Switzerland: High Standards and Quality Science

FEATUREBest Places to Work 2006: Postdocs Switzerland: High Standards and Quality ScienceBY STEPHEN PINCOCKARTICLE EXTRASRelated Articles: Best Places to Work 2006: Postdocs The J. David Gladstone Institutes Top 2006 List Cancer Centers Court Postdocs Feds Win with D.C. Centrality Postdocs Blossom at Plant Science Centers Long Live the Northland! Life on the Upswing for UK PostdocsTables: Top 35 Institution

Mar 1, 2006
Stephen Pincock

FEATURE
Best Places to Work 2006: Postdocs

Switzerland: High Standards and Quality Science

At first glance, Switzerland may appear to present some pretty big downsides for postdocs. After all, it's a tiny country that stands aloof from the European Union and has an extensive list of official languages that nevertheless excludes English.

And yet, this year's survey shows that three of Switzerland's top research centers rate very highly. Konstantina Boutsika, a postdoc at the No. 1-ranked Friedrich Miescher Institute (FMI) for Biomedical Research says the country's popularity lies in the fact that it offers "very high standards and offers high quality science."

"I can not think of a bad point, except that the working language is not always English, but German or French, according to the region of Switzerland you live and work in," she says.

Swiss postdoc salaries are relatively generous, and tax rates low (at about 17%). Even in Zurich, which is an expensive city, "on one postdoc salary you can easily live alone in a nice flat with 2 bedrooms and not have to think [about money] when you go out," says Stéphanie Buvelot Frei, a postdoc from ETH Zurich.

The country's diminutive size also makes for good networking. National meetings in different disciplines take place annually and bring together scientists from all the universities and institutes of Switzerland. "I have been a participant and it helped a lot my networking," Boutsika says. And, while Switzerland is not part of the EU's bureaucratic monolith, it does benefit from many of its science funding and support systems.

Swiss centers also enjoy a particularly international atmosphere. At FMI, for example, the roughly 60 postdocs come from 30 different countries.

On the down side, says Frei (a native Swiss), the diminutive size of the country means there's a tendency to try not to have two people working on the same topic. "You will need to have your contacts before you come here," she says.