Research internship highlights
The research internship at EPFL marked one of my top experience during my college life.
During my internship, I was able to devote myself to rigorous academic research while enjoying life in Switzerland. I worked on the use of machine learning algorithms for credit (debt) collection to learn what the optimal actions such as, for example, sending reminders, writing letters, making phone calls or initiating a lawsuit are, in order to maximize the collection amount. The issue with the learning algorithm in this approach is that the machine sometimes returns uninterpretable policy, which may not be understandable or even usable by human decision makers. We therefore proposed a modified algorithm that incorporates a constraint during the learning process so that the algorithm will be adapting an interpretable policy.
I joined a few lunches with PhD students from different academic areas and learned about their studies and personal experiences; such a diverse environment. I find it fascinating how at EPFL people from different places speak different languages but all work on the same thing.
During my free time, I enjoyed my life in Switzerland. I frequently biked around Lake Geneva, made stops at many of the old castles in places such as Morges and Montreux. Thanks to the abundant snow, which we don’t get in California, I also went hiking and skiing in the Alps.
Kyle Liu, University of California San Diego, intern at the Chair of Operations, Economics and Strategy, EPFL
I gained both academic knowledge and knowledge about the world around me.
All in all I had a great time with MISTI Switzerland and the EPFL Research Internship Program, learning not only while I was in the lab, but also outside it. I ventured into an academic field that I had no previous experience with and a country I did not know well, and as a result I gained both academic knowledge and knowledge about the world around me and myself.
I hope to continue developing my knowledge and experience in the field of renewable energy and use all that I have learned to further improve myself and give back to society.
Barbara Lima, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, intern at the Photovoltaics and Thin Film Electronics Laboratory PV-LAB, EPFL
One of the best research universities in Europe.
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 and research reasons, it is also my first time visiting Switzerland and Europe.
Gary Lee, Stanford University, intern at the Biorobototics Laboratory, EPFL
I was lucky to be working on a project I am passionate about: my technical lab skills skyrocketed in these three months thanks to helpful guidance, and good facilities.
For my research, I worked in the Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology (LBE) under the supervision of Dr. Julien Maillard and Professor Christof Holliger in an extremely friendly and positive environment. The LBE works on dehalorespiring bacteria such as Dehalobacter and Desulfitobacterium – bacteria that are able to use certain chlorinated environmental pollutants, such as tetrachloroethene (PCE), for growth and energy.
My project was focused on presumed chaperone proteins, specifically flavin-transferases (Ftp), involved in the electron transport chain of Desulfitobacterium. The two aspects to this project were (1) to measure transcription levels of ftp genes in Desulfitobacterium under various growth conditions, and (2) to develop an assay to characterize the Ftp proteins biochemically.
Isabel Jankowski, University of British Columbia, intern at the Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology (LBE), EPFL
Wow, what a privilege to work in a top lab.
[…] 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).
Isabel Sible, UC Berkeley, intern at the Laboratory of the Defitech Foundation Chair in Non-Invasive Brain-Machine Interface (CNBI), EPFL
This research internship will remain in my memory as a professional and personal opportunity of a lifetime.
During my stay at EPFL, I worked at the Laboratory of Molecular and Chemical Biology of Neurodegeneration at the Brain Mind Institute of EPFL’s School of Life Sciences. I focused on Huntington’s Disease, the most common brain disorder with monogenic inheritance in the developed world. My project focused on the post-translational modifications of the huntingtin protein, the mutated gene product associated with HD pathology.
Even though our lab counted 25+ post-docs, students and technicians, I rapidly integrated into the team and got to know a variety of brilliant minds from various parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. I also had the opportunity to attend the many events and seminars held at EPFL: for instance, the institute-wide Research Day, a PhD symposium and several lectures and seminars held by outstanding researchers from all around the globe. The socializing aspect of course also could not be missed: there were several fun barbeques organized that I attended.
Because of EPFL’s great location and thus proximity to neighboring countries that are easily reachable by public transport, I made most of my stay to also visit other countries as well as explore Switzerland through hikes.
Shadi Hadj-Youssef, McGill University, intern at the Laboratory of Molecular and Chemical Biology of Neurodegeneration (LMNN), EPFL
Every day, I woke up excited to go to the lab.
My experience in Switzerland has managed not just to meet, but to exceed, everything I had hoped for in a summer internship in Europe.
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 (shout-out to Dr Pamela Valdes for all her expertise and patience!). 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 did not expect, and was pleasantly surprised by, was how friendly and welcoming my lab mates were. […] 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.
Xueyin Wen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, intern at the Neurodegenerative Studies Laboratory, EPFL
EPFL’s Research Internship Program can be a springboard for graduate studies at EPFL. Former interns explain why they felt valued, what impact their contributions had, and why all this lead them to return to EPFL for their Master’s or PhD.
Are you interested in EPFL’s Research Internship Program? Read about current and former research interns’ experiences on and off campus in their blog and discover why this unique experience could be just what you are looking for.