Activity Report 2020-2021

In this report, we summarize what the executive board has done this year for the association’s progression and for our ADSV community. Because of the SARS-CoV2 pandemic, many of the activities of this year were geared towards internal restructuring to make the operation of the association easier for future boards. 

2020-2021 Executive Board (18 members)

President (Co-President, EDMS Student Rep) Amber Bowler
Vice-President (Co-President) Luisa Spisak
Treasurer Yahya Mohammadzadeh
Event Manager Mateusz Antonszewski
Internal Affairs Coordinator Lucia Bonati
Boss Coach (EDNE Student Rep) Lucie Dixsaut
Webmaster (EDBB Student Rep) Julius Winter
SV Happy Hour Coordinator Ece Yildiz
Fundraising Manager Silja Placzek
Antenna Affairs Coordinator (EDNE Student Rep) Julia Brügger
Student Representative EDBB Rita Sarkis
Student Representative EDBB Ophélie Rutschmann
Student Representative EDBB Sophie Rivara
Student Representative EDCB Jenny Sülzle
ADSV Board Member Ayah Khubieh
ADSV Board Member Ahmed Sadek
SV School Council Silvia Monari
SV School Council Firat Altay


We’re pleased to welcome board members in green to their first year on the executive board. We’re especially excited to have had first-year PhD students involved this year. The Presidency was a bit different this year with the President and Vice President operating as Co-Presidents

Internal re-jiggering and organisation 

The executive board aimed to adjust the focus of ADSV to the joyfulness of being a PhD student and to building a community of PhD students who can learn from each other and build meaningful friendships. A big thank you to Lucia for organising all of our board meetings!

A new logo

One step towards this was to refresh the ADSV logo to embody this spirit. Luisa found Andrea Vucicevic through the Lausanne Life Science Intergroup meeting, a PhD student at UNIL interested in pursuing a career in design and advertising. She described the aspirations of the board, and Andrea came to present to the executive board and brainstorm. She provided the following design at right. 



The design was then made digital by Amber using Illustrator. The final touches were made by Ahmed. The board as a whole liked the new logo and we decided to use it for all future communications. 

The pursuit of a community room 

Amber had an idea of obtaining a room of any size for the association to use to have small events or a space which could be used as a lunch/coffee break room for PhD students who would like to meet other students in the midst of the same experience. For Amber personally, she felt lost and like a failure during her first year until she met a PhD student about 6 months ahead of her who had a nearly identical experience. It would be a large asset to have a community room which provided a place where interactions like these could be catalysed. 

Acknowledging the loftiness of this ambition, Amber secured the support of the board. Amber and Luisa met with Gisou van der Goot (then Dean) to propose the idea. Gisou was very supportive, and mentioned she had similar goals for the faculty, and offered to pursue the goal and proposed a room like this be available to different groups according to a rotation. Gisou then went on to a new position and was replaced by Andy Oates (more on ADSV role in this later). Luisa and Amber met with Andy and shared the idea of the community room and he also supported the idea, and is communicating with architects to expand SV, and will be sure to advocate for this community space for the SV faculty, postdocs and PhD students. Amber has sent an email to Laurence Winkel, building manager, expressing this need for a community room. Laurence replied kindly explaining the lack of space, but the idea has been planted (sneaky smile).

Amber then set her sights on the shared office with AESV, SV1510. After obtaining the key from the concierge (for the east door to the office), we discovered the AESV presidency had taken over the office, and that a lot of trash (from ADSV and AESV) had accumulated. There is a cabinet in there reserved for the reception desk by Marie-France (secretary). Amber, Luisa and Yahya worked together with the Presidency of AESV to clean out the office one afternoon. There is now plenty of space for neat and thoughtful storage of ADSV goods. In an ideal world, this room would be given completely to us, as AESV has 2 rooms on the third floor which are neglected/abused by their community. In a meeting with Amber and Luisa with Eva and Laurence of SV Communications, Eva and Laurence supported the exclusive use of the room for ADSV, and said they would speak with Laurence Winkel. 

If we obtain this room for us exclusively, we would propose this become a small coffee break place for PhD students, maintained by ADSV members. There is one cabinet which could be locked and contain goods of the association which we do not want to lose to sticky fingers. 

We hope the next executive board will pursue this project on behalf of the community. 

Consolidation of ADSV goods 

There were multiple locations where goods like beer, flyers, name badges, etc. were stored for ADSV, three to four of them were lockers intended for employee personal use. One in AI on the second floor contained the banner for ADSV, etc. Several in SV used to contain beer, but were unlocked and the beer is no more. One locker there is locked, but no one on the board has a key. The locker will be opened by the President of the association at the end of June 2021 with the concierge and securitas. Valuable contents will be transferred to SV1510. 

In march of 2021, Amber secured the blessing of the concierge to pass the key for SV1510 from President to President to streamline the process. There is a 50 CHF deposit on the key to be taken by the Treasurer from each President and returned at the passing of the key. We must also update the concierge by email, informing him of who is in possession of the key. The concierge’s desk is in another building, he prefers not to speak english, and all of this has made it difficult for presidents to engage this room to the proper degree. We hope this allows the association to use this room more. 


Yahya had to deal with a lot of questioning and paperwork to obtain the rights to the bank account of ADSV, as former President’s and Treasurer’s names were not removed each year after they left the board. This is now fixed, and he has set a precedent for proactivity in this position. Yahya also helped make any payment possible and easy for the board throughout the year.

Siljia wrote a detailed proposal to obtain funding from the faculty last year, and obtained a promise of 6000 CHF for the association. Yahya invoiced the faculty and received the money on behalf of the association. 

Amber and Luisa met with Harald Hirling to discuss his expectations from the association for our proposals for funding, and how much money we can reasonably obtain. It’s simpler than we thought, and they set aside 6000 CHF per association per year. 

Members list and alumni 

In studying the statutes, we realised that the question of who makes up the general assembly is a bit blurry for our association. We serve all PhD students engaged in Life Science research, but not all are official members. This presents a problem, should someone want to call for an exceptional GA against the President’s will. 

For this reason, we really pushed people to sign up as members, and Amber created a mailing list for adsv members ([email protected]).   


Our association has 3 goals:

  • Represent the interests of Life Sciences PhD Students
  • Integrate PhD Students into a community on which they can depend on for perspective, friendship and inspiration
  • Promote scientific and social interaction between PhD students engaged in Life Sciences research


This goal targets the fact that PhD students are sometimes mistreated, given high expectations or mentally stressed by a PhD. We aim to protect the basic rights of PhD students and seek positive change in the realms of how 

  • A subgroup of the ADSV has continued working on the wellbeing of PhD students this year. The group included Julia, Firat, Ayah and Rita. This working group met internally a few times to become clear on the goals of the working group and review the history to properly document it for the association to reference in the future. 
  • Amber and Luisa met with Andy Oates after he became dean to form a connection of ADSV and the deanship. They shared about the well-being working group objectives and ideas. Andy was very interested, and Amber and Luisa offered to coordinate a meeting with the working group and Andy. Rita, Amber, Luisa, Ayah and Firat attended the meeting and the members of the working group aim to work with the Dean to increase discussion in the community about how PhD should be treated by their professors.  This event should come in June. 
  • A survey was sent out by ADSV members Firat, Julia, and Rita, asking for feedback from the PhD students on who they would like as the next dean. The overwhelming majority suggested Andy Oates, our new dean. Thank you to Julia for representing PhD students on the selection committee. 


We have aimed to take a more active role in PhD Wellbeing this year by taking concrete steps with leaders in the community to promote discussion to shift the environment of the PhD to a happy and exciting time.

Integrate the PhD Community

The ADSV Newsletter – we continue to distribute the ADSV Newsletter to keep PhD students informed about ADSV events and important skill building events offered by not only ADSV, but EPFL and other universities. We’d like to thank Ayah for establishing the html code for this and Amber for the continued generation of the newsletter. 

PhD Coaching – A big thank you to Lucie who operated as Boss Coach of the PhD Coaching program this year. She recruited several new coaches this year and tireless (yet politely) bugged the current coaches to pair with new students to mentor. This was especially important this year as the new students had few contact points outside of their lab for information, understanding ears, etc. Thanks again, Lucie! You did a great job. Also thank you to Ahmed, for swinging in and helping to make a poster to recruit more PhD mentors when he saw that we could use the help. 

ADSV Sweaters – We wanted to create a sense of community and also to create something that will allow students to remember their time here at EPFL, so we made sweatshirts. Amber designed the art on the sweaters and coordinated with a local Lausanne printing company to bring this idea to life. 33 people ordered the sweaters, about 10% of existing PhD students. This resulted in a small profit for the association. 

ADSV mugs and swag – We have to show off our new logo — and use the funds from the association for the benefit of our constituency. While we cannot have events, we can have swag. ADSV mugs (to go with Tea Time Tuesdays) and bottle openers (SV Happy Hour) coming soon! A big thank you to Luisa for coordinating the mugs, and to Yahya for quickly executing payments for this and the Sweaters. 

Slack Channel – Thank you to Firat for the idea and execution of creating a Slack channel for the ADSV community. Thank you to Julius for quickly updating the information on the website. 

Promote scientific and social interaction

Tea Time Tuesdays –  An event idea inspired by the suggestion of former board member Alison that some PhD students don’t need an event centered around alcohol. Luisa took the lead on this project with the support of Amber. The idea of this event is to create an on-going event in which PhD students can rely on happening often, and can drop by to meet new people, and have a well-deserved coffee/tea/cookie. We had one TTT during a break between coronavirus waves in October, 29 people attended and really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know others. These will resume June 15th, 2021, according to restrictions and continue every other week. 

PhD Survival Kit – It can be very difficult and overwhelming to start a PhD. It’s difficult to know which resources are available to you and can be valuable to the project. It’s also difficult to keep up to date with new resources becoming available. Luisa conceived of the idea and recruited speakers for this series on zoom. For the first two editions, she brought together the heads of facilities to introduce themselves and the services available from their group. It was very successful and informative. 

Trivia Nights – A big thank you to Silja for suggesting and executing the most successful online activity of the year with Rita in strong support!! We hosted four Virtual trivia nights in the depths of lock-down this year, bringing connection and fun to the social distancing world. 

SV In Extenso – As is tradition, we coordinated the speakers for SV In Extenso, an event put on by our sister association, AESV. A HUGE thank you to Silvia for contacting and coordinating all the speakers. Thank you to Rita and Amber for their involvement. 

Presentation Workshop – We wanted to bring more soft skills training and resources to SV PhD students. Of particular interest to many students is presentation skills training. Mateusz proactively reached out to Damian Conway, a talented speaker, scientist and bioinformatician whose courses he had attended to ask if there was a way to give a seminar or course to our students online. Damian agreed and made an online version of his course just for us. ADSV is sponsoring up to 40 students to take one of the two courses offered by Damian. We’ll pay for half of the second course if the student desires. The courses are 100 CHF per student. 


A final THANK YOU to all board members for their thoughtful contributions throughout the year, lending perspective and enthusiasm to the board in a distant year.