It has been ten days since I’ve moved back from Zurich and I have already finished the very last bit of chocolate I brought back from Lindt & Sprungli Chocolate Factory Outlet. (They are probably right when they say Lindt chocolate in Switzerland tastes better than it does in the U.S.) I do miss Switzerland more each day. Not only the chocolate but also the beautiful summer weather that is always in the range of 20-26 Celsius degree, the tap water which probably has better quality than the drinking water I have now, and the public transportation that is always on time……the list goes on and on.
A little bit about myself and my project. My name is Tianyi Hua and most people called me T back in Switzerland. I am a recent graduate from Rice University, Houston, TX, majoring in biochemistry. I worked at the Pharmaceutical Sciences Institute at ETH, Zurich. The research focus of my group is RNA, either the synthesis of selective and potent new oligonucleotides or the identification of RNAs that play major roles in disease-associated pathways through various assays. My project was to prove the existence of G-quadruplexes, a secondary structure of RNA that can potentially inhibit the translation for enzymes that play crucial role in certain metabolic pathway. In order to examine this secondary structure, I used biophysical methods including fluorescents gel and circular dichroism spectroscopy. The project was both interesting and challenging. I learned a lot about RNA, experiment designing and lab techniques but at the same time I was given a lot of independence. Unlike the previous undergraduate research I’ve done where I followed a well-established protocol and repeated the same experiment everyday to produce result, I could read literature to find my own ways to optimize the protocol and interpret the data.
You would think that working in such a leading science and technology research institute like ETH, people are always stressed and working. It’s actually not the case. Sometimes people in my group do work late or during weekends, but they really know how to enjoy their life. We have at least 30 mins of coffee time or ice cream time almost everyday. Barbeques, a drink on Friday afternoon, making group brunch together and swimming after group meeting. Of course, during the World Cup, we watched “football” together at public viewing places like the train station. There are actually around 27,000 Germans living just in the metropolitan area of the city and 4 PhDs in my lab, which makes watching the World Cup Game much more fun.
Outside of lab, I tried to schedule something every weekend. I went to the Jodlerfest (see Linda’s post), had a boat tour in Interlaken and hiked up to Murren, a beautiful village that features a view of the three mountains, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. I also had short stays in Munich, Vienna, Prague, and Florence to meet people with different cultural background and taste different styles of food. I have to say, out of all these awesome cities, I love Zurich the most. I feel so blessed with this great opportunity to spend my summer in the most beautiful city in the world and I had an amazing time.