Teaching: an essential mission of the CIG

Becoming a scientist starts, before anything else, with gaining knowledge: knowing the relevant facts and being able to put them into their proper context, understanding mechanisms and their interplay and gaining insight into complex relationships between – more often than not in the genomics field – an overwhelming amount of seemingly unrelated data. This is basically a lifelong process, but very few will deny that teaching offers a first and basic step towards gaining these skills and, as such, cannot be overestimated. Consequently, it will hardly come as a surprise that the CIG, since the beginning years, has displayed a strong commitment towards academic education in the field of biological sciences, as part of the teaching mission of the University of Lausanne. A lot of members of the CIG, whether research group leaders or members of core facilities, give courses at the bachelor, master and PhD level, give lectures, seminars and organize practical courses at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine (UNIL) or at other institutions. Moreover, advanced doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows actively participate in teaching activities, mainly at the level of laboratory courses for students.

The CIG participates not only in teaching per se, but is also strongly involved in the organization of teaching programs: until June 2015, Winship Herr was director of the UNIL School of Biology and Liliane Michalik is vice-director since November 2011. Richard Benton succeeded to Christian Fankhauser to head the master “Molecular Life Sciences” (MLS),  while  members of the CIG are involved in the doctoral program “Integrated Experimental and Computational Biology” (IECB). 

Obviously, learning is not the privilege of bachelor, master or PhD student. All scientists continually seek to improve their knowledge through reading scientific publications, attending seminars and lectures and interacting with colleagues. The CIG would not be an institute worth that name if it did not create constellations where such essential “researcher’s needs” can be actively pursued. In practice, this means that the CIG organizes numerous internal and external seminars and symposia where internationally reputed scientists come to the Génopode building to present their latest results in workshops or in plenary sessions, allowing participants the pleasure of an informal discussion. In addition, many ad hoc seminars and journal clubs are organized independently by CIG faculty members.

Teaching and programs available at the CIG




The CIG has organized a support program for PhD students: soon after commencement of his or her studies, each doctoral student selects, by mutual agreement, a CIG faculty member (Professor or Maître d’ Enseignement et de Recherche) as an academic mentor. As such, a PhD student at the CIG receives guidance from both a research mentor (the thesis advisor) and an academic mentor, an interested and impartial faculty member chosen to provide diversity in the student’s education.

The academic mentor closely follows the student’s academic and research progress and remains available for support and advice, for the entire duration of the doctoral study period. In principle, the academic mentor belongs to another research team than the student and as such is working on a different research topic. By getting to know their mentees well, the academic mentor is able to promote the student’s further career and can provide a well-informed letter of recommendation. Thus, with dual research and academic mentoring, the CIG support program ensures diversity of complementary support, thereby maximizing the chances of a productive PhD training, as an essential step towards a successful career. Another important role of the academic mentor is to offer advice in case of any conflicts that may arise between the student and his/her PhD thesis advisor. As such, the role of the academic mentor is to:

* enable PhD students having close contact with a senior member of the CIG community, other than his group leader

* provide PhD students with a faculty member, whose primary concern is their academic development

* provide PhD students with a letter of reference

* act as a guide


Genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and other large scale data generating technologies are confronting PhD students with a new spectrum of challenges: analyzing large data sets, which will become an everyday task for a lot of biologists in the not too distant future, thereby necessitating the need for appropriate training programs. The StarOmics inter-institutional doctoral program, supported by the universities of Lausanne, Bern, Fribourg, Geneva and Neuchâtel fills this niche and covers quantitative aspects of modern biology, integrating novel biological strategies and reasoning. Students attending this program will be offered training in genome-wide and proteome-wide data analysis, biological modeling, quantitative image analysis, programming and statistics through a didactic program that complements both their individual research topic and background. Consequently, PhD students enrolled in the StarOmics program will become conversant in both experimental and computational approaches and acquire the ability to integrate quantitative and experimental methods in their own research.


The thematic doctoral program “Integrated Experimental and Computational Biology” aims at providing doctoral students with an education in computer programming and computational data analysis. It is founded on the principle that the biologists of the future will benefit from being competent in both experimental lab bench and computational bioinformatic approaches As such, these students will be optimally prepared for a job market where these skills – indeed, more often than not in addition to a solid training as an experimental biologist – are more and more required.

The IECB training program has been established (and remains in close connection) with the help of the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics and aims at attracting the best international students,  offering them training in experimental as well as computational techniques. To that end, the “Fund for Research and Education in Genetics” offers each IECB student the opportunity to attend one international course or one international conference during his/her PhD training.