Last week, as I drove through the streets of Elk Grove, Calfornia—my hometown of almost twenty years—I had the nagging feeling that something in the landscape felt a little off. I quickly realized that over the summer I became so accustomed to Switzerland’s impressive mountains, lush hills, and clear lakes that driving through a flat, dry landscape was startling. My two month stay in Switzerland was a fantastic cultural and educational experience that changed how I view the world.
This summer I had the opportunity to live in Lausanne, Switzerland while researching telomeric proteins in Dr. Joachim Lingner’s laboratory at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. The aim of my project was to endogenously tag the protein CEP170 via the CRISPR/Cas9 system in preparation for chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments to determine whether CEP170 binds at telomeres. The CRISPR/Cas9 system is an exciting new method for genome editing so my experience using this system as well as learning about vector design, cloning, and cell culture will be invaluable in my future career as a scientist.
When I wasn’t busy working, I spent my time exploring Switzerland. I visited Bern, Lucerne, and Mount Titlis through the ThinkSwiss networking trip which was absolutely amazing. I also went whitewater rafting in glacial water in Interlaken, learned about cheese in Gruyeres, ate lots of chocolate in Broc, relaxed in the lake in Zurich, saw the most amazing fireworks show I’ve ever seen in Geneva (Fourth of July fireworks just don’t compare), went hiking at the Creux du Van, strolled along Lake Geneva to the Chateau de Chillon, and went wine tasting in the breathtaking Lavaux vineyards. It’s hard to believe that one country could have so much natural beauty and cultural experiences to offer!
What really made these experiences so special though were the people, both the Swiss residents and the other students in the EPFL SRP. All of the members of my lab were so welcoming and friendly. My supervisors, Eric and Jana were particularly awesome and I am so grateful for all the time they invested into teaching me and showing me various lab techniques. As for the other students in the EPFL SRP I truly believe the friendships we formed will last. Even though we’re spread out around the world now, I still plan to stay in touch. I learned so much from them about what life is like in different countries and I had a lot of fun traveling with them on weekends.
Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing about my time in Switzerland this summer (except to stay longer!). This was the most incredible experience of my life and I am so grateful to ThinkSwiss for helping to make it possible.