First ever FGLS retreat brings UniFR Life Science Students to the Aletsch Zentrum

The newly founded FGLS invited their MSc and PhD students for a 2-day retreat organized by its student representatives. The goal was to get to know each other's research and also to bound socially. The place chosen for this event was the Villa Cassel (Pro Natura Aletsch Zentrum) on the Riederalp, right next to the Alps’ largest glacier: the Aletsch glacier.

On the 23 & 24th June 2018, a lot of activities & talks gave the opportunity to FGLS students, Professors and Alumnis to live a great scientific get-together.

Scientific activities
Every student and professor presented their research topic  in an (mostly) unconventional way. We allocated 5 different activities to the participants. Some presented someone else’s poster or guessed the others' research based on yes/no questionnaires. A group of participants turned their project into a bedtime story or drew a representation of their work on a white board. Finally, another group presented flash talks about their research.

Career insights
From the academic side, the attending professors (Sven Bacher, Jörn Dengjel and Markus Geisler) talked about their careers including all the - for us normally hidden - stepping stones or challenges (or not) they faced to become a group leader. We learned that getting a position as a professor is part skill, part perseverance and part luck (by some also termed "magic moments").

On the other side, we were accompanied by three UniFr alumni speakers that are currently working in industry. First Matthias Kaeser; he did his MSc in Biochemistry, followed by a PhD in Biology and is senior manager in down stream processing of protein production at CSL Behring. Marlene Nebiker Panchaud; she holds a MSc in Cellular and Molecular Biology and is employed at Bayer as regulatory affairs specialist where she is dealing with clinical trials. Third was Nicolas Panchaud; he did his PhD in the field of Biochemistry and is now responsible for drug approval regulations as an associate clinical scientist at Novartis. The speakers showed us some opportunities and gave precious hints on how to start a career in industry. They revealed the most important characteristics, which was to have endurance, to know your strengths, work on communication skills and networking.

Social activities
From a social point of view, this was a very positive event: we got to know each other personally during the train ride, volleyball and ping-pong matches and by watching Switzerland beating Serbia in the World Cup. We also had the opportunity to attend an excursion guided by Pascal Schönenberger from Pro Natura. He showed us around the Aletsch forest, where we learned about the alpine forest ecosystem, the retreat of the Aletsch glacier and its influences on the forest. Unluckily for him, the poor guide was leading a group consisting of know-it-all biologists on his very first tour!

This first ever FGLS retreat was a great success and we hope that it will repeat yearly from now on. We had a great time, learned a lot and established many new connections with our fellow department members! Once more, we want to thank all the attendees and all the little helpers and are looking forward to meet you at the next year’s retreat!

Your student representatives: Guillermo Garcia, Rachel Korn, Vivian Link and Marisa Rodrigues.

Fribourg Graduate School of Life Sciences (FGLS) webpage