Nanoscience in the Snow

Since the SNI PhD School was founded in 2012, the “Nanoscience in the Snow” (NiS) Winter School has been a regular part of the program. This three-day meeting offers doctoral students an ideal opportunity to exchange ideas about their research, broaden their horizons, network with scientific guests, and enjoy both the snow and each others’ company.

During the SNI’s Winter School “Nanoscience in the Snow”, doctoral students present their projects to enhance interdisciplinary exchange. “I was impressed by the SNI PhD students’ ability to discuss science across various disciplines and the social cohesion of the consortium,” Christof Sparr comments after the meeting. (Images: Wojciech Szmyt)


This was the first year that the coordinator of the SNI PhD School, Dr. Andreas Baumgartner, had organized the Winter School, which was originally established by his predecessor, Dr. Michel Calame. For the event, Andreas Baumgartner invited the 30 participants to the Hotel Regina in Mürren.

Against the impressive backdrop of the Schilthorn mountain, the young researchers addressed the various topics they are working on as part of their doctoral dissertations. The talks covered everything from new materials such as graphene and composite materials with nanotubes to the study of friction, ultracold atoms, electron transfer, protein crystals, nuclear pore complexes, and the development of measures to prevent the spread of malaria.

The four guest speakers – Professor Anatole von Lilienfeld and Professor Christof Sparr (both of the Department of Chemistry, University of Basel), Dr. Rainer Jäggi (Roche Diagnostics), and Professor Christian Schönenberger (Department of Physics, University of Basel) – supported the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas by presenting aspects of their research fields. Anatole von Lilienfeld spoke about how computer programs use algorithms to generate knowledge autonomously and can be used to predict chemical processes and reactions. Christof Sparr explained new methods for synthesizing chiral compounds, which are used as structural building blocks in a variety of applications. Rainer Jäggi provided attendees with an insight into in vitro diagnostics and corresponding research at Roche Diagnostics, and Christian Schönenberger reported on ten years of research into entangled electron pairs and the ups and downs that this entailed. He describes how perseverance has paid off: “Today, we can produce entangled electron pairs almost with an efficiency of 100%.”

On the first day, a poster session running late into the night was a chance for all participants to present their research and to learn about the diverse fields of research at the interdisciplinary SNI PhD School. In the meantime, there were plenty of opportunities for everyone to enjoy a few quick runs on the pistes, a round of chess, networking, and of course the delicious meals laid on for guests by the Hotel Regina team.

On our website, you will find a short video clip offering a few impressions of the intensive Winter School.