D-BSSE: The Department by the Rhine

Most of you probably know about the existence of an ETH department in Basel – but do you know anything else about it? Our author recently started her PhD there and she sheds some light on ETH’s most mysterious department.

by Polykum Redaktion

by Anika John

Founded in 2007, the Department for Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE), is situated in the heart of Basel. ETH Zurich in Basel? This may sound odd at first, but the department’s location in “Europe’s life science capital” was chosen to encourage academic and industrial partnerships. With success! Today, the department has 117 international partners, 30 industrial collaborations, around 70 collaborations with the University and the Hospital of Basel and 18 founded spin-off companies within the past 15 years.

Life at the department

With 20 research groups, around 200 Master’s students and around 180 PhD students, the D-BSSE is of considerable size, while still allowing for a communal atmosphere. The Master’s programmes offered at our department align well with D-BSSE’s focus on interdisciplinary research in the biosciences. Students can choose between a Master in Biotechnology and one in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics. During their studies, D-BSSE students are not limited to the lectures offered in Basel, but also have the chance to attend courses, trainings and activities organized in Zurich. All it takes is a one-hour train ride.

Besides dedicated studying and research, D-BSSE also fosters an active and communal department life. The association of scientific staff, “Verein des Mittelbaus” or VMB at the department is very active, for example arranging cross- disciplinary talks, engaging in department politics, and organising social events like beer brewing, weekend hikes, and potlucks. I just joined the department recently as a PhD student, but I already feel settled in. If you ever find yourself in Basel, come by, say hi, and check us out!

Life in Basel

Let me tell you a bit about Basel from the eyes of a fresh newcomer. One of Basel’s oldest and most famous celebrations is “Fasnacht”, but the city has a lot more to offer. In summer, many people enjoy a swim in the Rhine. And in autumn, there is the “Herbstmesse”, a fair which takes place in locations all around the city centre. Though I’ve only lived a short time in Basel, I already notice how unique this city is compared to the rest of Switzerland. Firstly, flat hunting was surprisingly easy (even on a PhD salary). Knowing the situation in other Swiss cities, this was a relief. Secondly, the city has a stronger multicultural flair, which I love. I see this especially in the variety of ethnic shops and supermarkets, something which reminds me a lot of Germany. This brings me to my third point: Basel’s proximity to France and Germany offers many great short-trip destinations, such as the Alsace region in France or the “Europapark”, a German adventure park roughly one hour from Basel. There is so much more to discover about Basel, and I can’t wait to see it all.

Anika John, 26,
PhD student at the Computational Biology Group.
Big thanks to Simona Baghai and Beichen Gao for
supporting me in writing this article. Thanks also to
Carolin Arndt Foppa for the proofreading.

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