A transformative journey

August 6, 2022. 18:48. Air Canada flight AC421 arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Descending from the plane, I set foot on Canadian soil for the first time in over three months. Same me, but with some notable differences. Looking back, it’s easy to see how my experience this summer could be described as “life-changing.” While I am not fond of the term, I have no doubt that my time in Switzerland has been transformative. As I unpack my gains, literally and metaphorically, over the next couple of weeks, my growth as a researcher and person will become only more apparent. 

First, let us unpack the big question. Why Switzerland?

Switzerland has a strong education system and Swiss universities score highly on international rankings. My host institution, EPFL (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) is world-renowned for its research and the diversity of its student body.

Five EPFL Excellence Research Internship Programs interns pose with the ‘EPFL’ sign. Author (Tony Hu) is on the far left.

While at EPFL, I worked in the Laboratory of Electrophiles and Genome Operation (LEAGO) under the supervision of Prof. Yimon Aye. My research investigated the mechanism by which endogenous electrophilic chemical modification of a nuclear protein elicits reduced protein local translation. Detailed understanding of this biomolecular chemistry promises to accelerate the discovery of new drugs to treat human malignancies, including cancer.

Outside the lab, I spent weekends in Lausanne, in Switzerland, or other countries in Europe. Through the EPFL Excellence Research Internship Program, I met a host of other interns in Switzerland, including the EPFL Summer in the Lab interns. I am proud to call them my colleagues, companions, and friends. Their diverse backgrounds have lent valuable perspective to my experiences.

Nighttime in the busy Flon neighborhood of Lausanne

Swiss alps with blue skies and clouds overhead

My time in Switzerland has been incredible. Rather than telling you more about my journey, I encourage you to experience Switzerland yourself. Consider a research experience in Switzerland; I cannot recommend the EPFL Excellence Research Internship Program strongly enough.

Tony Hu, University of Toronto

Laboratory of Electrophiles and Genome Operation