Tuesday, June 9, 2009

1st week at EPFL

I've arrived in Switzerland for less than a week and boy it feels good to be back among my mountains and cows! After engorging myself one year of college take-away fast food, I have regained my degustation sense of fine délicatesse Vaudois and Jurassien: Wine, Cheese and Saucisson! I still considering myself a mountain boy!

VOILÀ! This is where I will be staying all summer! Indeed, EPFL (Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology) can boast its idyllic location. It is situated right on the shore of Lake Léman and lies in the foothills of the Alps mountain chain.

The Swartz and Hubbell bioengineering laboratory in which I work is composed of more than 60 scientists and literally takes up an entire building floor! I am amazed at how my laboratory integrates people with various expertise into research. My post-doc mentor, Susan, is a chemical engineer by training. Physiologists, Medical physicists, Biomedical engineers, Biochemists, Histologists are also among the team. We even have a dentist researcher! It is truly an amalgamation of interdisciplinary and multicutural scientists.
This first week, I have been familiarizing with the kind of research my lab undertakes by reading tons of papers and reviews on immunity and lymphatic systems, nano-particles… My first experiment will be to determine the kinetics of serum opsonin uptake by nano-particles. It's really exciting because once we know the kinetics we can determine the duration of exposure of the nano-particles in serum for various purposes.

The weather around the Lake Geneva is comfortable yearlong. During the summer, you don't sweat like crazy when standing outside for 5 minutes and the temperature will rarely exceed 100˚F, so people here often do not understand how air conditioning is paramount in the US.
The winter is mild and is coldest in January and February. Almost everyone here loves skiing, so snow is not a big issue.

As many have pointed out, Swiss possess one of the best railroad network in the World; such is the advantage of a relatively small country. In fact, in the winter, a lot of people hop on train to go ski in the Alps and return on the same day. The trains are very convenient, comfortable, efficient and PUNCTUAL!
Latecomers, you better adhere to being on time!

Here are a few tips if you are considering traveling around Swiss a lot:
- Look out for supersave tickets on CFF (you can save up to 60%)
- I strongly urge you to buy a Half-price season ticket "Demi-tarif abonnement," you will save a lot with that.
- If you can afford it and depending your amount of traveling you can a Monthly General Pass "Carte Mensuelle." With this pass you can travel anywhere using any type of transportation in Switzerland freely.

CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is another hub for scientists from all over the world to share and gather ideas and advance science. It is one of the must-visits while you're in Geneva.
They offer free tour visits to the particle detectors 100 meters underground.
Geneva houses so many international organizations that you'd find strange to find someone who does not speak at least 2 languages.

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