Published: 26.06.13

Bridging scientists 

Arnaud Monnard
Arnaud Monnard is a Ph.D. student in the Health and Science Technology department. (Photo: Arnaud Monnard)
Arnaud Monnard is a Ph.D. student in the Health and Science Technology department. (Photo: Arnaud Monnard) (large view)

It all started with a simple coffee a few months ago. I had just started my Ph.D. in the department of Health and Science Technology (D-HEST) and heard about AVETH, the Academic Association of Scientific Staff at ETH. I was intrigued by the fact that ETH had an organisation that represented non-faculty scientific staff, and was impressed by its mission to create a better environment in which to live, learn, teach and carry out research. Interested in knowing more about it, I decided to meet Julian Cancino, the group president at that time, for an extended coffee break. Julian explained the organisation’s purpose and talked passionately about its open-minded philosophy, which brings people from very different scientific fields and diverse cultural backgrounds together.

I immediately felt that I wanted to take part to this unique association and decided to run for the Board position of External Affairs Representative, which mainly entails contacting and fostering exchanges with other academic associations or academic partners. As a former member of the World Model of United Nations (WMUN), a graduate from the EPFL, and having studied in Zurich and the US, I was sure I fit the part. I had the personal experience and language skills to fulfil the responsibilities.

As a frequent ETH life reader you might remember the article about the AVETH Board election in February, 2013. After a very democratic voting procedure, to my delight I was elected for the position and immediately took on the responsibilities for external affairs. I also didn’t waste time getting more involved in AVETH activities or taking part in the board assemblies. This was an exciting and interesting time because I had the opportunity to observe the birth of a new association from my own department (D-HEST).

As it is my task to extend and maintain the AVETH network at a Swiss as well as at an international level, I quickly got in touch with ACIDE, our sister association at the EPFL. Shortly after, I established contact with other Swiss scientific organizations like VAUZ and Actionuni and the European association EURODOC. Sharing opinions with members of these associations is always a plus; through open discussions great ideas have emerged. It is particularly important for AVETH to stay connected with other associations, not only to share ideas and experiences, but also to learn from their best practices.

From a more personal point of view, being the External Affairs Representative has given me the opportunity to meet interesting people from ETH, UZH and many other universities Europe wide. Next Saturday, for example, I will be travelling to Fribourg University to meet scientists and a delegate from Lithuania with whom we will share our personal, cultural and scientific experiences. I’m excited to see what ideas will come up. Perhaps it will be as successful as a few weeks ago, when I met an official representative of Contact Singapore, an organization responsible for the promotion of Singapore as a scientific and financial centre. Contact Singapore has asked AVETH to help them coordinating an event at the ETH Zurich, which will be fun organizing.

So far, I’m enjoying my involvement in AVETH and the contact to people from diverse countries, other departments and other cultures. In my role as Representative of External Affairs, I even have the opportunity to get to know scientists from all over Europe. I think this is the kind of chance you only have when you are part of a major institution like the ETH Zurich.

About the author

Arnaud Monnard is from Lutry, a small lovely town located in the wonderful region of Lavaux, Switzerland. He studied Life Science at EPFL and in the summer of 2012 obtained a degree in Engineering with special focus in Neuroscience. During the last year of his Master studies, Arnaud went to Harvard Medical School to participate in a research project in Neuroendocrinology in the Flier/Maratos-Flier laboratory. His research was mainly on diabetes and obesity. In September 2012, he started his Ph.D. studies in Human Nutrition at ETH Zurich, working on micronutrient deficiencies under Professor Michael Zimmermann.

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