Monday, June 30, 2008

Some more comparisons

The education system in the US seems unique in some aspects. Almost as if there are unique systematic results.

In Switzerland at age six you begin primary school which takes six years to complete. Then every canton has a different way of figuring where the student goes next, but it is always done through a difficult acceptance exam and/or based on your grades. This decision sends the student to one of three options based on their ability. The smartest would go straight to gymnasium (high school, not equal to US high schools), or secondary school A or B. After secondary school the six-teen year old student can choose to finish two or three more years at gymnasium or be done with school and start their career with an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships last usually around three years and during that time the individual also takes courses in their field of work. Nine-teen year old persons who complete gymnasium will normally always continue with studying at a university afterwards. Here is the biggest difference, the price for studying at a Swiss university is averaged 600-700 CHF per semester. They then complete five years and have a masters, although there is a much newer option of a bachelors degree lasting around four years. This different possibility doesn`t seem to be valued and is viewed more so as an incomplete. Now is when things get similar in the states, where depending on how good you are at writing proposals for grants to continue with your PhD determines your final potential. So in my opinion, every bright child in Switzerland gets the chance to go as far as possible academically without money restricting their opportunity.

Being in the middle of college in Colorado I believe I have a good idea of how fortunate I am compared to other children in the United States.

Public schooling from elementary to high school is funded primarily by the neighborhood's property taxes. School districts require kids to go to school close to where they live, hence you can`t travel an hour away just to go to a better school without major questioning from the school administration. This simply means that public schools in poverty (usually inner cities) will have less money for schools (which means: out of date or no textbooks, non-existent computer/lab supplies, low paid teachers, zero nutritional cafeterias, broken facilities and barely functioning buildings with overcrowded classrooms) when their districts are the most needy, and wealthier neighborhoods (the suburbs) will have more expensive houses and also higher property tax revenues to put into their already affluent school district (maybe two computers per student, in numbers). Jonathon Kozol wrote a book (Savage Inequalities: Children in America`s School) fifteen years ago with case studies researching geographic location and correlating the amount of money per pupil, the other obvious correlation was race to location. Even though this reference is out of date I`m pretty sure there still isn`t ONE high school made up of 95 percent or higher black students and averaging $4000.- per pupil, this amount of money per pupil exists but is at high schools made up of 95 percent or higher white students. This seems to me as though some people are given every opportunity to succeed and others are set up to fail.

I could continue with details of the difference in reality of these two Americas but do not think this is the appropriate place. I spoke of the states having a systematic result, and if you still don`t understand what I'm getting at, it seems as though capitalistic America is institutionalized to reinforce inequality while the upper-lower class gap grows. It isn`t just that these poor children don`t go to college and get a job to help them move away from poverty, but their depressing "community" quite possibly also hosting a toxic landfill in the back yards, creates a situation of despair that leads to a 50% high school drop out rate and the ones who do graduate are often barely literate. Imprisonment of these oppressed nations (in the States) is the other dead end where I think too many of the bright souls never get a chance to shine.

The middle class educational systematic result is usually debt, unlike here in Switzerland where five years with a 1000£ annual tuition accumulates to maybe six grand and a Masters degree. In the states many students get a BA and 50-100,000 dollar debt with no experience and in need of an internship before they start at the bottom of corporate America, which is currently dealing with a declining economy and a war important paradigm.
I`m really interested and open to hear comments from you guys on what you feel, think or know about this comparison within our homeland.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dear ThinkSwiss Participants

Thank you again for all the interesting posts and nice pictures. The articles reveal that you are having a great time doing interesting and fulfilling research in Switzerland, but you also have enough time to travel, watch soccer games, and discover the beauty of Switzerland!

Corinne’s recent post on the Blog, “Beautiful Weather,” perfectly illustrates the potential differences in researching and study programs in Switzerland as compared to the U.S. Most of you have already spent a few weeks in Switzerland and are able to draw similar comparisons. Therefore I would like to ask all ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship participants currently in Switzerland to briefly describe your own observations in your respective fields of research and your feelings in that regard.

Trip to Bern on Thursday, July 24, 2008

We are delighted to announce a trip to Bern on Thursday, July 24, 2008. All researchers who received a ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship or a Travel Grant for the life sciences summer school in Lausanne or Zurich will be invited by Presence Switzerland to spend a day in Bern. You will have the chance to meet other researchers from the U.S., enjoy charming Bern, and learn more about Swiss history, democracy and higher education. The detailed draft program will be sent to you by regular e-mail. You will be contacted by the organizers to make the necessary travel arrangements from your city to Bern and back.

Good-bye and Handing Over the Reins

My internship in the Office of Science, Technology and Higher Education ends on June 30. Muriel Gampert, who will take over from me, will be glad to answer any of your questions, starting on July 7. However, you have a chance to stay in touch with me: The world is small, Facebook is huge and I will be back in Switzerland soon! I will start my new job at EPFL with the Chair of Management of Network Industries at the beginning of July. Please feel free to contact me via Facebook (Andrea Buetler). It would be great to hear from you!

I wish you all the best for the rest of your time in Switzerland. Enjoy and have lots of fun!

Warm regards,

Office of Science, Technology and Higher Education
Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C.

Eurocup Finals! Spain v Germany

I've watched both semifinal games and have never seen so much enthusiasm for a soccer game! It was quite exciting being surrounded by some many crazy fans. The turnout to watch the games on l'écran géant, not even at the stadium, was more than you'd ever see at a Rice athletic event. The majority of fans had adorned themselves with flags, jerseys, or face paint to show they're support. I saw a cute older couple both wearing jerseys and had flags to wave--that made me smile.

I hadn't seen Turkey play before watching the game Tuesday night. They're great! Really disappointed that they didn't advance, but an exciting game anyway. Not being European, I don't have the patriot attachment that most fans have, so I cheered for every goal scored.

I went to the Geneva fanzone for the Spain v Russia game. More crowded and not as exciting a game....Spain just kept scoring (beautiful goals though!).

I'm really excited for the final, Spain vs Germany. I'll be here in Lausanne to watch the final Sunday; anybody in Lausanne want to join me? Send me an email!

I also here that there's a federal yodeling competion in Luzern.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Week's News from Thun...

So, I work better with an outline, and I think it makes the post more to-the-point... so what's here is the following:

1. Flying
2. Garden Party / Geographic Diversity in the Lab
3. Hiking in Mürren
4. Research

1. Flying: On one of my first days here, my adviser (Sebastien) and I were having a coffee break on the balcony of our laboratory building, when I noticed an airfield below us, just off of the military base on which we're located. Since I'm interested in aviation (I was in the middle of a pilot's license course when I left for Switzerland), I asked Sebastien whether it was a general aviation strip, and whether he'd ever flown in or out of it. His response was that he knew a pilot based at the Thun airfield who offered acrobatic flights in a 1930's-era Swiss military aircraft (a Bücker BU-131B Jungmann, for those interested). Long story short, Sebastien and I took some time off of work last Thursday as soon as the weather was nice, and went flying with this guy (:

We did all sorts of acrobatic maneuvers over the mountains and the lake, and since this biplane had an open canopy, the only thing holding the passenger and pilot in the plane when it was upside-down or spiralling was the five-point harness. It was an unbelievable experience, and between the acrobatic maneuvers, we went over the mountains, which seem even more beautiful from above (from Thun, there's a great view of the Stockhorn).

2. Garden Party / Internationalism: On Saturday, my adviser threw a garden party at his house, and invited people from the lab, and his neighbors and family friends. It was quite an international party, with almost every group of people conversing in a different language (I counted English, Japanese, Serbo-Croatian, French, and German). I suppose that's reflective of the great diversity in geographic backgrounds among people here at EMPA. Of the nine people with whom I work most closely in the lab, only two are Swiss; the rest are from Poland, India, Bosnia, Romania, Spain, and Japan (x2). I suppose this demonstrates the kind of working environment that naturally develops in a country with the some of the best scientific infrastructure in the world.

3. Hiking in Mürren: I was a bit closer to the mountains on Sunday, when I went hiking with a group of six post-docs from EMPA (only one was Swiss!). We went by train/cable-car to Mürren, and then we hiked, more or less, this trail. Since we had no set itinerary, we wandered from the trail and found some new trails whenever we got the urge. This led to the discovery of a gorgeous waterfall, one that we walked underneath. Photos of the hike (and a couple of the flight).

4. Research: My research is also going pretty well. My task here is to look at the one high-powered microwave setup we've got here, and to create a computational model of it using a physics software called QuickWave. I've never worked with QW before, but have found it less difficult than expected; I'm now at the phase where I'm nearly done with building the geometry inside of the microwave cavity, at which point I'll be ready to debug and get ready to run actual heating simulations. More next week on whether I've actually accomplished this... but for now, Tschüss!

Beautiful Weather

This weekend we had the best weather since I have gotten here, and I can't wait for the July sunshine. The three days a week I go to Gossau you can always count on the temperature to be several degrees lower because the altitude is twice as high than in Zuri, the clouds there seem to be that much closer too. By late afternoon, you would not think it was gloomy earlier that morning, unless you're Swiss.

This past week went good especially with the experiments at the zoo. By this I mean filming their reactions. With the first week of filming we managed to catch all the technological issues and are hoping from here on out things should flow easily. More tech problems arose with the software (interAct) we use to code the videos, and I am currently working with their tech support hoping to solve the issue and keep busy, since this has put a halt in my aid. By using interAct it is much easier than entering sentences into excel sheets since we can translate behaviors into quantitative data. Soon I will take an interobserver reliability test with coding a video, since this is essential to a study using an assistant's knowledge.

Statistics are just as important as participant-observing in biological anthropology, every experiment needs significant measures to interpret the study. This is obvious in science and why math goes hand in hand with it, but now I question why my university doesn't supply enough (any) stat classes for non-math majors who use statistics. I was aware of the connection anthropology had with stats and looked into CU's options about a year ago. Unfortunately my adviser was confused why I thought it was so important, although when I get back I will have a better background for how essential it is. It is actually a bit ridiculous an anthro-stat class isn't required to obtain a degree in this field.

Although I have realized the perspective in differentiating anthropology is a bit different in the states. At the University of Colorado students study cultural, biological and archeology equally for a BA. where in Switzerland anthropology stems from biology and cultural anthropology is considered something quite different. Here you would get a degree in ethnology, which seems equivalent to cultural anthropology.

It's been interesting and worthwhile the entire time, and am excited to see the chimps tomorrow. The tour de Suisse is over and the EM is getting more and more exciting. I would place my bets on Spain, at least not Germany.
; )

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lausanne, Montreux, CERN, and Italy vs. France!

Last weekend was quite busy. After a pretty long but successful day of research on Friday (we got something to work for once!), I left late at night for Lausanne, where I stayed the night with another ThinkSwiss scholar. Didn't get to see much of the city, as I left very early the next morning, but I did get a nice view of Mt. Blanc and the rest of the Alps across the lake. I left early to get to Geneva, where my friend at CERN was waiting to take my friend from London and I on an exclusive tour of the main detector facility on the new particle accelerator. It was amazing to see. Not only was it of an incredible size for such a complex machine, but it was all put together far underground. They also have so much integrated hardware that you'd think they'd have to be making blind misses every time to not get any useful data at all, but it's supposedly going to once in a blue moon that they get anything. I hope they find something interesting when they start running in July (or August now, I believe, due to delays as usual).

After CERN we spent the night on the French-Swiss border near the airport, then headed off in the morning for Montreux, a nice town on the foot of a cliff/mountain on the lake. There we walked along the lakeside and toured Chateau Chillon. That night we returned to Zurich for a good long night's sleep.

The next day I showed my London friend around Zurich whenever I had a break from work, and then the excitement really began the next day. My friend somehow got two free tickets about a month ago to the France vs. Italy soccer game at Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich, and they were amazing seats as well at the corner of the field, just 6 rows back. So that Tuesday evening we were seated among a crowd of rowdy, spirited Frenchmen, all craving revenge for the infamous World Cup final loss to the Italians two years ago. It literally felt like I was in Delacroix's "Liberty Guiding the People" painting of the French Revolution. Unfortunately for the French, an injured Ribery and red card in the early game pretty much ended it for them. The red card was especially insulting, since that also brought Zidane out of the '06 Cup. But the rest of the night was still exciting, and the experience is very different watching the actual game than on TV.

So that's my latest news; I hope this weekend I'll get a chance to unwind a bit and just relax..

An Update from Basel and some Pictures of Zermatt

My research here in Basel is going very well! The last couple weeks we spent reading up heavily on previous studies that have been conducted on similar topics to our influence studies. We came up with several ideas of studies that we are now beginning to conduct and specific areas in which we’d like to focus our studies on. We are focusing on the abstractness of money study right now but we are still working on the abstractness of language study on the side.

I finally had a chance to get out and hang around with some locals that I have met. I have gone to a few dance clubs and bars with them and have had a really good time.

I visited the town of Zurmatt two weekends ago. It was beautiful! From Zurmatt, you can easily view the Matterhorn. I have attached pictures of the Matterhorn and a few pictures that I took on my train ride.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Grüße aus Bern!

Yet another introduction post! Hey everyone - I'm Catherine Reid, and I'm a 4th year medical student from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. I've been a bit late in posting this, but I've been busy settling in, starting work, and watching lots of football since I arrived last week!

I have a unique situation in that my significant other lives and works here in Bern, so I've already spent a couple months out of the last year here. And since Bern is a pretty small city, I already know my way around. Although with all of the festivities for Euro2008 going on here, it looks a lot different, and much more crowded! It's been such a fun atmosphere, although when the Dutch team has played, it makes biking to work through the crowds impossible! The city's population literally doubled the night the Netherlands played here in Bern. But it's fun to walk home in that case, through the festival atmosphere. I'm living in an apartment on the opposite side of the Altstadt from Inselspital, on a hill directly above the Bärengraben (bear pit) that I'm sure you will all get to see when you visit. So I go through all the craziness downtown every day - it's been awesome! Not to mention living with a German who is crazy for his national team - it's making the tournament so much more entertaining to watch.

So, in terms of my project - I'm doing lab-based research with the Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery Department at Inselspital, which is the hospital affiliated with the University of Berne. Our project is examining the potential of adult stem cells harvested from the inner ears of rats to be cultured, expanded, and re-transplanted into the inner ears of rats that have been destroyed by meningitis, with the hope that it can help restore hearing. At the moment, I'm learning a lot of basic techniques that will be helpful over the next few months, including immunohistochemical staining, immunofluoresence, microscopy, etc. When my PI, Dr. Pascal Senn, returns from a conference, I will also get to learn surgical techniques involved in drilling out the inner ear.

While he is gone, I'm being trained by the lab technician Jasmin and a professor of neurosurgery, Dr. Hans-Rüdi Widmer, who kindly allows ENT to use part of his lab. I've been learning to speak German for the last few months, which has ended up being very useful, as the majority of communication so far, especially with the lab techs, has been in German. At least they've been kind enough to speak High German for me, as for those of you who don't speak German, Swiss German is a very different dialect, and very hard for non-Swiss to understand! But they sometimes lapse back into Swiss German, and with Dr. Widmer, it's constantly changing from English to Hochdeutsch to Schwyzerdütsch! But even though I'm being pushed to my limits in terms of German-speaking abilities, it's certainly the best way to learn, and already it's becoming easier.

I can't wait to do some traveling around Switzerland while I'm here, which I'm constantly being pushed by my advisors to do (the Swiss have a much better approach to quality of life than your typical American!). My sister and brother-in-law are actually coming to visit next week, so we'll do some sightseeing while they are here. Hopefully the weather will improve a bit, as right now it's reminding me of my home, Portland, OR - cloudy and rainy.

Ok - back to the football game . . .

Bis später,

Monday, June 16, 2008

After reading through all the blogs, I realized that I completely neglected an introduction. So, in my second blog:
Howdy! I'm Alicia Allen, coming to Switzerland directly from Houston, Texas. That 'howdy' will be the most Texan stereotype you'll get from me. I have one year left of bioengineering before completing my bachelor's at Rice University, and this summer is even more bioengineering, but in a much better setting! I'm in Lausanne at the EPFL in Dr. Melody Swartz's Laboratory for Mechanobiology and Morphogenesis. The campus architecture is drab compared to what I'm used to, but it has mountains in the background! It's quite an international lab; I hear French, Greek, German, and Italian daily. And generously funded! From what I've seen, there's access any equipment you might ever need, as well as a histologist and two lab technicians. I'm working with a post-doc, Jacqui Shields, who has been "acquainting me" with the lab and what I'll be doing (i.e. lots of literature and protocols!). I should be starting on my own soon, working on how tumors metastasize....

I spent the weekend, just walking around Lausanne (again). I'm still amazed at how layered the city is; a 2D map of Lausanne is by no means sufficient. I picked out certain sites that I wanted to see (the cathedral, St François, etc.) and also stumbled onto other things. Like... interesting collection of booths promoting green behavior, all in front of the Palais de Justice. I also visited le Musée Olymipique on both Saturday and Sunday; it's an interesting collection of the ancient games and the modern games, also with a special exhibit on Bejing. I'm now excited for the games this summer and wonder what will be happening here (Lausanne being la Capitale Olympique)!

I've also started planning running routes around Lausanne. My first was along the lake--very different from urban running in Houston! When it's not raining (like today), the scenery is fantastic. I missed a turn and ran farther than I expected (a 4mi run into a 7mi run). Getting back, even for being lost, wasn't difficult; Lausanne and les banlieues are made for pedestrians.

I don't understand why all this soccer/football excitement leads to honking. I imagine it's only going to get worse as semifinals are soon....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

First few days in switzerland

I arrived in Basel this friday, 13thJune 08.This is my first post in the blog so a small intro about myself. My name is Fahad Saeed, PhD student at Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at University of Illinois at Chicago since Fall 2006. My current Research interests are parallel and distributed computing and algorithms, Multiple Sequence Alignments and parallel algorithms for Bioinformatics Applications. I received my BSc in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan.

Here my stay in Basel I will be working with Prof. Niko Beerenwinkel, at Department of Biosystems science and Engineering, ETH Zurich, on multiple sequence alignment problems from new sequencing techniques such as pyrosequencing. Prof Niko's group has done a lot of useful work on pyrosequencing techniques and his recent work describes the viral population estimation using pyrosequencing. These techniques can be used for estimation of viral populations for lower costs and can gives insights into viral evolutionary dynamics of HIV. The work on multiple sequence alignment with prof Niko, would allow us to get one step closer to understand the complex viral dynamics of HIV. Some of the information related to this research can be found in the news article:

Now for some thoughts on my journey. The post won’t be complete, if I didn’t comment on the beauty of Switzerland. I have been to a lot of places, from deserts of Arabia, to the foot hills of the Himalayas. But I would have to say, that Switzerland is one of the most beautiful of all places in its natural beauty that I have ever seen. When we were about to land in Zurich, I could see the green pastures, all the way, with roads and bridges carved in between. To be honest, I was kind of immersed in its enormous beauty and its gently flowing rivers. I was so happy that I decided to come here instead of taking a research job at IBM.

The journey started slowly, because of some electrical fault in the plane. We were stuck in it for like 3 hours, before we started to fly. The rest of the journey went smoothly, and we finally arrived at Zurich airport. I took a train to Basel, for which I already had a booking. The train journey was so pleasant, crossing through various places unparalleled in its beauty. I took many pictures and plan to post them next time.

When I arrived in Basel, I took a cab and headed to the guest house, which I had booked with the help of kind people (Heidi and Sabina) at ETH. The guest house is run by a Pakistani family of husband, wife and 4 children and has been living in Basel for more than 20 years.

I was greeted very warmly by the family and they showed me the room and around. The next day (14th June 08), the nice lady showed me around Basel, the stores and places to shop and how to travel around in Basel. A colleague from Eth came to visit me and I went with him to main market place area. We spent some time talking over the cup of coffee and discussed various topics ranging from politics to research areas. The main market place seemed quite busy, and there was a lot of hustle bustle because of the Euro cup.

Basel is a very nice small town, with some very interesting architecture. One of the buildings that I saw in my visit to the market place was a government building with very nice medieval architecture. The river flowing in between the Basel area is also very romantic :).I plan to visit a lot of places in Switzerland in this journey of mine...Hopefully I will find time to do that. Till next time. Bye...

It's my first blog post! I'm Erin Kiley, and I graduated in May from the Univ. of New Hampshire with a B.Sc. in Mathematics and a B.A. in Russian Language. For the next two (or three? I suppose I haven't decided...) months, I'll working in the city of Thun, in the microwave facility at EMPA ( ), a Materials Science and Technology lab. As an undergraduate, I had a little experience writing computer models of microwave oven systems, so the experience at EMPA (which has one of the most sophisticated microwave systems in the world) should be a very educational one.

I arrived in Thun on Monday night, and stayed at my research adviser's house for one night (the EMPA secretary found a room for me the next day). I had the wonderful opportunity to meet my adviser's wife and his children, who range from around 8-12 years old. The children are lively, talented, and very witty; and it's also somewhat humbling that they all speak French and German natively, and the two older ones are learning English--considering that, of the languages spoken in Switzerland, I have only studied French for four years (and that was five years ago!). I've been trying to remedy my complete lack of linguistical prowess here by enrolling in a night course in German at the local language institute, but I found out that everyone, professors included, goes on holiday for three weeks in June. So now I've got flash cards, a phrasebook, and a big task ahead of me (:

Although I haven't been here long, the big difference I notice between Swiss life and life in the 'States (also something different from life in Hungary and Russia, two other places I've lived before) is the structuring of work schedules. Many of the Swiss people in the lab will arrive at work at 8:00 or earlier (in the 'States, it's usu. 9:00), take coffee breaks every hour (in the 'States, usu. no coffee breaks), go home for a two-hour lunch, and then leave the lab at 5:00 p.m. Some people are in the lab as late as 7 or 8:00 p.m. every day. It's a bit different, and I think it provides a quite effective work environment.

I have noticed that, in general, the Swiss are early risers. When I wake up at 6:00 on a Saturday morning, my first instinct is to roll back over and get a few more hours of sleep--but in Switzerland, I suppose that's unusual. I went downstairs at 8:00 this morning, and said "Guten morgen" to my landlord and landlady (I suppose they're more like host-parents, since I live in one of the bedrooms upstairs but can use their kitchen, laundry, living rooms, musical instruments, etc), and she corrected me: "Guten tag, you see, 'morgen' means 'morning,' and it's not still morning..."

Anyway, more developments later on my adventures in Thun. If any of you wants to visit a small lake town with some gorgeous mountains as a backdrop, please feel free to be my guest! I also intend to see a few specific events in Switzerland while I'm here, including the Montreux Jazz Festival (4-19 July) and possibly the Int'l Yodelling Festival in Luzern (26-29 June). Where is everyone else planning to go?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Project

After another week I figured I should give some information of the project I am assisting. It is titled Evolutionary Precursors of Morality, the aim is not to understand the biological roots of human moral behavior but to investigate the biological foundations and to identify possible evolutionary precursors of morality, the PhD students are working to answer the question of whether it is possible that our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, possess evolutionary precursors of morality. Then by comparing what is known of human behavior, the data will help to reveal both similarities and differences in addition to a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of human moral behavior.

The behavioral experiments and observations center on two main focuses, food sharing (altruism and cooperation) and whether the chimps are capable to form and enforce social norms in their groups. In our society such norms exist, as a function to maintain social order and facilitate cooperation. Any norm violation may cause strong emotional reactions in humans, whether chimpanzees are also capable of such reactions is the question. The specifics of this focus of the project is based on the understanding that chimp infants are normally liked and protected by the whole colony, we will observe reactions to what one (chimpanzee) ought to do or ought not to do in situations of infanticide. The food sharing experiments put attention on the nature of moral-like behavior and gain sight of what reasoning and emotional operation favor or restrain such behaviors and whether we can find these same mechanisms working in humans.

Morality is a concept made up of varied components and the existence/enforcement of social norms are considered to be uniquely human features. For the past quarter century human nature was viewed with a large influence of Veneer Theory, a thin cultural overlay where people are born nasty and selfish and it was with only the greatest effort we could`ve hoped to become moral, noble tendencies was the icing if at all. Just because this school of thought has almost been put to rest does not mean we should stop searching for other explanations. The project`s working hypothesis is basically, human morality has an intuitive core composed of a set of moral emotions and motivations backed by reason. This project should gain evidence for a continuity between humans and other primates, supporting the view that the building blocks of morality are older than our species. Using a multidisciplinary perspective, hoping to merge philosophers, anthropologists, neurobiologists and sociologist, you can feel the endeavor.

I am learning a lot about my field of study at the University of Colorado, this opportunity seems so different than other internships even though I wouldn`t classify this experience as such. While at the zoo (hence those four words), after going to lunch and arriving back to where you left with observations, only now one of the male chimps has a large and bleeding gash on his left cheek, you appreciate this is real and with life involved. Filing insurance documents and continuing the same routine, day after day at the job I have in Colorado, brings to my attention the drastic difference.
Thinkswiss has exposed me to the world of continuing education, a decision I will make in two years. Of course it would be at a school in the US so consideration has it`s realizations. being an academic you must "publish or perish" so I see there are degrees of energy expense no matter what it is you do.

I am certain though that it is the present I should respect my focus of intentions on, every step of the life excursion. For instance, yesterday walking from the train into Central station, I could hear the collective cheering growing louder as I got closer, fans for Romania and Italy echoing from the moving crowd under the giant soccer players in the building. During those present moments nationalism has never felt so alive. Although attending the final game (I wish!), let alone any of the games, would triumph that. Italy vs Romania was in Zürich that evening and you would`ve to have been deaf and blind to not take notice walking through downtown.
The score ended without a loser or winner, 1 to 1, even after all that excitement and belief.

Well I look forward to the meeting in Lausanne, and visiting with the family there.
Till next time.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lausanne- Geneve

I have just returned from a little research conference organized between the cities of Lausanne and Geneve. It was an amazing oppurtunity for me to be able to examine the Psychiatric Research facilities in Geneve review the research being done there and to see the city. I spent last weekend in Paris (it is just a 3-4 hour train ride from Lausanne) and to be perefectly honest I found myself homesick for Switzerland shortly after arrival. I feel so fortunate to be staying in a city that is so amazing and to be conducting research in a facility that not only affords me the oppurtunity to attend confrences like the Lausanne- Geneve conference and the Forum on European Neuroscience (FENS). I have also had the oppurtuinty to visit the EPFL (as we collaborate with a group there) and will hopefully be able to tour the facility as a perspective Graduate student while I am here. Another ThinkSwiss scholar is stopping by Lausanne this weekend and I will be touring around the city with him a little. I just would like to restate that I am very happy where I am and if at all interested feel free to contact me about good ideas for your visit or suggestions on activities. I will be going to Lugano and Milano next weekend and hope/think that it will be an amazing experience.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

First week in Switzerland

As this is my first Thinkswiss blog I suppose I should provide a brief introduction. I am Dusty Moore and am studing biology in Salt Lake City, Utah. I arrived in Zurich June 5th and briefly explored the city. I wanted to stay there for a few nights but the hostels were all booked several weeks in advance due to the Euro 2008 tournament. I took a walk down the swiss proclaimed "most expensive strip of real-estate in the world" right outside the train station and looked at some of the remarkable architecture of the city. I didn't realize I was an architectural enthusiast unti I caught myself taking photos of significantly more interesting buildings than anything else. Zurich seemed like a cool place, but as I said, my stay was quite limited.

I stayed in Interlaken for two nights end enjoyed exploring the city and definitely enjoyed the scenery. I never could see the tops of the mountains in the area because there was a cloud blanketing the city the entire time, but it didn't matter, the area was very cool. Interlaken is primarily known as an "adventure sport" town, but I decided to put off the activities until the end of my internship so I don't run out of cash haha.


From Interlaken I traveled to Lauterbrunnen and hiked around the breathtaking town. This is a place that the photos I took will never do justice. The town is surrounded by cliffs (over 300m or ~1000 ft) and there are waterfall EVERYWHERE, including switzerlands largest waterfall, which lies at the edge of the very small town. I went to trummelback (spelling?)falls, which is basically a huge series of waterfall found INSIDE a cliff. The swiss drilled into the cliffs and broke out a tunnel system and then made concrete steps (and an elevator-esque transport) so you can go inside the cliff and see the falls and chutes from top to bottom. It was very cool!! From Lauterbrunnen you should be able to see the alps between the two cliff faces that surround the town; however, the clouds were relentless and I never had an opportunity to see the alps, but I will return before my stay is over.

I arrived in Lausanne Sunday and moved into my apartment, which in a great location. I am on Rue de la Louve, just off of the center street and am less than a block away from the metro. As I read in a previous blog, SUNDAY IS NOT THE DAY TO ARRIVE! All stores were closed, so I was unable to buy anything I needed, and to top it off, I am actually renting an apartment with a very nice woman (~80 years old) who only speaks french and italian. Seeing as how I only speak English and some Spanish, her and I have been unable to communicate. I purchased a translation dictionary yesterday which has helped much. I tried to purchase it sooner, but shops in Lausanne close down at about 19:00, which is about the time I have returned from EPFL both nights I have worked prior to today. Lausanne is a very lively city at some hours, particularly at bars and late night restaurants. The Euro cup has also provided an incredibly amount of livelihood the last few days. Last night after Spain won their match dozens of people flooded the streets with their flags and stopped traffic to celebrate. It was very cool to see in person and not just on the t.v.
I have not had a chance yet to visit the lake or see any of the tourist attractions, partially because I have been busy trying to get my apartment habitable. I plan to see some of the sites soon though.

I am working at EPF Lausanne with a PhD student Stefan Kobel under the supervision of Dr. Matthius Lutolf. We are working on the development of hydro-gels, a technique which will be used for isolating individual stem cells and will be used to increase the current knowledge on individual stem cell divisions. The work so far has been very interesting and I have enjoyed every minute of it... I have also enjoyed the frequent coffee breaks which I am not used to with my current job in the U.S. :). As this post is already too long, I will write more about my stay in the next one.

Chilling in Zurich, and London Calling...

Last, last weekend I spent in Zurich. I took the boat ride on the lake for the second time, this time with my friend from Geneva, and I was surprised to see that a giant show-screen had been erected in the lake just offshore, and stands were put up in front of it, also offshore. I realized that was the actual beginning of "soccer fever" coming to Zurich, and could hardly believe that the city went through that much trouble just to show the games. Looked like some of the tram lines would also be closed, and they would make way for street vendors. So quite a party was expected.

We also went the local art-museum, Kunsthaus, that I pass on my way to work everyday but never actually went inside. There were a lot of strange, modern artworks as well as a lot of classical work. I also visited a biergarten for the first time in a German-speaking country, and that was interesting to see the older folks dancing to what I honestly thought was some pretty horrible music. As I watched I had a huge plate of some kind of wurst with fries, but I didn't partake in the serious drinking since I'm a wimp when it comes to chugging beer.

This past weekend, I visited London, because I've never been to the UK before and a friend of mine is there with his family. Not much Swiss-happenings there... in contrast to the Swiss the Brits seem almost in denial of a Euro Cup even existing this year, due to their non-participation. I did however stay near an Underground station called "Swiss Cottage", named after a noted pub in the area. So that's my Swiss exposure for the weekend...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Time to Get Together and Soccer Fever!

First of all, I would like to say thank you very much for all the posted articles, pictures and comments on the Blog. When I visit the Blog every day, I am excited to discover new articles!

At the moment, the ThinkSwiss research community in Switzerland comprises seven people in Bern, Lausanne, Zurich, Basel and Thun, with two more arriving this week. With more than half of all the participants in Switzerland, I would like to initiate a first get-together in Lausanne on Saturday, June 28, 2008. I asked Katherine Filip, currently at the University of Lausanne, to suggest a program for the day. We hope you will have fun getting to know each other better and exchanging experiences from different universities and research institutes in Switzerland.

We are delighted to announce that a second get-together will take place by the end of July 2008. Presence Switzerland is organizing a one-day trip for all participants who will be in Switzerland. You will receive all the details soon.

I hope you enjoyed the first game of the European Championship with Switzerland playing against the Czech Republic. How did you experience soccer fever? As you might have noticed, soccer is a popular sport in Switzerland and also at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. The Swiss Embassy showed the game on the embassy grounds with more than 350 people in attendance, serving Bratwurst and beer. I also had the pleasure to meet Katherine Stainken, another ThinkSwiss research participant leaving for Switzerland in September.

I am looking forward to reading some more articles soon. Enjoy the day and have fun!

Office of Science, Technology and Higher Education
Embassy of Switzerland in Washington D.C.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Lausanne: the sun has come out!

After a week of dreary, cloudy skies, the sun has finally come out! I might, just might, be able to see the tops of the mountains today. Coming from Houston, I imagined perfect summer weather, in the 70s (still ºF, I'll learn to convert soon), but with all the rain, it's been considerable cooler. I've already worn all the jackets and sweaters I've packed.
Otherwise, Lausanne has been great--and it's only going to get better. I spent the week figuring out where to buy food, a metro card, a cell phone, etc. My advice, based on my experience is:

1. Try not to arrive on the weekend, especially a Sunday night! Most everything's closed. If you really need food, look for a COOP Pronto.

2. Get passport photos! You don't know when you'll need them (when buying a monthly metro card...)

3. Tell the Contrôle des Habitants that you'll only be in Switzerland for 3 months. It'll make registering much easier.

I've had the benefit of becoming part of a very hospitable lab; they not only helped me arrange for housing before I arrived, but also provided me with sheets, a small set of dishes, and someone to meet me at the train station. My summer research has not yet begun; I spent the week preparing by learning protocols and reading literature. This will much different from what I have been doing, which I'm excited about.

The transportation system in Lausanne is fantastic--so different from what's standard for public transportation in America. Getting from downtown to the suburb where I live is effortless and quick, only 15 minutes. So although most shops close at 19h, I have a guaranteed transport there.

My only cultural experience here, besides exploring, has been wine tasting in Lutry, a quaint little town on Lake Geneva. Great wine, good company. I recommend it!

I already have a list of things to do here in Lausanne and elsewhere in Switzerland, which will make next blog much more interesting.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

"The Chimps"

Digit, Cess, Dandy, Blacky, Fani, Chica, Tzipi, Elisha, Balima, Brigitte, Niki, and the three infants: Matshabu, Malik, and Mojo (the one smooshing his little face against the glass). This group is the largest in Switzerland`s Zoos, and Blacky, at age 50 is the oldest known mother in the world! So I complete my first week at UZH and now know the reserch group I found for this scholarship was the perfect choice.

Monday I took the bus, trolly and tram to get to the sciences campus and spent the day searching the anthropology journal library for old (prior to 1996) resources refrenced in the first review I read concerning food-sharing among primates. We found articles until and after lunch (which costs 5.40- CHF for students at the cafeteria, which is actually amazing since you couldn`t cook the same for less) then I learned some software to save an article`s reference, so we could use the saved list to reformat the information if we need to site it in different journals. Then more and more information to read, since this project started in 2007 and will end in 2010. The middle of the week was spent at the zoo in Gossau (an hour away by train from cental station in ) getting to know the chimps. I will be watching videos of these guys recorded during the social behavioral experiments, so I needed to learn who is who. Luckily chimps are pretty individualistic (like humans, compared to a peacock). Today I got to join the institute (about 18 people) for their journal club, where an article is chosen and presented while the group disscuses the paper for about a hour, then I got to test my skills while with recognizing the chimps.

Ok so tomorrow is the opening game of the euro cup and I`m excited, especially for all the celebrations. HOPP SCHWEIZ!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I jumped up and down the halls today ("do you have spanish or italian blood?" the Executive Assistant asks-- "egyptian blood, same thing" I reply, laughing). We (my chief mentor and I) just sent emails to every study author of our analysis requesting more specific information. Here I am thinking... ages and ages until they respond... Within 2 minutes our first responder sent her willingness to help! woohoo!!!! and we just got responder #2! Now, if only it doesn't take too long for all to gather the information we requested (God bless them for doing so--it's not difficult, but some of the studies are even from 1994 and in other countries or previous jobs...).

so i was springen. :)

Monday, June 2, 2008

A little bit of Luzern (Yodelehi-hoooo)

Luzern lion monument (Loewendenkmal) commemorating the 700 mercenaires killed while defending Louis XVI
Patriotism for the land of mountains and lakes: a view over the Vierwaldstattersee

Traditionally attired audience members of the National Jodelling Festival in the KKL (Kultur und Kongresszentrum Luzern)... more on that event to come! A painted wall in Luzern's old town


Phew! What a day! It's 6pm and I'm at the close of a long day of composing and adapting letters to study authors to acquire more information about the particulars of their work.  Here was the schedule of the last few days: Thursday: leave running to the train station straight from a delayed meeting with my mentor. boy did i fly! Arrive in Stuttgart and see the beautiful town and breathe the rather oppressive air that Stuttgart is known for; Friday train to Dresden to meet my cousin's wife and their son, tour around the old town; Friday afternoon train to Berlin where I stay for the weekend until last night, night train (no, not recommended unless you're a really heavy sleeper) with stops every hour (yikes!) to Basel, where I take the 8am train straight to work in Bern.  
Whew-- too much travelling!  But nonetheless, I'm moving forward with my research (starting to write my article after a literature review, eligibility selection, an extraction for the purposes of contacting study authors and letters to actually contact them) and contemplating where else in this beautiful yet really small (hey, I'm Texan) country to visit.  Strangely enough, though, the stormy rainy weather is back in Bern. (sigh) After a weekend of way-too-strong sun and heat in Berlin, Bern though further south is much colder and threatened to breakout in a semi-tropical deluge this afternoon.  Coming from 2/3 tropical Houston, it's rather charming to hear my best Swiss friend say that the weather feels like a monsoon coming. With this weather, anything's possible!  
now let's see if i can figure out how to post pictures!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

GreedZH (Greeds from Zürich)


I have been in Zürich for a week now and start my research assistance tomorrow morning at the Anthropology Institute and museum of the University of Zürich. My name is Corinne and I will begin my junior year at the University of Colorado at Boulder this Fall.

During my stay here I will be helping two PhD students (Claudia and Adrian) with their research project titled Evolutionary Precursers of Morality. I have so far only met with one of the students and am very excited to learn more. The director Prof. Dr. Carel van Schaik will be monitoring all research and I look forward to the knowledge he shares, since with out ThinkSwiss I would probably never get the chance.

This is my sixth time in switzerland since I moved from the beautiful country, but this will be the first time in a work environment. I will make the best of this opportunity since all my education has been in the states and the two countries have quite different processes for continuing education. Can`t wait to tell you more about the details later this week.

Cheers, better yet... Prost! ; )