Retreat 2015

Better Results Through Diversity

"The retreat is a unique occasion for PhD students and postdocs to strengthen skills that are often neglected in science, but nevertheless essential. It’s also a great opportunity to meet people with similar research interests”, says Arnaud Monnard, University of Basel. He was one of 33 participants at the Retreat 2015, which took place at Rigi Kaltbad from March 9-12, 2015.

For the sixth edition of this successful event, the focus remained on soft skills, as at the two previous retreats. With the theme “Better Results Through Diversity”, the young researchers learnt how best to communicate, manage conflict and organize their work in a highly interdisciplinary environment. As for the last two retreats, coaching experts from hfp consulting ran the course. They created a highly interactive event, where short lessons by the instructors were followed by extensive practical exercises. “For me, the teaching methods used by the instructors were an important aspect of the retreat. We worked in small groups and focused on real life examples, making for a pleasant and effective learning process”, says Maria Eugenia Zaballa, EPF Lausanne.

The main topics of the retreat were:
• Fostering team intelligence
• Understanding and dealing with different personalities in a group
• Managing the work process
• Developing and negotiating results

The course was very well received. Participants found the overview of emotional intelligence, and the proposed strategies for efficient communication, conflict management and negotiating particularly helpful. They also thought the skills for mediating and focusing scientific discussions, learning to manage diversity in a group, and making the best of peoples’ individual talents in a team would help them in their future careers.

The two days of the retreat also gave the young researchers plenty of opportunities to network and interact with each other. They clearly valued the chance to get to know each other and learn about their different projects. “The participants made the event a great experience for me”, says Mario Lenz, ETH Zurich.

As usual for courses, there were also social activities in the schedule. At the beginning of the retreat, some members of the group worked together to build an igloo, while others dabbled in ice sculpting. Two of the participants called the latter their personal highlight of the course: “I was fascinated by the ice sculpting, which was not only fun, but also interesting to work on as a team”, says Mario Lenz. Arnaud Monnard specifies: “This task was not easy at the beginning, but with good team organization, we finally got a nice result. But”, he adds, ”I am sure that if we had repeated this exercise after the workshop sessions, the result would have been even better.” 


Dr. Eavan Dorcey
Scientific Coordinator
Clausiusstr. 45, CLP D 7
CH - 8092 Zurich 
phone +41 44 632 74 23
fax +41 44 632 15 64

Past PhD Student Retreats
201720162015 / 2013 / 2012 
2011 / 2010 / 2009