Tag Archives: 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

for you=1:length(Research_Internship_Program);

For you = 1 : length(Research_Internship_Program) neatly summarizes all that I have experienced this summer as part of the Internship Program at EPFL. This phrase (thank you Matlab) simply states that you iterate through all of the things that could possibly happen to you during your stay. I will comment on a few of these experiences 🙂


One aspect of the program is simply the setting. Situated right on the edge of Lac Leman, working and living near EPFL was never a sore site. Everything was easily accessible by public transport at (almost) all hours, and with a monthly metro pass, I didn’t even have to fumble for change every time I wanted to zip to another area. The metro is also directly connected to two main train stations, which became a frequent meeting point for the adventurous travellers in the program. From these stations, we embarked on what seemed like a trip to a different country every weekend. Thanks to Switzerland’s central location in the heart of Europe, it never took too long to visit a different place and gain another stamp on our passports. And if we didn’t have the time, coordination, or wish to go outside Swiss borders, we hiked, swam, and toured everywhere from tiny villages in the Alps to world-class metropolises like Zurich.


Wow what a privilege to work in a top lab in brain-computer interface! The professor and assistant could not have been more welcoming, and the Ph.D. students, post-docs, and senior scientists could not have been more helpful. By the end of my time working in the lab, I have gained so many technical skills (in recording EEG), coding skills (MATLAB, Python), critical thinking skills (experimental design, data analysis and interpretation, machine learning techniques), and professional skills (project presentation, problem solving). And of course all of the fun outings and events we had as a lab at the professor’s house, the lake, or in the city centre. I arrived at the lab with a strong interest in brain-computer interface and basic skills, and I feel I will be leaving with awe for the field and considerably more advanced skills. I have also formed professional relationships with the lab, which can only help me in the future. I will continue to build on my project and the skills I’ve learned in the past few months as I work on my honor’s thesis this coming Senior year.


It really matters who you are with. Even if you are doing great research and travelling to a bunch of great places, what really makes the experience rich is the people you share them with. The interns in the program are fantastic! I’ve never been in a group of such inquisitive, curious, talented, dedicated, and adventurous people! It seemed like we were always discussing deep philosophical questions, and when we weren’t doing that, we were cracking jokes in our sort of “intern language.” You just want to know what these people are thinking, and what they are questioning, because we all come from different backgrounds and fields, and so everyone seems like an expert! The people in my lab were also fantastic. They cut me slack when I needed it, and pushed me when I needed it. Rather than just telling me how to do things, they let me figure it out, which although seems frustrating while you are figuring it out, in the end it makes you learn better and understand more about what you are doing. I could not have asked to work, lunch, travel, or hang out with better people-inside and outside of the lab. Shout out to CNBI (Char in Non-Invasive Brain-Computer Interface) and the interns in the program-my summer is that much better because of you!

Isabel Sible, UC Berkeley
Laboratory of the Defitech Foundation Chair in Non-Invasive Brain-Machine Interface (CNBI), EPFL


Campus livin’

Casual Alpine backdrop

Having studied in Cambridge, where tourists are made fun of for asking for directions to ‘the University’ (silly tourists! How could they not know that Cambridge University has many many mini-university sites, from colleges to departments and administrative buildings), actually having one self-enclosed campus to explore at EPFL is a new departure for me. The multitudes of cafés, shops and student services may be a standard on university campuses around the globe but I really think the physical community adds to the spirit of communal learning and sharing of information at EPFL, by fostering friendship between colleagues and networking between friends.

My department-Sciences de la Vie-and its neuron floor-muralIn other aspects EPFL is set apart from other universities by way of its ‘Swissness’-where else in the world would a building be named after a watch company, or would you look up to see the Alps seemingly in every direction? And I do wish the custom of having a cheese, fruit and bread market every Monday morning would catch on elsewhere. Similarly, there is a typically European emphasis on good food, with plenty of time at lunch to eat or even have a glass of wine the norm. And even in the summer months with few students still around, there are still things to see and do around campus, from an exhibition on the books of the future at the aforementioned Rolex Learning Centre, to taking a ride on a driverless car! One feature of EPFL would make any Cantabrigian feel at home though: a strong biking culture, with the provision of free borrowable bicycles on the CampusRoule scheme!

Caitríona Callan, Cambridge University
Neurodegenerative Studies Laboratory, Brain Mind Institute, EPFL