University in the Spotlight: the University of Geneva
Founded in 1559 by Jean Calvin, the University of Geneva (UNIGE) is dedicated to thinking, teaching, dialogue and research. With 16’000 students of more than 140 different nationalities, it is Switzerland’s second largest university.
UNIGE offers more than 280 types of degrees and more than 250 Continuing Education programmes covering an extremely wide variety of fields: exact sciences, medicine and humanities. Its domains of excellence in research include life sciences (molecular biology, bio-informatics), physics of elementary particles, and astrophysics. UNIGE is also host and co-host to six National Centres of Competence in Research: Frontiers in Genetics, Materials with Novel Electronic Properties (MaNEP), Chemical Biology, Affective Sciences, Synaptic Bases of Mental Diseases and LIVES-Overcoming vulnerabilities in a life course perspective.
A new Biotech Campus
The University of Geneva with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Hansjörg Wyss, the Wyss Foundation and the Bertarelli family will move forward together to bring, new life and fresh investment to the biotechnology sector in the Lake Geneva region and so generate a vast range of opportunities for both scientists and entrepreneurs.
The Wyss Foundation will give a donation to create with a Wyss Institute in Geneva along the same principles as those of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard in Boston.
In addition, the Bertarelli Foundation will contribute its existing EPFL chairs and increase its donation by two additional chairs to the Wyss Institute.
The Wyss Foundation and the Bertarelli family have financed Campus Biotech for the acquisition of the Sécheron site to allow the creation of a shared Biotech campus.
The EPFL and UNIGE will occupy 15,000m² of the Sécheron site. Half of this surface will be occupied by the Wyss Institute for Bio- and Neuro- Engineering, the other half by research groups from EPFL and UNIGE.
This will certainly attract the best students interested in research in biotech and bio engineering to Geneva. We will soon offer a Euroscholars project in this framework.
Study Abroad at the UNIGE
By its international character, the UNIGE is very attractive. It annually hosts hundreds of foreign students. For example, it hosted during the 2012-2013 academic year, more than 900 exchange students.
The UNIGE is committed to helping students settle in quickly, as it works with several partners who help to find housing and who offer a broad range of services as sports and cultural activities. The UNIGE offers many benefits to its foreign students as the possibility to attend French courses at the School of French Language and Civilisation linked to the Faculty of Arts and as the opportunity to participate in tours and events offered by the Erasmus Student Network. These are two different ways to learn the culture and the people of Geneva.
The perception of the EuroScholars program at the UNIGE
The UNIGE is very active in research. It offers 22 EuroScholars research projects, depending on areas as diverse as each other. Each student has also the opportunity to find a research project in his area which is not listed on the EuroScholars website.
Here are some samples of research projects at UNIGE:
Professor Hug, who supervises the project in political sciences listed above, gave his point of view about the program EuroScholars:
"In the context of a research project dealing with ``Refugee Flows and Transnational Ethnic Linkages'' (financed by the Swiss Network for International Studies) we were able to host Nathalie Gill from the University of Maryland. We integrated her in our research team (ETH Zurich and University of Geneva) and she participated at several of our project meetings. In addition, under the guidance of a PhD student she was involved in a data collection effort on security incidences in refugee camps. Through her activities she gained insights on how to carry out research more broadly and data collection more specifically. She also offered valuable input for our project and in her final report she discussed in detail the important issue of sexual violence in refugee situations.
I believe the EuroScholar program is a very beneficial program both for the incoming student and the host research team. The student, taking advantage of a new cultural and linguistic environment, gains a new experience integrated in a research team, while the latter profits from the inputs of a young independent thinker. Consequently, I have no hesitation in trying to repeat this experience in the context of another of my ongoing research projects."
The Professor Vuilleumier, who hosted 4 students since the beginning of the program in his research project Cognitive and affective neuroscience, medicine and neuropsychology areas, joined the point of view of Professor Hug:
"The program allows young and motivated students to join the lab for a short but generally fruitful period, during which they can participate to a specific research project as well as other academic and social activities of the lab. Most students are remarkably prepared and eager to learn. They usually envision their experience with us as an important step to make a competitive application as a student in graduate school or as a research assistant in research institution when they are back in the USA. Therefore, they are sincerely keen of acquiring some knowledge and skills in research while they work in the lab, in addition to gaining a more general overview of our scientific domain. During their stay, the students actively participate to one part of an ongoing project, making substantial contribution to either the acquisition or analysis of data. Generally, they work under the direct supervision of another collaborator in the group (postdoc or PhD student), with whom they often create long-lasting relationships that are also beneficial and rewarding for our own collaborators (e.g. when travelling or going to conferences in the USA). Some students also give us occasional updates about heir subsequent career, either as they request recommendation letter, get accepted in an institution or research lab, or ask for some advice regarding their future opportunities. Overall, this exchange thus appears to be very fruitful both ways."
New Research Projects at the University of Geneva
Primed effort in cognitive tasks: Effects on cardiovascular response
Domain Decomposition Methods for Wireless Networks
Spin-photon coupling in 4f transition metal oxides
Investigation of structural effects on the transport properties of a 2DEG at the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface
Mechanisms of mitochondrial membrane permeabilization by the proapoptotic protein Bax
From an Alumna
Caitlyn Ahlberg - University of Maine - Orono
I did not necessarily intend to live in Sweden when I decided to go into the EuroScholars program. I chose the research project that was most interesting to me, which happened to be at Karolinksa Instituet in Stockholm. However, once I decided that I would go to Sweden, I was very excited! The university and surrounding city are beautiful and full of history. It was surprising to find how excellent the English was that is spoken by the Swedes. The Swedish language is quite difficult, but my lab was very international, and therefore in my daily life the language barrier was not an issue. Overall, even though I did not originally plan it, Sweden was the right country for me.
One of my favorite trips was for my birthday, I went to Northern Sweden to the city of Kiruna, which is above the Arctic Circle. I was able to snowmobile to the famous Ice Hotel, dogsled, learn about the indigenous people the Sami, and even see the Northern Lights. It was beautiful in Kiruna, but it was really cold! Even with the difficult weather, it was worth the trip.
One of the difficulties in Sweden is making friends with the locals. It is part of the Swedish culture to be reserved, and therefore it is hard to start a conversation. However, once you become friends with a Swede they are your friend for life. I met a Swedish girl in my apartment building and we became great friends. She would show me around parts of Stockholm and would help me translate daily life into English, not to mention helping to improve my Swedish. We are planning on staying in touch through Skype and she is already planning a trip to visit me in California next summer. I am sure that we will stay good friends throughout life.
Swedish people are standoffish at first, but as you get to know them they become loyal friends. Also, make sure you have enough money because the food (including groceries) is about twice as expensive as the US. Luckily, housing is guaranteed through EuroScholars, because otherwise it is quite difficult to find housing in Stockholm. For students who want to study in Sweden, I highly recommend it. The language is hard, but when you make an effort people respond wonderfully and graciously. Try to make friends other than the exchange and international students, even though it is difficult. A true Swede will enrich your experience beyond the norm.
It seems that Americans do not really think about Sweden as a destination to either live or vacation. This is a shame, because I found the location beautiful, clean, and full of hard working and down to earth people. There is a very international feeling to Stockholm, and even in the smaller towns people speak incredible English. The country is full of fascinating history and culture, great food, and a great atmosphere. Overall, Sweden should be on everyone’s destination list as it is a place worth being.