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...

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