My watch list
Investment for the future

This is a very particular concern and at the same time the demand placed annually on Dr. Irmgard Werner, who, as a lecturer at the ETH Zurich, supports around 65 pharmacy students in the 5th semester practical training in “pharmaceutical analysis”. With joy and enthusiasm for her subject she always rises to the challenge of providing the next generation of scientists in research and industry with lasting understanding and cutting-edge expertise. She puts the quality of teaching to the test, again and again, also with self-criticism. For q&more the dedicated expert highlights the situation and the central importance of training.

The information opportunities that we have today are greater than ever. It is crucial to handle them properly and to recognize what is important. It is part of the learning process, to question the established and assess whether new is really better. As supervisors, we can contribute our knowledge, but must also leave the
student enough room for his own experiences.

A solid foundation

There is no lack of definitions of learning objectives, credit scoring systems, tests and checks. In particular, however, in addition to pure knowledge transfer, “knowledge at the push of a button”, the understanding of associations must be strengthened. Critical thinking, based on sound fundamentals, is required. The initial basic principle we regard to be manual skills – starting with the weighing, the correct filling of the volume in a volumetric flask and the correct calculation of dilutions, to name only the most basic actions. It is sometimes surprising how much time you spend with the calculation of measurement uncertainty of a result, although the causes are simple, such as the inadequate balance was used or a dilution was not properly prepared.

Automation helps in many areas, by reducing repetitive work, but this does not remove all the problems. We need to understand how the process of an analysis is structured before we can critically evaluate the test results or think of an optimization. The manual activities must be particularly maintained for students, in order for them to recognize later, in professional practice, the qualities of the work, the boundaries of a method, the difficulty of problem-solving and time involved.

The issue of safety

In recent years it was realized that the young generation brings a critical attitude to chemistry and pharmacy.
Curiosity and fear are close together and the protection of one’s own health has become a high priority.

Often, however, we must recognize that the theoretical knowledge for environmental protection, laboratory safety and chemistry can, in practice, cause obvious difficulties. For example, already dust masks and the best quality of protective gloves are worn for weighing out sodium chloride, although the night before you cooked pasta in salted water.

Expertise in chemistry and pharmacy can only be achieved if the current and now at any time available online information about risks are properly assessed and implemented.

Knowledge for practice

Laboratories and their equipment are expensive to acquire and maintain. The situation is ideal if the same facilities can be used for the productive side and the training. Older devices can be very useful for understanding measurement techniques, but devices on the cutting edge of technology must also be included in the education, in order to find a connection to new technologies.

At the university we have come to appreciate the companies that in recent years have approached us with Academia programmes. It‘s also a question of transferring information from the manufacturing industry. The workshops by technicians have proved to be particularly popular, when they demonstrate the equipment and proudly explain the inner workings. Practical problems are discussed in groups and experiences exchanged. Each returned to his job with new ideas and developed a better understanding of their own activities and handling of the equipment.


Today, hardly a course and hardly an event are conceivable without the feedback form. The student or learner can anonymously express how his care, his progress, his success are measurable. These comments are always critical. In a section at the end, suggestions for improvement are asked for. Meanwhile, however, a certain assessment fatigue has set in, since the course has hardly begun and the participants have to comment on its quality. It is a great art to formulate clearly the needs for improvement. We highly value the feedback from practitioners’ who provide us with insides formtheir professional life.

First publication: Werner, I. A., q&more, 2.2011.

Facts, background information, dossiers

More about ETH Zürich

  • News

    Mapping human brain development

    Researchers at ETH Zurich are growing human brain-​like tissue from stem cells and are then mapping the cell types that occur in different brain regions and the genes that regulate their development. The human brain is probably the most complex organ in the entire living world and has long ... more

    Monitoring gene activities in living cells

    Researchers from ETH Zurich and EPFL are expanding the emerging field of single-​cell analysis with a ground-​breaking method: Live-​seq makes it possible to measure the activity of thousands of genes in a single cell without having to isolate and destroy it. Modern biology is increasingly ... more

    Hydrogel keeps vaccines alive

    Most vaccines require constant refrigeration during shipment to remain effective. An international research team led by ETH Zurich has now developed a special hydrogel that vastly improves the shelf life of vaccines, even without refrigeration. The development could save many lives and lowe ... more

  • q&more articles

    Analysis in picoliter volumes

    Reducing time, costs and human resources: many basic as well as applied analytical and diagnostic challenges can be performed on lab-on-a-chip systems. They enable sample quantities to be reduced, work steps to be automated and completed in parallel, and are ideal for combination with highl ... more

  • Authors

    Prof. Dr. Petra S. Dittrich

    Petra Dittrich is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich (Switzerland). She studied chemistry at Bielefeld University and the University of Salamanca (Spain). After completing her doctoral studies at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysi ... more

    Dr. Felix Kurth

    Felix Kurth studied bioengineering at the Technical University Dortmund (Germany) and at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (Sweden). During his PhD studies at ETH Zurich (Switzerland), which he completed in 2015, he developed lab-on-a-chip systems and methods for quantifying me ... more

    Lucas Armbrecht

    Lucas Armbrecht studied microsystems technology at the University of Freiburg (Breisgau, Germany). During his master’s, he focused on sensors & actuators and lab-on-a-chip systems. Since June 2015, he is PhD student in the Bioanalytics Group at ETH Zurich (Switzerland). In his doctoral stud ... more

q&more – the networking platform for quality excellence in lab and process

The q&more concept is to increase the visibility of recent research and innovative solutions, and support the exchange of knowledge. In the broad spectrum of subjects covered, the focus is on achieving maximum quality in highly innovative sectors. As a modern knowledge platform, q&more offers market participants one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Cutting-edge research is presented by authors of international repute. Attractively presented in a high-quality context, and published in German and English, the original articles introduce new concepts and highlight unconventional solution strategies.

> more about q&more

q&more is supported by:


Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE