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Students at the cutting edge of research

June 20, 2023 | Ori Schipper

Every year, around 180 bachelor and master students are supervised at Eawag. They often participate directly in research projects. This integration, the flat hierarchies and Eawag’s interdisciplinary culture repeatedly lead to master theses receiving awards.

At Eawag, master theses are usually integrated into research projects. For the students, this has the advantage that they can work within a predefined framework and still have the flexibility to bring in their own perspectives.

For example, the work of Frank (Zhao Rui) Zhang was awarded: under the supervision of Barbara Jožef and Kristin Schirmer, the environmental toxicologist from Canada contributed greatly to the development of a protocol for non-animal tests on chemicals. For this, he received the ETH Medal, which is awarded every year for outstanding master and doctoral theses. “I am glad that I met many great people at Eawag and was able to work together with them,” says Frank Zhang. “I greatly appreciated working in a supportive environment where I was given a lot of freedom. So I could actually implement the ideas I had for the project.”

Enthusiasm and dedication

His two supervisors also look back very positively on their time together. “Working together with Frank was a real pleasure. He brought a lot of enthusiasm and dedication,” says Barbara Jožef. The results of his master thesis not only brought light to some astonishing, observations of hitherto unknown processes in fish cells, but also “contributed significantly to advancing our current project with serum-free fish cell cultures”, adds Schirmer, whose research group has for years repeatedly set new standards when it comes to alternatives to animal experiments in the field of environmental toxicity. After graduating, Frank Zhang returned to Canada. He is happy about the award, but for him the medal means something else: “It will always remind me of the wonderful times I had at Eawag.”

In order to pass on knowledge to students, Eawag holds various joint professorships with the ETH Zurich and EPFL, as well as with national and international universities.

On request, students may have their bachelor and master thesis supervised at Eawag. Those interested can obtain further information from their place of study or by contacting the research departments directly.

Cover picture: Eawag, Guido Pasquino

Original Publication

This article first appeared in the Annual Report 2022