Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is one of two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, sharing that honor with the more famous Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETHZ).  Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, in Lausanne (the capital of the French-speaking canton of Vaud), EPFL is a world-class research university, with strengths in engineering, architecture, and life sciences.  EPFL has over 7,000 students; at the undergraduate level, the vast majority of students are Swiss, but at the graduate level, there are many international students.  The international flavor of EPFL is further reflected in its faculty -- more than 50% are from outside Switzerland.  All told, according to EPFL, there are 107 nationalities represented on campus.  EPFL is consistently ranked among the top universities in Europe and worldwide, particularly in the sciences and engineering, and yet I knew next to nothing about it when I moved there nearly five years ago.

For four years I was a post-doctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Mechanobiology and Morphogenesis, which later became the Laboratory of Lymphatic and Cancer Bioengineering, part of the Institute of Bioengineering (effectively our department) within the School of Life Sciences.  As I said, I knew very little about EPFL, beyond the lab I was joining, and I was very impressed with the superb quality of research at EPFL, the facilities (which are second to none -- truly exceptional), and the international flavor of all the labs.  In our lab, for example, at one point we had over a dozen countries represented!  So in addition to doing great science, I had the chance to learn about other cultures without even setting foot outside the lab.     

What else is there to know about EPFL?  Well, from the cafeteria (which also serves alcohol) on top of the computer science building, you have an incredible view of the Alps.  You are a 15 minute walk from the shores of Lake Geneva and the beautiful lakeside village of St. Sulpice.  The university is home to the provocative and daring Rolex Learning Center, designed by the Japanese architectural firm and Pritzker Prize-winning SANAA.  The campus bar, Satellite, has a good beer selection, especially if you like Belgian brews.  And EPFL was a major consultant in the design of the America's Cup-winning Alinghi yacht.

Depending on your research interests, I would definitely recommend giving EPFL some consideration.  The experience of living and working in another country is incredibly valuable, and the quality of research at EPFL means you can gain this valuable international experience without compromising on your Ph.D. or post-doctoral training.  As you might learn as this A to Z challenge continues, Switzerland holds a special place in my heart, and my time at EPFL is an important part of that experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment