Semester abroad

As part of the MSE master’s course, it is possible to complete part of the course abroad. Usually, project work or in-depth projects on a suitable topic are worked on during the stay abroad.

The students of the MSE master’s program who work in the field of thermodynamics have the opportunity, for example, to complete a guest semester at Purdue University. Students who work in the field of power electronics or electrical energy systems can, for example, complete a guest semester at the University of South Carolina or the University of California.

Experience reports from MSE students

MSE students from the Institute for Energy Systems IES talk about their experiences at the partner universities in North America.

Students from the field of thermodynamics

Studying in Purdue:

In this cradle of astronauts, a master's student was able to carry out a three-month specialization project.

I entered Purdue at the end of April and saw the huge campus in its busiest time. The squares and streets were full of students, the whole campus pulsed. It was just before the summer vacation and the students were busy with exams and later with the graduation ceremony.

In the engineering building, which is right next to the ’Engineering Fountain’, I was able to set up my workplace and start working in the area of ​​heat pipes. My professor there, Suresh Garimella, and his group do research in the field of heat transfer with a focus on cooling electronic components. Prof. Stefan Bertsch, head of the Institute for Energy Systems IES, was also involved in this group during my studies.

Life on campus:

But life on campus is not limited to studies and projects. It is always a surprise for a European student how many and pompous fraternity houses can be seen in Purdue.

Here these student associations are called ’Greek Life’, because they are all named with Greek letters, but not only the characters are Greek, but also living and drinking does not leave any doubt about Greek kinship. There are many sporting activities to counteract the delicious but greasy American food or to provide a sporty balance to studying.

Studying in Purdue:

Abandoned the apartment, sold a car, moved all the furniture to a warehouse and stowed various belongings with the parents - In February 2013 my wife Silvana and I broke our tents in Switzerland and ventured to the USA, to Purdue University in West Lafayette (IN).

In contrast to my predecessors, I planned a longer stay of 10 months in America as a research assistant at Herrick Laboratories. During this time I supported a PhD student with his experimental setup and the subsequent measurements.

Life on campus:

“Socializing” - a word that cannot be easily translated into German - works better in America than we have seen anywhere else.

Employees from the laboratory met regularly in the bar after work, invited to birthday parties, followed sporting events together, planned excursions, etc. and we were integrated from the start.

That's why we rarely lived in a confined space in our room - we rather enjoyed everything the campus has to offer, made friends from different cultures and discovered the sights in and around Indiana.

Studying in Purdue:

An exciting project, motivated and helpful colleagues and lots of new things to learn. As quickly as the day of departure came, so quickly did my time in Purdue go by. At first a lot was new and different, but I quickly got used to the new processes and the environment. The work was exciting and challenging. If I had any questions or couldn't solve a problem myself, I could always rely on my American colleagues.


Socializing is as easy as 1-2-3. That's really true. As a visiting student in particular, I was included and accepted from the start. Whether playing football in the sports center, after work beer in one of the bars or invitations to a barbecue - there was always something going on. In addition, there was always an event, concert or lecture that I could attend on campus. You never get bored.

Studying in Pretoria:

Unlike the other students at the institute, I didn't choose the USA as my destination for my semester abroad, but the more exotic country South Africa. More precisely, I ended up at the University of Pretoria. I was allowed to carry out a project at the Clean Energy Research Group under the direction of Prof. Josua Meyer and to support a PhD student. The work was varied and challenging, but I could always count on the support of the local students and assistants and the time flew by. The huge campus compared to the small OST is very impressive and can be enjoyed very well in the constantly warm South African climate.


Thanks to the accommodation in a house specially reserved for exchange students, friends were quickly made to discover life in Pretoria and the surrounding area. Whether a beer in the bar around the corner or an excursion into the nearby wilderness at the weekend, you never get bored here. Even after a short drive, exotic animals such as rhinos, cheetahs or lions can be seen in huge wildlife parks. And immersion in such a completely different culture also brings some unforgettable experiences.

Students from the field of power electronics

As part of my master’s degree, I had the opportunity to do a stay abroad in the USA.

I gladly accepted and went to Columbia, South Carolina for five months.

In the power electronics group at the University of South Carolina USC, I was allowed to carry out two projects as part of the MSE degree.

Why UC Irvine?

The Power Electronics Laboratory at the UCI (University of California Irvine) is known worldwide for its innovative research, unique industrial applications and the excellent education of its graduates.

Since I am completing my MSE training with a specialization in power electronics, this stay in California should give me the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully complete my degree. In addition, it is a unique opportunity to benefit from the experience of respected professors in this core area in a culturally diversified environment.


The project work was defined by my responsible professor Keyue Smedley. The task was to mathematically analyze a 3-phase PFC (Power Factor Correction) for a power of 3.5 kW and 800 V output voltage and finally to verify the results on a prototype.

From the analysis, I was able to develop a special control technology for the converter, which drastically reduces network interference, allows a more compact design than comparable products and increases efficiency. Later this work will be used in a PHD thesis to control wind power plants more efficiently.


The semester abroad in California Irvine was certainly a unique experience and a formative event in my life. I was not only able to benefit from the technical and academic achievements.

Above all, dealing with people from a completely different environment and culture cannot be learned in a technical degree. It was definitely the right decision for me, even though it was a big hurdle financially. The last six months have passed in a flash for me.

Experience reports from students at the partner universities

From time to time foreign students study at the OST in the Institute for Energy Systems IES. Below they report on their activities at the institute and on their experiences during the exchange program.

Duration of stay at OST:  May to July, 2023

My name is Caroline Gilbert, and I am an undergraduate student studying computer engineering at Purdue University. This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to partake in a meaningful international educational experience as a visiting scholar at IES.

During my time at IES, I worked on the Electrical Energy Systems team with Simon Nigsch on a wireless power transfer project for EV-charging. My work on the projected consisted of the following tasks:

  • Gained experience working on soldering tasks on a PCB
  • Programmed in C/C++ on CCS and PlatformIO to establish UART communication between the microcontroller and Thyone-I Wireless FeatherWing 
  • Established wireless communication protocol between the transmitting Thyone-I Wireless FeatherWing and receiving Thyone-I Wireless FeatherWing to be embedded on a wireless power transfer demonstrator

Overall, this project taught me valuable technical embedded systems skills that I will apply in my educational endeavors and future career. Moreover, during my time abroad at OST, I had the amazing opportunity to explore the beauty of Switzerland and make new friends with my coworkers and other international students. Therefore, I would highly recommend this experience to other students!

Thank you again to Simon Nigsch, Professor Bertsch, and everyone on the IES team for making my experience at OST so enjoyable and valuable!

Duration of stay at OST:  May to July, 2023

As an undergraduate student studying mechanical engineering at Purdue University, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to spend a Summer as a visiting scholar at IES.

During my time at IES, I worked with Professor Bertsch and his team on a few projects regarding different energy systems.

  • First, I helped with high-temperature heat pump (HTHP) testing, during which I learned about the potential benefits of introducing ternary mixture refrigerants into an HTHP system.
  • I have also made improvements to a set of Python plotting codes which enables better data visualization.
  • Lastly, I retrofitted an existing wind tunnel test stand and tested different types of heat sinks under specific operating conditions.

By completing these projects, I was able to gain a better understanding of not only heat pump systems but also how research and academia work.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, I learned so much at work and had such a good experience getting to know everyone in the research group and at OST. I met many wonderful people during my time here that I would now call friends.

I am thankful to Prof. Bertsch and everyone in the research group for providing me with a fulfilling and unforgettable Summer!

Duration of stay at NTB: August 15 to November 25, 2016

I spent three months as a visiting student at the IES at NTB while being enrolled in the PhD programme at Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA.

My doctoral project was not an industry sponsored project, and the direction and nature of my research at Purdue was different from what I experienced at IES. Since projects at the IES are sponsored by industry, there are very specific demands and timelines from the industry partner that need to be met. I believe that spending time at IES will help me in my future professional career greatly.

It was a good experience to be exposed to a different working style, a different working environment, and learn that there are different approaches to the same problem.

  • I took away simple but elegant solutions to some problems I face in my laboratory at Purdue that engineers at IES deal with better than me.
  • I discovered some softwares and tools/equipment that I could use at Purdue to make our work easier.
  • I now have first–hand experience of why Swiss engineering is among the very best in the world!

The state of Indiana where Purdue is, is located in the American Midwest. The land is flat and the most common feature is endless fields of maize and soja. It was a wonderful change in landscape and scenery that greeted me when I landed at Zürich, and to be able to stay in the Rheintal was an amazing experience.

I‘ve always loved mountains, and I felt at home in Werdenberg from the first day. Since I had met some of my colleagues at the IES from the time they spent as visiting scholars at Purdue University, I had no trouble settling into life in Switzerland and into work at NTB.

My colleagues in the IES made me feel welcome, and included me in all activities. I was able to join in on a trip to the Rütliwiese where the Swiss Confederation was formed, and also learn to bake a „Biber“.

I think the work–life balance at the IES is much better, and there is much to learn for me from this attitude as well. Switzerland is a very beautiful country, and I am grateful to have been able to enjoy some of what it has to offer.

Many thanks are due to Dr. Bertsch and to all colleagues at the IES for making my stay possible and so memorable!

My name is Zuzanna and I come from Poland.

I attended 1.5 year in internships which were located in Switzerland. After bachelor graduation (2015) in Chemistry of building’s materials I have started Nanotechnology (2016) in Lodz University of Technology as a master degree.

I decided to come to NTB for half year to participate in FluidGlass project, began this same master thesis. In combination with Swiss peaceful and hospitality it was huge pleasure and happily spent time here.

Of course "All work and no play makes Jack a dull Boy" ;) I love travel and meet people and cultures … 

Einstein said "Imagination is more important than knowledge" - and I believe him!

I look always for the best opportunities to create interesting future, entertain my life and help people as much I can! 

As a young bachelor's student studying mechanical engineering at Purdue University, I spent three months as a visiting scholar in the IES at NTB.

During my stay I had the pleasure of working with Prof. Bertsch and his team on a number of cutting edge research projects. Among these projects were the analysis of a cascade refrigeration cycle for application in the pharmaceutical industry as well as the design and construction of an experimental wind tunnel. These projects along with the mentorship provided by Prof. Bertsch and others at NTB helped me to develop my skills as a young engineer interested in thermal systems

What I enjoyed most about working in the IES was the welcoming atmosphere and collaborative nature of the research group. I am very grateful to Prof. Bertsch and his entire team for creating an environment where I looked forward to going to work each morning.

Outside of work I also enjoyed many social events with my colleagues such as skiing, hiking, and fondue parties

Since leaving NTB I have continued my career as a PhD researcher in thermodynamics, and although my time in the IES was brief, I owe many thanks to Prof. Bertsch and my colleagues at NTB for leaving me with the desire to pursue a career in thermal systems research. "

My name is Twyla and I am from the US. As a bachelor student from Purdue University, I spent two months as a visiting student at NTB after a study abroad semester at ETH.

It was an amazing experience working on a project for the IES department at NTB. I was able to choose which project I wanted to work on. Which meant that I had a project that interested me and it was a great learning experience, making my stay here even more memorable.

Probably the biggest highlight of my stay, was getting to meet and work with everyone in the IES department. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I especially enjoyed the time a few of us went abseiling and I will never forget the flying shark :D.

I am so grateful for getting the opportunity to work in the IES department and I would completely recommend it to anyone who has the chance.