This is what dreams are made of

Looking back at my summer in Zürich, Switzerland, it feels like a dream. It is a wonderful, beautiful dream that I never want to wake up from. There were days spent on challenging yet rewarding research, incredible friendships, and unforgettable memories. The craziest part is that it was not a dream, but my reality for 10 weeks thanks to ThinkSwiss.

At Kinderspital Zürich, or University Children’s Hospital Zürich, I worked with the Translational Brain Tumor Group on a project to improve detection of pediatric brain tumors through the application of a machine learning model. From leading physicians in pediatrics, neuro-oncology, and radiology, I not only learned about MR imaging and brain anatomy, but also was inspired by their role as both clinicians and researchers. One of my favorite research memories was joining a tumor board discussion where the team decided on the best course of treatment for each child. It was impactful to see the real-life connection to the hundreds of brain tumors I annotated and segmented from patient data. Each day, I looked forward to walking from my apartment down one of Zürich’s many steep hills to the very special place that is Kinderspital Zürich.

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Elizabeth Ross

Biomedical engineering – University of Zürich ∞ Georgia Institute of Technology


Scaling new heights in research and alpine adventures

By 6 AM on Saturdays and Sundays, the Zürich Hauptbahnhof is already buzzing with hikers and climbers eager to take the train to the mountains. While typically not fond of early mornings, I too found myself among them almost every weekend this summer, ready to tackle yet another summit! Through the ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship, I was fortunate to live in Zürich for three months. I conducted research at ETH Zürich with the Tissue Engineering and Biofabrication (TEB) group led by Prof. Marcy Zenobi-Wong. The lab’s mission is to develop biomaterial strategies for regenerating damaged or diseased tissues back to their functional state. In particular, a major global health challenge is the degeneration of cartilage, the connective tissue that protects joints and facilitates body movements. For my ThinkSwiss research project, I aimed to design hydrogel microparticles that could be mixed with cartilage cells and injected at a site of cartilage injury. We hypothesized that this cell-and-gel therapy would promote the regeneration of healthy, functioning cartilage tissue. Through my project, I gained experience in small molecule synthesis and purification, zwitterionic hydrogel crosslinking, microgel fabrication, mechanical characterization, cell culture, confocal microscopy, and histology. Thanks to the outstanding facilities and expertise to which I had access at ETH Zürich, we obtained promising data that inform the continuation of this work toward advancing global human health.

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Lucia Brunel

Chemincal Engineering – ETH Zürich ∞ Stanford University


Around Switzerland in eighty days

Did I imagine that I would spend my summer in an idyllic Swiss village conducting cutting-edge research when I first learned about ThinkSwiss? Definitely not. Yet what was most enriching about my eleven weeks in Switzerland extended beyond the walls of my laboratory; in what was once a foreign country, the people I met and the places I visited made my experiences memorable for a lifetime.

I had the privilege of working with the Cereneo Foundation (CEFIR), an interdisciplinary clinical research organization that is connected to a neurorehabilitation clinic and partners with UZH and ETH. My research at CEFIR involved intramuscular coherence in the tibialis anterior during modulated walking, as we were investigating how the gait cycle can reflect temporal learning for applications toward stroke rehabilitation. This complicated topic coupled with the independent nature of my work was not only challenging but encouraged me to embrace the multi-faceted nature of this discipline. For example, I applied EMGs and EEGs, drafted countless lines of Python for data analysis, and utilized the various motion and gait-tracking features of the renowned biomechanics lab, CAREN. No wonder Switzerland is one of the world’s most innovative countries.

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Aditya Senthil

Neurorehabilitation – University of Zürich ∞ University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Quantum, Gipfelis & more in Zürich

Grüezi! This new word—a common form of greeting in Swiss German—followed me during my scientific and cultural explorations of Switzerland. Who could have known that doing research on quantum materials could be genuinely so much fun? The atmosphere in my host group at ETH Zürich was so invigorating, exciting, and encouraging of intellectual curiosity that I fell in love with scientific research even more. I spent the scientific time in Switzerland diving into the physics and optical properties of semiconducting materials grown bottom-up into the shape of nanoribbons (imagine: an atomically thin layer in the shape of a lane of a well-paved road). With the support of my ETH advisor and the fascinating group of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, we were able to perform photoluminescence scans of the unique crystals and discover anomalous heterogeneous emission from specific locations of the nanoribbon crystals.

I am incredibly thankful for my host group at ETH Zürich for engaging in not only some of the most intellectual discussions I have had during my scientific career but also for welcoming me so warmly into the bouldering, hiking, and coffee hour sessions. I learned so much about the culture of Switzerland, the beautiful Swiss-German language, and the fact that the famous croissant actually has the Swiss name of Gipfeli (my favorite Swiss-German word, by the way).

As so many will echo, the hikes to the Appenzell mountain range and everywhere else in Switzerland were breathtaking. It is simply a part of being Swiss. What better way to relax over the weekend than waking up at 4 am to catch the first train to your hiking destination?

Merci vielmal to the ThinkSwiss Scholars Program for such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I cannot wait to go back and hike all the other Gipfeli peaks out there.

Ona Ambrozaite

Chemistry– ETHZ ∞ Johns Hopkins University


A summer of learning

I almost did not apply to EPFL’s Excellence Research Internship Program (ERIP) or for a ThinkSwiss scholarship.                                                  In my mind, working abroad in a laboratory in Switzerland for a summer was a distant, expensive dream. Looking But with encouragement from my family, I applied despite my doubts. I matched with a lab and before I knew it, my dream had become a reality with funding from ThinkSwiss. Looking back, I am extremely grateful as this past summer at EPFL was one of the most formative experiences of my undergraduate degree.

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Shirley Zhu

Immunology – EPFL ∞ McGill University


An antihydrogen adventure

During the summer of 2022 I had the opportunity to live in Geneva, Switzerland, for the purpose of researching at CERN. It is predicted that following the Big Bang, equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created; however, the universe is dominated by matter and there is much less of its counterpart. Antihydrogen is created and analyzed by the ALPHA (Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus) collaboration at CERN to look for asymmetries by comparing its spectra with hydrogen’s. To produce antihydrogen you need the opposite of the components present in a hydrogen atom: antiprotons (instead of protons) and positrons (instead of electrons). CERN is the only facility in the world that can provide a constant beam of antiprotons to the experiment day and night. For this reason, I needed to travel to Switzerland this summer to complete my research.

My personal research mainly focused on the installation of hardware to inject microwaves into the first ever vertical antihydrogen trap. This trap will eventually be used to complete the first gravity measurement on antihydrogen, a goal that all collectively researched towards this summer. CERN is a world class international facility for physics research that provides the opportunity for collaboration amongst physicists globally. I can personally attest to this as I worked closely with many other

researchers from a broad array of countries in my group. It was inspiring to see individuals travel to CERN from all over the world to work towards a single goal. While the work was undoubtedly challenging I learned more than I ever could have imagined.

My favorite part of living in Geneva was jumping in the lake after long hot summer days. I felt so lucky that the research I am passionate about afforded the chance to stay in such a beautiful and historic city. Of the many incredible experiences I had, some of the most memorable, outside of research, were the trips I took to Interlaken and Montreux. Interlaken was extremely beautiful; I went with friends and enjoyed a weekend of hiking and kayaking. The day I went Montreux was one of the most scenic day trips I have ever taken. Switzerland is a fantastic country to travel around; it is easily accessible by train and reliably provides a picturesque journey as well as a picturesque destination.

Abbygale Swadling

Particle Physics (Antimatter) – CERN ∞ University of Calgary


A unique summer experience

On my flight to Geneva , I was expecting this research experience to be no different from others, but on my way back I realized I was wrong. Going to Switzerland for research is more than a change in one’s surroundings; I experienced a lot that can’t be found anywhere else.

I was amazed by the work-life balance in Switzerland. Everyone works hard, but they also enjoy a healthy lifestyle. It was not uncommon for the labmates to have lunch together by the beautiful Lac Léman when the weather was nice or to go for a hike together in the mountains. There are also daily coffee breaks where people chat about their research and all the fun activities happening around the city. Having been raised in China and studied in the US, I am used to people staying up late and working after hours, but to my surprise that was not the case in Switzerland. It is not that they don’t like their work; rather, it’s an environment free of peer pressure that allows them to have time to themselves.

Switzerland also provides a truly international community. People in my lab were from all over the world—my advisor once proudly told me that they have people from every continent except for Antarctica. My most memorable experience was hearing the colleagues sing the Happy Birthday song in different languages to one of my labmates on his birthday. It was sung in Polish, German, Italian, Chinese, English, etc. The mixture of international cultures is extremely welcoming, and I got to learn about Poland, Lebanon, Nigeria, and other places in the world.

I am thankful for the ThinkSwiss program, not only for providing funding, but also for organizing an amazing trip around Bern and Mount Titlis. Throughout the trip I was exposed to how the Swiss education system works, why the road signs in Bern come in multiple colors, the fact that old buildings are made of sandstone, and other fun facts. Moreover, it also provided a great opportunity to connect with other awardees and chat about their research and experience in Switzerland.

I am glad that I had the privilege to spend a summer doing research in Switzerland, which turned out to be one of the best experiences I have had. I look forward to going back to the cool glass building of Campus Biotech some day for future collaborations.

Gavin Zhu

Computational Neuroscience – EPFL ∞ Carnegie Mellon University


A transformative experience in a top research institution

August 6, 2022. 18:48. Air Canada flight AC421 arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Descending from the plane, I set foot on Canadian soil for the first time in over three months. Same me, but with some notable differences. Looking back, it’s easy to see how my experience this summer could be described as “life-changing.” While I am not fond of the term, I have no doubt that my time in Switzerland has been transformative. As I unpack my gains, literally and metaphorically, over the next couple of weeks, my growth as a researcher and person will become only more apparent.  

First, let us unpack the big question. Why Switzerland?

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Tony Hu

Biochemistry – EPFL ∞ University of Toronto


Switzerland on a Macro and Micro Scale

When you think of paradise, you don’t usually think of a landlocked country. Yet Switzerland is my perfect paradise and I had an amazing summer doing research in Lausanne. The Laboratory of Experimental Biophysics hosted my stay at EPFL where I researched mitochondrial dyes using super resolution microscopy. While I spent my research looking at cells on a micro level, I got to experience Switzerland on a macro scale. I became immersed in Swiss culture and had many opportunities to travel around the country.

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Caitlyn Mendik

Biophysics – EPFL ∞ University of Colorado Boulder

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