Chemistry, Nature, and Everything Else

My three months of summer were spent living in an AirBnB room in a pretty Swiss house hidden somewhere in the peaceful town of Préverenges, a five-minute walk from the shores of Lac Léman, and working in a small inorganic chemistry lab tucked away in a corner of the CH building in EPFL, where many toxic/radioactive/flammable/pungent, but not in any way less colourful and fascinating, chemical reactions were carried out and studied extensively. It was, perhaps, one of the best summers I could ever remember.


Préverenges: a pier (I think) on Lac Léman

Inorganic chemistry is a vast field of research, for it covers the syntheses, structures and behaviours of compounds based on virtually any of the elements found in the Periodic Table, except for carbon. Of course, it would be a Herculean task for any one research group to work on all of these elements, so each group tends to choose to focus on a collection of elements that behave similarly to one another, for it is then easier to classify and rationalise any trends and anomalies discovered. For my three months in EPFL, I was attached to the Group of Coordination Chemistry led by Professor Marinella Mazzanti, whose main interest lies in the rich chemistry of lanthanides and uranium. The project to which I was assigned involved an investigation of the structures and reactivity of several lanthanide Schiff-base complexes: the goal was to try to store electrons in these complexes using a strong reducing agent, making them much more nucleophilic, thus enabling them to become very reactive towards the activation of small molecules such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and even molecular nitrogen. This could potentially open up new avenues of research for other fields such as catalysis and synthetic chemistry.

A day-to-day routine in the lab would involve setting up new reactions, analysing on-going reactions using various techniques such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, Mass Spectrometry, etc. and attempting to isolate pure, crystalline products from completed reactions for further examinations such as single-crystal X-ray diffraction and elemental analysis. Almost everything we do in the lab is air-sensitive, and so special techniques to handle these chemicals under an inert atmosphere must be used to ensure the safety and integrity of our experiments. Of course, the actual picture was somewhat less rosy as very often things never really worked out the way we expected them to, and here came the ever-insightful discussions with more senior members of the group: with their experience, they were able to give very useful advice which helped me get out of the bottleneck and move forward by interpreting the data more precisely and improving on the experiments. I cherished these discussions, for through them I not only gained more understanding of my project in particular, and of f-block chemistry in general, but I also became more bonded to my lab-mates (it is all about forming bonds in chemistry, is it not?).

But my Swiss experience was not just confined within the four walls of the lab. Even though I am not a fantastic fan of travelling, the scenic beauty of Switzerland still managed to compel me to get out of my room every now and then, with some reluctance at first when I had to get up early on a Saturday morning to catch a train, but with full bliss and marvelment by the end of the day after having been immersed in the fresh air and the breath-taking views of nature. That was the time when I walked up the vineyard terraces in Lavaux on a rainy day, hoping to steal a grand look on the many arrays of vines, the wavy surface of the lake and the grey Alps fading into the distance behind the clouds and the rain. It was such serenity to just let myself get lost amongst the cute little houses, hidden staircases and secret streams of water flowing down into the lake. There was no sunlight on that day, but everything still somehow managed to glow up so vividly… Then there was the time I took a vintage train to go up to Rochers de Naye, a mountain of the Swiss Alps with an elevation of around 2000 m above sea level that promises a mesmerising panorama of nearby valleys and of Lac Léman. It was cold and windy up there, so after walking around to absorb as much of the view as possible, it was perfect to just sit down in a local bar and slowly enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.


Lavaux Vineyard Terraces: a grand view after the rain


Lavaux Vineyard Terraces: pretty houses


Rochers de Naye: a panoramic view from the summit


Rochers de Naye: a botanic garden at ca. 2000 m above sea level

And then there was the time I went to a festival called KleinLaut based in Riniken, which was literally in the middle of nowhere. However, thanks to it being in a small town and hidden among the woods and mountains, it did not get overloaded with people and noises. There were fun activities for everyone — children and adults alike — to engage in, all food was home-cooked, and the bands played handsomely. It was relaxing to just wander around and enjoy the food, the music and the people, in a place far away from crowded and rowdy city centres.


KleinLaut Festival, Riniken: people having fun


KleinLaut Festival, Riniken: cute signs making the festival feel a lot homier


KleinLaut Festival, Riniken: Turbostaat playing — and of course everybody enjoyed the music!

My three months in Switzerland have been a wonderful experience: I have made new friends with my lab-mates and with the other EPFL interns through work as well as through the various picnics and BBQs we organised, learnt a great deal of new chemistry, and been thoroughly amazed by the enthralling beauty of nature. It was hard to say goodbye to my lab-mates, my housemates, and anybody else who has been part of my experience, but I hope that one day I will be able to come back, be it for something long-term, or even just for a short visit, and relive some of the best moments I will always treasure.


Ouchy, Lausanne: the onset of dusk

Bang Cong Huynh
Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, UK
Group of Coordination Chemistry, EPFL, Switzerland

Switzerland Withdrawals

Sion is a homey town where bus drivers greet pedestrians on the streets, the capital of Canton Valais Wallis, and the site of the EPFL Energypolis campus where I had worked for the past summer. Energypolis consists of seven research laboratories that focus on renewable energy, health and environmental sustainability, lead by professors affiliated with the Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering (ISIC) from the main EPFL campus. The various exciting projects include gas separation, hydrogen storage, solar-to-fuel conversion, carbon dioxide capture and storage, and what I worked on: vanadium redox flow batteries (VRBs).


Dual circuit redox flow battery demonstrator in Martigny

Redox flow batteries is an interesting field of research as it provides a rechargeable electrochemical energy storage system that may be useful in large-scale utility applications, to compensate for the instability of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. I was very fortunate to be a part of this project in the Laboratory of Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry (LEPA) where I learned a lot about flow batteries in practice: the concept, assembly, and of course the intricacies to improve its efficiency. My task was to test how different membranes and temperatures affected the batteries, but it was much more work than it sounds: setting the correct voltage limits to avoid anodizing the electrode, determining the optimal amount of electrolyte for each set of tests, finding novel ways to keep a constant temperature for the entire apparatus… But these troubleshooting experiences gave me great insights to what a PhD experience would be like. Overall, it was a very fruitful experience!

And of course, traveling! Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and it’s also in the center of Europe, which makes traveling very convenient: it takes less than 4 hours to go to Paris and Milan by train, less than 2 hours to fly from Geneva to Barcelona, Munich, Prague, etc., and of course Switzerland itself is simply breathtaking! As many posts have mentioned, Half-fare cards, Track 7, and your fellow wonderful interns will make your trips even more fantastic! Also, many attractions offer significant discounts if you are with a group of 10 or more.


Jungfrau – “Top of Europe”!

Every weekend was a different adventure. Even though I had to occasionally get up as early as 4 am to catch the train, very frequently run after all forms of transportation, and my leg muscles sure became much stronger after walking an average of 20 miles every weekend, it was worth every moment. Whether it was hiking by the Matterhorn, taking the world’s steepest cogwheel railway up to Mt. Pilatus, or simply strolling by Lake Geneva in Montreux, words cannot express how breathtaking the scenery was:


hiking by the Matterhorn


flowers by by Lake Geneva in Montreux


Mt. Pilatus

After I came back to the U.S., a friend asked which city was my favorite during my three months of interning/traveling in Europe. I could not give a clear answer to this question, but Switzerland was most definitely my favorite country.

Carrol (Qiwen) Xia, University of California, Berkeley.

Laboratory of Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry (LEPA), EPFL

What an amzing country

This summer, I went to EPFL as a Research Intern. And no surprise, it has been one of my best summers ever!

Working at EPFL has been a great experience. I worked at Automatic Control Lab under Mechanical Engineering Department. As a Mechatronics student, it has been a extremely valuable experience to me because the projects here are really innovative and advanced. From bio-robots to UAV, there are robots that you have never imagined. I believe that you will always find a lab that interests you whatever your professional specialization is.

Apart from EPFL, Switzerland is also a beautiful country to visit. Switzerland is not big and transportation is super convenient thanks to SBB ( the Swiss Train company). Its cities are also small enough to just walk around, including the big ones like Zurich and Geneva. And how beautiful is Switzerland? Whenever you pull out your phone/camera, take a picture, and it can me breath-taking.


(sunset by lake Geneva)

If you are a football fan like me, Zurich is a must on your list. And in Zurich, you have to go to FIFA Museum. Here, the REAL Rimet Trophy is displayed.


What’s my favorite Swiss city? It has to be Lucerne. Everything is blended well together. The cloud, the river, the bridge, the swans. Perfect.IMG_4223.jpg

There are also great hikes you shouldn’t miss. Pack your toblerones, take a train ride up to Matthorne, eat them before the lake. The experience will make you never forget.IMG_5061.jpg

Also, probably the most legendary hike ever, is the ridge of Interlaken. With the cliffs beside you, every move has to be careful. The view? Astonishing.IMG_5344.jpg

There are just too many things to name,. chocolates, cheese, chess and on and on and on. You have to be there to check it out. If you love to see it by yourself, I would say, EPFL research program is great. And do not miss it. This is life time experience. You will fall in love with this amazing country.


University of British Columbia

Third Year Mechatronics Student

Stuck in the Swiss Alps

So it’s summer break, and you know you should get an internship, but you also want to travel before settling into that 9-5, 20 vacation days per year work regime. Why not both? The best part about interning in Switzerland is that during the week you gain valuable professional experience, and during the weekend you get to travel Europe.

A lot of the other posts give great summaries and tips for this program, and it’s hard to say anything about work since each lab is so different, so I’ll focus on some of our hiking adventures.

Switzerland is known for its gorgeous mountains (second to its cheese reputation, of course),  and we had our fair share of hiking. First stop was Mont Salève, which overlooks Geneva (the mountain’s actually in France). The trail is a grueling 1.1km vertical ascent, with a consistent ~40 degree slope all the way. It’s well worth the effort though, for this great view of Geneva. If you want you can also take the cable car, but where’s the fun in that?


Round two, hiking by the Matterhorn near Zermatt, the iconic Toblerone mountain. We planned a nice panoramic hike: cog train to Rotenboden to get a nice picture with the Matterhorn reflected in the lake, hike down to Rifflealp and over to Blauherd on the 5-Seenweg, a trail that passes by 5 mountain lakes (map). From there, we could take the cable car down to Sunnegga, and a cog train back to Zermatt.


So we thought. Turns out the last cable car from Blauherd leaves at 5pm, and we got there at 5:20pm. No problem, we can just hike down to Sunnegga, and take the cog train from there. Except the last train from Sunnegga leaves at 6pm, and according to the trail map, we were 70 minutes away! So began an epic race down the mountainside to make the last cog train–if we missed it, we’d also miss the last train from Zermatt back to Lausanne. Hope was not in our hearts, but we ran all the same, suffering from dehydration and fatigue. Ahead of us was 3.8 km in horizontal distance, 300m of vertical descent. And we made the entire thing in 35 minutes, just in time for the cog train.


Lessons to learn: Read the timetables! And bring lots of water! Also, be warned that the trails around there are at ~2500m in elevation. This means the sunlight is super strong, so pack up on sunscreen and reapply it often.

Not done yet. Next was Interlaken, and the infamous Hardergrat trail. The trail is “spent on a sharply defined ridge, with significant, even airy, drops on both sides, in some places, 1500 meters of drop” (info here). Excited?


The full trail is 27km long, which takes around 10 hours. We only walked about a kilo along it, following trail 4 in this map for the most part, since we didn’t want to get stuck on a mountain again.

If walking on a foot-wide trail with 60 degree drops on either side of you sounds like a nightmare, you can still get your adrenaline fix at Creux du Van. It’s a nice pleasant hike that takes you on top of a giant, horseshoe cliff. No danger of falling if you keep your distance from the cliff, but you’ll probably take a risk or two for that perfect Instagram shot.


Overall, this summer has been a great experience, and one that I would highly recommend. See you soon, Switzerland!

Riley Xu, Carnegie Mellon University                                                                                         Laboratory for Quantum Magnetism (LQM), EPFL

Summer Internship at EPFL

My summer at EPFL was perhaps one of the best summers I have ever had! If you wonder why, here is a bit of my story:

At EPFL, I worked in the Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering (LRESE) and I worked there from July to September 2015. My project was about maximizing the performance of water splitting device, using sunlight as the energy source to form H2 and O2 as the valuable products. This technology has a very bright future in the next few years, and I am proud to be part of its development.

During my internship, I learnt so many things, both in academics and socially. From the academic point of view, I learnt how to structure my approach in doing the project. I learnt how to manage my daily timetable and split the tasks wisely so that I could finish the project in a very limited amount of time — I learnt how to multitask. I had the chance to use some sophisticated laboratory equipment such as Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) and Metal Sputtering Machine – to use these machines I had to enter a chamber called cleanroom and wore an “astronaut-like” outfit! But more importantly, I learnt that in research, 75% of your time is spent trying to explain something that you did not expect to happen in the first place! Apparently, that’s what science is about.  This experience will surely help me succeed my 4th year project in Oxford which I am currently doing – the internship seems like a head-start!

For my social life, I have also gained a very unforgettable experience. I had the chance to meet and be friends with brilliant students coming from top universities around the world – MIT, Cambridge, Stanford, you name it! Building a network and friendship with these people is surely something that is priceless. We had several trips together, once was to CERN, Geneva. The largest scientific lab on earth, a place that is second to none!

In overall, I would undoubtedly recommend this programme to anyone who wants to have a great AND productive summer. Not only those who have passion in research, but also those who are considering it. You won’t waste your time being here. The FUN part is guaranteed!



Interns’ trip to CERN!


boat trip

Boat trip organised by the lab!


Me at Lauterbrunnen!

Samuel Putra, University of Oxford

Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering (LRESE), EPFL

My Summer in Switzerland

Last year, my friend came back from an internship at EPFL in Switzerland.  She was ecstatic about her time there.  So, I decided to look into EPFL as well.  And in the end, even though our experiences were completely different, after having spent my summer in Switzerland, I only wish that I could have stayed there for longer. I met amazing people, and I worked in an awesome place, the Biorobotics Lab, led by Professor Auke Ijspeert.  What more could one wish for from a summer?

The Typical Weekday:

Every day I would wake up in my dorm room in the Marcolet dorm complex (part of FMEL Housing), which is in a little town called Crissier, a suburb of Lausanne.  After getting a delicious, freshly baked croissant au chocolat at the local convenience store, I would get on the metro and be at EPFL within 20 minutes.  Often I would walk to work, which would take a little over half an hour.

One of the main goals of the Biorobotics Lab is to design biologically-inspired robots in order to better understand the biomechanics of the animals that they are based off of.  As such, a principal direction of my research in the lab was to determine which scaling relationships should be conserved when maintaining dynamic similarity between robots and their respective animal of inspiration.  In short, I was working with this guy:

PleurobotIn the middle of the day, the whole lab would go together for lunch at one of the EPFL cafeterias (most of which make quite good food).  A coffee break with interesting discussions would always follow this.

After work was over, I would rarely go straight home.  On some days the interns would get together and hang out on Lake Geneva.  On other days (aka whenever there was wind) I would get my swimming gear and go windsurfing at the UNIL dock, either with my friends from the lab or my Singapore roommate Rodger (see his post below).

The Weekends

The workdays were great.  The weekend was just as exciting.  This would be the time when I traveled throughout Switzerland and Europe, such as going to the Rhine Falls to see the fireworks celebrating Swiss National Day, or exploring Montreux, the setting of the famous song, “Smoke on the Water.”  We also had numerous picnics with the team.  In keeping with the American spirit, the interns and I even threw a Fourth of July party on Lake Geneva for our labmates.


I will never forget my time in EPFL.  I met so many great people.  I participated in awesome research and experimental work.  I went to new and beautiful places.  I just hope one day I will come back.

Stanislav Tsitkov, MIT

Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL

Summer in Lausanne – Challenging and Fun

Since this blog is mainly read by potential future interns I will focus on trying to give you guys a few general comments and tips. For a bit of context, I spent a bit more than two and a half months at EPFL working at LIONS on convex optimization. I had a great time both in terms of academic and personal aspects, and you found a lab here that peaked your interest I definitely encourage you to apply. Here are a few pieces of advice you might find valuable.


#1 Free time
At EPFL the normal working hours are 9-5 and you have weekends (and a few vacation day if you want depending on your lab’s policy) so you do actually have quite a bit of free time. For me a lot of this was spent on cooking (cheap, delicious, fun experience for me) but I know many people who basically never cooked and still were able to save some money. One thing I was really interested in was sports practices I could participate in. It turns out, that basically all official sports activities close beginning of July, but do not worry. There is an ultimate Frisbee club with weekly practices every week, pickup volleyball is always on and you can always just organize any other pickup game with your friends (or rent a boat!). Also, EPFL does not seem to have a swimming pool for everyday use, but the lake is pretty nice and there are many cool public swimming pools and water parks (!) close by. For the weekends I went traveling almost every day. I didn’t really have to go too far, there’s plenty of things to see in an hour of range. And at least once, you should go on a longer hike in the mountains. This might require quite a bit of planning, but it’s totally worth it.


#2 Traveling
Half-fare cards, After 7 tickets, Eurorail passes, Supersaver tickets are your friends. You should spend some time figuring out which ones work the best for you. I recommend you buy a bike here. You buy it for a 100 and sell it back for 50. Although a bit hilly the area is great for biking. I especially recommend biking in the wine yards.

#3 Work
This is very lab specific. I had a very vibrant lab and had lots of fun (and made actual progress through hard work). When choosing a direct supervisor, keep in mind that some people leave for months over the summer and you don’t want that to happen right after you arrive. Luckily, my supervisor left for conferences when I could already work somewhat independently. What I appreciate the most, is that I received a tremendous amount of help and personal attention and I never felt that I was overworked at LIONS (as opposed to MIT). I am applying to this lab for graduate school starting next year.

#4 Food
Food is expensive, even on campus cafeterias for my taste. On the other hand cooking for yourself is actually quite cheap. Especially if you go Monday morning to Denner when they put %50 tags on a lot of their products (which will expire in 2-3 days, but that’s fine). This is the overall theme of my post. Lausanne is a great place to spend your summer at. Your stay can also be challenging at certain points, but you always overcome these challenges and feel stronger afterwards.

+1 Arrival
Don’t schedule your arrival the day before starting work, especially if you are starting on a Monday. Sundays are very quiet in Switzerland (unless you go to the lake shore where everyone’s grilling their sausages), most things are closed. Give yourself at least 2-3 days to settle in, walk by the lake, meet your neighbors and prepare for unexpected challenges 🙂


Gergely Odor, MIT
Laboratory for Information and Inference Systems (LIONS)

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.

Trip around Old Lausanne

The Komodo Dragon in Vivarium

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.

Free tours at CERN!

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

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