After a long time spent at home, and previous planned internships cancelled due to the pandemic, I was overjoyed to be able to come to EPFL to carry out a summer project in prof. Severin’s lab – the Laboratory of Supramolecular Chemistry.
My project was focused on conjugating a fluorescent molecule to a range of thiols, so I did in fact do a whole lot of shining light at my compounds to check whether my reactions worked as expected. My work was largely experimental, and I had a lot of opportunities to not only get more practice at techniques I have done before, but also to learn new ones and operate pieces of equipment I was never allowed to even touch as an undergraduate student. I was really surprised at just how well equipped the lab was – for example, it is rather unheard of to have an NMR machine assigned to just one lab, and that availability helped me streamline my work a lot. I also learned a lot about the academic publishing process from by lab colleagues – while I had read some academic papers before, I definitely wasn’t fully aware of the amount of work and admin that goes into publishing one.
The work environment was also incredibly welcoming – not only did I learn a lot from my direct supervisor (not only in terms of purely academic skills, but also career planning etc.), but I also felt included in the day to day life of the lab. Getting lunch together at the Banane, group trips and aperos were some of the moments I look back to with most fondness.
This stay was not my first experience in Switzerland, as I actually have family in Switzerland whom I visit quite often; however, it was definitely an opportunity to experience it more fully in a day to day life. It was quite an adjustment for me to get used to all the shops closing at 8 pm at the latest – no more late night trips to the grocery store! Echoing some of the previous posts, definitely make sure to get a half fare card and/or a 7/25, as visiting other Swiss cities is really worthwhile, and the train connections are really well developed, so travel doesn’t take long.
If you’re still on the fence about applying to the program, stop hesitating and go for it! You have nothing to lose and lots of new friends and experiences to gain.
Basia Kraus, University of Cambridge
Laboratory of Supramolecular Chemistry (LCS)