This summer I was accepted into the international Biology Undergraduate Summer School at the University of Zürich in Switzerland. As an emerging biologist with an interest in human disease, I was thrilled to work in Karin Metzner’s group researching HIV-1.
During the programme, I attended a number of journal clubs and symposiums on virology and molecular biology which allowed me to learn a lot and gain an insight into how research is carried out – and how intensely people can question your work! My work in the Metzner laboratory focussed on establishing an assay in order to characterise the replication capacity of HIV-1 transmitted founder virus in a newly infected individual. It is important to understand why only one quasispecies of HIV-1 founds an infection in a new host, as this can lay the groundwork necessary for medical advancements. I also had experience presenting scientific papers and my work, as well as writing a formal report; all of which will prepare me for my fourth year research project and dissertation.
Although I was incredibly busy during the week, I had my weekends free and I took this opportunity to explore Zürich and travel around Switzerland. I hiked by Zermatt where the “Toblerone” mountain is and scrambled on a UNESCO heritage trail by the Great Aletsch Glacier. I visited the Segantini museum and climbed in the mountains by St Moritz that inspired his work. I explored a Swiss chocolate and cheese factory – who knew fondue could be so delicious – and visited small medieval villages such as Gruyères. I swam in the Alpine river at Lavertezzo and skipped stones at Oeschinen Lake. There is a great diversity of places to travel in this country, it is impossible to be stuck for something to do.
I hardly knew anything about Switzerland before I went, but I discovered that the people there really hit the nail on the head with a balance between working hard, but also enjoying themselves. It is a critical balance that I hope to carry on with me.
I have had the most wonderful experience, both academically and personally, and I can see myself pursuing further studies here if given the opportunity. I would like to thank the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for making this possible.