Kathy Jonas | September 9, 2019
South Bend may not have mountains for downhill skiing, but that’s a small thing in comparison to the opportunities Cristian Koepfli has found at Notre Dame to continue his research to understand the deadly disease of malaria.
A native of Switzerland, Koepfli is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Eck Institute for Global Health. He and his wife, Anita Lerch, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Alex Perkins, the Eck Family Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, have a three-year-old son, Fabrice.
“I grew up in a small village, so with a three-year-old son, big cities lose a lot of appeal,” said Koepfli. “We found a nice home here with a large garden, and it is affordable.”
He first learned about a faculty position at Notre Dame while at a conference a couple of years ago. At that time, he knew nothing about the university and had to look up exactly where it was located. After doing more research, he quickly realized that there was a lot of interesting work being done and he decided to apply.
“When I met the people here, I realized Notre Dame was going to be a very good thing for me,” said Koepfli.
He came to Notre Dame from the University of California, Irvine, where he was an assistant project scientist. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia and got his doctoral degree at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Switzerland in 2012.
Military or community service is required in Switzerland. After completing his master’s degree in biology, he went through the list of approved institutions, researching community service opportunities. The Swiss TPH in Basel was the only place that required a background in biology and lab work. For his master’s thesis, Koeplfi studied how proteins impacted fruit flies – nothing at all related to malaria parasites. Yet his application for the position at Swiss TPH was approved. After working there for several months and successfully completing a project, his supervisor asked if he was interested in working towards a PhD.
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