Despite all the situations going on with the pandemic, the past three months definitely have been the highlight of my year full with enjoyable experiences and inspirational people.
My internship project was about optimising ligands for palladium-catalysed enantioselective reactions. Therefore, it mainly consisted of benchwork. The usual routine was to work up the reaction in the morning and set up an overnight reaction in the afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed my work and learned a lot of practical techniques and skills. The environment in the lab was very friendly and welcoming, so I did not experience any difficulty in adapting into a new working environment.
For me, the world of academia seemed very far and vague; up to now, I had absolutely no experience of working in a research lab. Thanks to this opportunity, I could learn a lot about how it works; the process you need to go through before publication and how the project initiates and navigates through. In the lab, we always say ‘you never know before you run the reaction,’ and this mindset of the group was very inspirational to me.
The work life balance is very well established; everyone is expected to take a rest over the weekend, and people rarely work late in my lab. This clear separation between work and life gave me much relaxation compared to the intense term time at the university.
I took advantage of the half-fare travel card and explored different places in Switzerland such as Geneva, Bern, and Interlarken. Honestly, even though I don’t really enjoy hiking, Switzerland is a wonderful place to live and travel around. Also, there are many small specialty cafes in Lausanne, and I loved to explore them on Saturdays. Cycling along the lake and the beach with Publibike was another thing that I really enjoyed doing over the weekend as well. Also, there is a fair selection of museums and art galleries in Lausanne! My favourites were Platform 10 (contemporary art) and Collection de l’Art Brut.
Moving away from where my home university is made me realise the fact that there are a much wider range of opportunities that I can reach; this definitely helped expand my world and broaden my perspective of career and future decisions. With my origin being outside European countries, I felt more comfortable with the cultural diversity around EPFL and also in Switzerland itself.
It is hard to believe that this journey has come to an end, and I will surely miss this wonderful people and environment here.
Najung Lee, University of Cambridge
Laboratory of Catalysis and Organic Synthesis (LCSO), EPFL