne is really the perfect place to be as a student as it is essentially a city full of young people who want to have fun. You are always meeting new people, which is really great! Although Switzerland can be very expensive for tourists, being here for 4 months means that you can take advantage of the long term deals they have, that make living more affordable for swiss people. This means buying the half fare card (half price on all transport) is cost effective, as well as the track 7 card (free travel after 7 pm), checking out museums in Lausanne on the first Saturday of the month (it’s FREE!!), going to movies on tuesdays (half price if your mobile phone provider is Orange), etc…

The Research Internship:

As soon as I arrived, I felt very welcome and part of the team. Three coffee breaks per day + relaxed lunch breaks with the lab really establish a sense of comaraderie with other members of the lab, something that I think is lacking in North America. I loved how well the Swiss/Europeans incorporated social/relaxation time into their work environment, making everyday life that much more enjoyable. In North America, I have found that personal or leisure time is kept very separate from the work environment.

Working in the Physics of Aquatic Systems Laboratory is excellent because it means plenty of time spent on the boat in the sun! (Measuring reflectance of the sunlight off the water conveniently meant that we could only do fieldwork with clear skies and calm winds 🙂 ).

Measuring reflectance to determine chlorophyll concentration (Who you gonna call?!).

Measuring reflectance with PhD student Vincent Nouchi to determine chlorophyll concentration in Lake Geneva (“Who you gonna call?!”).

Being a part of EPFL’s Research Internship program was very special because you are surrounded by gifted students from the globe’s top universties. All amazing people, from very different backgrounds, very accepting of everyone’s differences; we all got along extremely well!

Life beyond EPFL:

Outside of the research internship, Switzerland has unlimited activities: music festivals, hiking, and all sorts of other outdoor activities. Conclusion?: HIKING IN SWITZERLAND IS AMAZING! Trails are extremely accessible by public transit, unlike anything I had seen in North America. Words cannot express the breathtaking beauty of the swiss landscape. Returning home, exhausted after a day of hiking and feeling accomplished about however many meters of elevation you climbed, is one of the best feelings in the world.

Summit of Schwarzhorn, near Grindelwald, Switzerland.

Summit of Schwarzhorn, near Grindelwald, Switzerland (2928 m).

Amazingly well maintained trails (Yes, the trail is vertical, and yet in impeccable condition.)

Amazingly well maintained trails (Yes, the trail is vertical, and yet in impeccable condition, complete with a chain to assist hikers.)

How has this experience shaped my life?

1. One of the main reasons why I chose to apply to this research internship was to discover if research was something I was interested in. I can definitely say that I am left with a very positive impression, and it has helped me to narrow down my interests. (Although the immediate steps to be taken in research are not always clear and can be discouraging, it is OK, and actually quite a common occurence in research.) I would love to come back to Switzerland for a PhD in a couple years time.

2. I NEED to live near mountains.

3. All of the amazingly diverse people I met during my time in Switzerland reinforced the notion that having a positive and open outlook to the world can is extremely rewarding and the relationships created as a result of this outlook are easily worth 1000 times the effort initially put in. Shout out to all you amazing interns!!!


One of the last dinners with a majority of the interns. Photo courtesy of Morgan Jackson.

Thank you to EPFL and Karen Undritz for this amazing experience!

Kate Schuler, McGill University
Physics of Aquatic Systems Laboratory (APHYS), EPFL