The Switzerland at the heart of the Doctorate

Clarisse Faria-Fortecoëf

Project manager and contractual PhD student since october 2011, Jonathan Perron makes ??his thesis in Physical Chemistry at the University Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris (France) in collaboration with the Paul Scherrer Institute, Villigen (Switzerland).

From the beginning - this was even a sine qua non condition for his thesis supervisor at the Pierre and Marie Curie University - the integration of a 18-month period in Switzerland was part of the PhD project of Jonathan Perron.

Swiss experience: « A big jump at a personal as well as professional level »

In October 2011, Jonathan left thus, France for Switzerland: « in a mobility framework, it is not a country that comes first to mind ». Jonathan did not know this country, but thanks to La Maison des Français de l'Étranger (MFE) - a service of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is responsible for informing all French who considering going to live and/or work abroad - he got before his departure, all data he needed (daily life , taxation ...).
« After, the various issues were quickly addressed and solved in the country such as administrative matters ».

At the level of his activity, this mobility aimed, within a lab of the Institute and an international team (members from Austria, Italy...) - « a very friendly and dynamic environment » - to develop technical skills in the field of electron beam lithography by taking advantage of the facilities of the Paul Scherrer Institute and then use them to perform experiments on large instruments in France.

In funding terms, Jonathan had a ministerial allowance (doctoral contract) of about 1,300 euros, as well as a supplement during his stay in Switzerland, paid by the Institute corresponding to the half of a Swiss salary. « What you should know and unlike in France, is that PhD students in Switzerland systematically get a salary which will vary depending on the discipline and where they are in the country ».

As regards housing, the Institute has a guest house (Maison des invités) in which Jonathan was able to get a room for a short period, the time for him to find accommodation. « At this level, there are many flatshare offers, a solution that is much more interesting, rents are very high in Switzerland ».

Some words about daily life?

For Jonathan, first of all, this experience was a « shock ». « People say that life is expensive in this country ... and this is the case. Beside this, Switzerland has beautiful areas. I was in German-speaking Switzerland and I could discover various nice places thanks to a very interesting transport and subscription system. I thus had the opportunity to meet different people. Integration requires a minimum of efforts, but there are not real difficulties. Multilingualism is another feature of Switzerland with no less than four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Also, people see themselves as part of the municipality - taxes depend on the municipality where you live - then of the canton and finally of Switzerland ».

Go back to France and continuation of the project with Switzerland

In March 2013, Jonathan returned to France and its University. However, his project while adapting to the thematics worked by his team in Paris, has gone on with Switzerland where he regularly travels to enjoy Scherrer Institut's facilities and test various samples, as well as to see some people of his former team, to keep in touch.
« This collaboration is the heart of the Doctorate. This is a joint project, my doctoral project ».

Furthermore, Jonathan is still under a doctoral contract which ends on september 30, 2014, when he will defend his thesis.

To date, what are your plans for the future?

« In Switzerland it was more technological than scientific. At the same time, I want to find a job in the industry, the private sector. I already got some contacts. Events like the Forum Horizon Chimie at La Maison de la Chimie of Paris, on February 6, 2014, or meetings organized by my university with large groups, are excellent opportunities for this. Ideally, I'd like to work in Switzerland, but given the referendum's outcomes of last February – the majority of the population voted "against mass immigration -, I'm not sure what will be the perspectives ... ».
Another project of Jonathan, would be to join a company in France wishing to develop its business in Switzerland. « I think this is an experience that I can valorize within a company ».

And if you had to do it again?

« Unhesitatingly. This is an unique experience. It is a country that people do not know very well. Swiss are nice people. Now I have some friends there ».
At the same time, he advises those who might be interested in a mobility in Switzerland, to be careful with issues such as formalities. Discussions at a hierarchical level which are not as « open » as in France, may be another destabilizing point.
However, the adaptation is not generally, too much difficult and Jonathan continues his trips between France and Switzerland, which beyond the professional aspect, answer to his « need to see and meet again people over there ».

If you wish to follow or contact Jonathan Perron, please visit his website in which you will find not only information about his scientific projects, but also his Carnets Helvétiques (pictures illustrating this article come from these Carnets).