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

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