Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A new continent, a new city, a new job

City of Zürich, Switzerland
I did not expect such a long hiatus on this blog, but here we are: three months since the last post! Although I don’t plan to blog as frequently as in 2012, I certainly will resume posting every now and then. 

What happened to me during this three months period is that I left the University of California-Davis and I moved back to Europe. It was sad to leave California, truly. This is such a wonderful place, with wonderful people in it. But All things must pass, as George Harrison used to sing. I am now in the beautiful city of Zürich, Switzerland (my home country). So, I have mixed feelings right now: missing California but enjoying the discovery of a new city.

My new job is at the SwissFederal Institute of Technology in Zürich; this venerable institution, founded in 1855, is often ranked as Switzerland’s top university. Initially, the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (its official name – you can also say ETH Zürich, or simply ETH, that you should pronounce Hay-Tay-Ha if you want to be in) was a polytechnic institute, whose mission, given by the Swiss government, was to educate engineers and scientists. In 1909, however, ETHZ started to give PhDs and thus became a university. (Interestingly, Einstein, who is an ETH alumnus, was awarded a PhD by the University of Zürich. Because at that time, 1905, none were delivered at ETH!) 

Main Building of ETH Zürich
ETHZ has a sister institution in western Switzerland, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), which became a federal institute in 1969. These two universities belong to what is called the ETH domain, together with four institutes of applied research: EAWAG (aquatic research), WSL(forest, snow and landscape), EMPA (Material Sciences) and the Paul ScherrerInstitute (Environment and Human Health). 

At ETH, I have joined the group of Soil and Terrestrial Environmental Physics, that is part of the Departmentof Environmental Systems Science. I am now part of a research project that aims at understanding the origins of bacterial diversity in soil. (I won’t give too many details here, since I plan to write more about it in a future post!)