Summer in the Lab: bridging research and education

With the aim to develop the research culture at EPFL, the Vice Presidency for Academic Affairs (VPA) launched this year a program called Summer in the Lab. Implemented and managed by the School’s Education Outreach Department (SPE), this project encourages practical learning from the beginning of the Bachelor’s.

The Summer in the Lab program is designed for EPFL students who wish to explore or confirm their interest for research. The objective of these two-months immersions over the summer within one of the EPFL laboratories, is to offer interns the experience of a stimulating research environment. In addition, they can put their polytechnical knowledge into practice and so reinforce their career prospects in Switzerland and internationally. According to Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach, participants can gain a much more in-depth vision of their studies in order to make informed decisions for their future academic and professional path.

Unlike projects and practical exercises during the semester, where the setting is usually adapted to the students’ level, these internships offer a concrete, less structured, and more realistic picture of the creative and innovative stages that happen in a cutting-edge research laboratory.

Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach

EPFL students have welcomed this new internship program with great enthusiasm and interest. For Marion Boissat, co-president of the School’s association AGEPoly, the remunerated Summer in the Lab internships fit perfectly into the academic calendar and could have a great success because it allows students not only to gain more hands-on experience but also to step out of their comfort zone.

In response to the suggestions of the student and alumni community to get a more multidisciplinary approach throughout their studies, the organizers also added workshops in science communication and leadership to the agenda. With these complementary courses, the Summer in the Lab program provides a rich and balanced training of scientific and transversal skills.

End of September, this year’s cohort will present their research at a closing symposium. This opportunity will also allow them to apply their newly acquired presentation and communication skills. Kathryn Hess Bellwald explains: “It is nowadays essential for future scientists, researchers or pragmatic managers to have the ability to present their projects, to work and to communicate in teams.”

The participants’ positive response to these courses would comfort us in our strategy to develop and integrate more and more soft skills training courses as part of the academic curriculum.

Kathryn Hess Bellwald

This year’s applications are closed. For the summer 2023 internship cohort, the applications will open in December 2022. For more information, check the Summer in the Lab program webpages or contact the Education Outreach Department: sil.internship@epfl.ch

Imported from EPFL Actu

EPFL offers three new Masters

The three new Master’s programs are offered at the intersection between disciplines. This allows students with varied backgrounds in science and engineering to have the opportunity to acquire a comprehensive set of skills to work in the MedTech, pharma and health care sectors (Master’s in Neuro-X) or become the main actors of the “quantum revolution” (Master’s in Quantum Science and Engineering). The Master’s in Statistics aims to provide scientists with the expertise and crucial skills for sound reasoning in the data-rich world, making them sought-after statisticians and data analysts.

EPFL constantly adapts its education offer to the new developments in science and engineering, as well as to the evolution of our society, the emerging needs of its economy as well as its numerous challenges

Prof. Pierre Dillenbourg, Associate Vice-President for Education

The Master’s in Neuro-X

Engineers in Neuro-X build their expertise on science, technology and computation. Their multidisciplinary expertise complements the fundamental skills of engineers and medical-domain specialists by a strong technological component, making them not only highly demanded and valued professionals in neurotechnology, but also preparing them for research in neuroscience-related fields. The study program includes several projects in labs, thereby providing students with a practical dimension and real research experience.

Prof. Dimitri Van De Ville, the Master’s program director, foresees that graduates will have an interdisciplinary profile enabling them to see the big picture in terms of complex systems, combined with a realistic perspective on what it means to develop a product or engage into research. This will make them key actors able to interact with experts at the intersection of domains.

The Master’s in Quantum Science and Engineering

Quantum science and technology is bringing a paradigm shift in the way we treat, communicate, measure and compute data, affirms the Master’s program director Prof. Nicolas Macris. He adds that to address this new shift, EPFL aims to form quantum science engineers who, thanks to their multidisciplinary profile, are able to thrive at the forefront of this “new technological revolution” and to pursue a career in quantum science or in the information technology sector as well as in the industry at large.

The Master’s in Statistics

In a world that is increasingly data-driven, industry relies on statisticians and data analysts who are able to navigate the data flood. Statistical expertise is now essential in nearly all domains: economics, finance, government, science, health, and social sciences, and the list goes on. “With the Master’s in Statistics, EPFL aims to train students with a scientific/engineering background in cutting-edge statistical methodology, in order to develop a mastery of statistical thinking, visualization and computation, and data analysis” – so says Prof. Joachim Krieger, the director in charge of the program. Teamwork and communication skills are also important aspects that the program strengthens, in order to enable graduates to integrate and apply their skills in the manifold fields of application of statistics.

For more information, see https://www.epfl.ch/education/master/programs/

Imported from EPFL Actu

EPFL offers three new Masters

The three new Master’s programs are offered at the intersection between disciplines. This allows students with varied backgrounds in science and engineering to have the opportunity to acquire a comprehensive set of skills to work in the MedTech, pharma and health care sectors (Master’s in Neuro-X) or become the main actors of the “quantum revolution” (Master’s in Quantum Science and Engineering). The Master’s in Statistics aims to provide scientists with the expertise and crucial skills for sound reasoning in the data-rich world, making them sought-after statisticians and data analysts.

EPFL constantly adapts its education offer to the new developments in science and engineering, as well as to the evolution of our society, the emerging needs of its economy as well as its numerous challenges

Prof. Pierre Dillenbourg, Associate Vice-President for Education

The Master’s in Neuro-X

Engineers in Neuro-X build their expertise on science, technology and computation. Their multidisciplinary expertise complements the fundamental skills of engineers and medical-domain specialists by a strong technological component, making them not only highly demanded and valued professionals in neurotechnology, but also preparing them for research in neuroscience-related fields. The study program includes several projects in labs, thereby providing students with a practical dimension and real research experience.

Prof. Dimitri Van De Ville, the Master’s program director, foresees that graduates will have an interdisciplinary profile enabling them to see the big picture in terms of complex systems, combined with a realistic perspective on what it means to develop a product or engage into research. This will make them key actors able to interact with experts at the intersection of domains.

The Master’s in Quantum Science and Engineering

Quantum science and technology is bringing a paradigm shift in the way we treat, communicate, measure and compute data, affirms the Master’s program director Prof. Nicolas Macris. He adds that to address this new shift, EPFL aims to form quantum science engineers who, thanks to their multidisciplinary profile, are able to thrive at the forefront of this “new technological revolution” and to pursue a career in quantum science or in the information technology sector as well as in the industry at large.

The Master’s in Statistics

In a world that is increasingly data-driven, industry relies on statisticians and data analysts who are able to navigate the data flood. Statistical expertise is now essential in nearly all domains: economics, finance, government, science, health, and social sciences, and the list goes on. “With the Master’s in Statistics, EPFL aims to train students with a scientific/engineering background in cutting-edge statistical methodology, in order to develop a mastery of statistical thinking, visualization and computation, and data analysis” – so says Prof. Joachim Krieger, the director in charge of the program. Teamwork and communication skills are also important aspects that the program strengthens, in order to enable graduates to integrate and apply their skills in the manifold fields of application of statistics.

For more information, see https://www.epfl.ch/education/master/programs/

Imported from EPFL Actu

Jupyter Notebooks: interactive, digital tools for better learning

Thanks to Jupyter Notebooks, students can solve structural engineering problems by watching structural deformation as it happens, understand signal processing with the help of sounds, music or images, and grasp abstract concepts in physics – all in a simple, accessible manner. The notebooks’ digital environment combines computing power with course content so that students can practice computational thinking. This bolsters their conceptual reasoning and expands their programming skillset. Teachers use them to run virtual demonstrations during class and for assignments that students can work on remotely. In addition, the notebooks’ interactive interface enables students to work out problems and deepen their knowledge.


Cécile Hébert, an associate professor of physics at EPFL, uses Jupyter Notebooks to help students visualize all the different variables involved in a physics experiment. This gives them a leg up in understanding concepts that would otherwise be hard to grasp.

The project to develop the use of Jupyter notebooks in education at EPFL got underway in 2019. “We’d already been thinking about it for some time,” says Patrick Jermann, Executive Director of EPFL’s Center for Digital Education. “We discussed it with Pierre Vandergheynst, who was EPFL’s Vice President for Education at the time, since incorporating computational thinking into our degree programs was in line with EPFL’s strategic educational objectives. And Jupyter notebooks make it possible to use computational methods to help students understand concepts from a variety of disciplines.”

The Jupyter notebooks are an open-source technology born in the US. “They were originally named IPython Notebooks, after the first programming language they supported,” says Cécile Hardebolle, pedagogical advisor in charge of the project at EPFL. “Then came the Jupyter project, whose name is a contraction of Julia, Python and R – the first three languages implemented in the platform. Today, there are many more.”


Music is a central element in the interactive textbook designed by Paolo Prandoni to teach signal processing with Jupyter Notebooks.

To support the use of Jupyter notebooks at EPFL, the project team first had to set up the required IT infrastructure and adapt it to users’ requirements. This task fell to Pierre-Olivier Vallès, a systems engineer at EPFL. “Assembling the various components and getting them to work together was a massive undertaking,” he says. “Our goal was to create a system that could meet EPFL’s needs and fit in with our other IT systems, like the Moodle learning platform and our MOOCs services.”

The Jupyter Notebook for education service was rolled out gradually with help from teachers who were interested in the new teaching method and from those who had already been using the Notebooks for research purposes. Cécile Hardebolle explains: “The real technical challenge was to adapt the system to specific teaching requirements. For example, if a chemistry professor wanted to demonstrate computational chemistry and needed a given library, Pierre-Olivier would add it. We’re always on the lookout for new libraries and extensions that could fit well in an educational setting.” A range of fields taught at EPFL – such as chemistry, machine learning and geographic information systems – can benefit from the notebooks’ digital environment.


Guillaume Anciaux uses Jupyter Notebooks as exercise worksheets to help students learn about civil engineering.

Although using Jupyter Notebooks is easy, installing the servers to support them isn’t. The added value provided by EPFL is that, thanks to noto, the JupyterLab centralized platform for education, the Notebooks can be used without downloading and installing special software. This saves teachers a considerable amount of time and means that students can work from anywhere, even if they don’t have a powerful laptop.

The effort to roll out the notebooks service at EPFL has paid off: since 2019, over 5,500 individuals have connected to noto, including professors and users from other universities who are curious about the technology. There are some 2,600 regular users, meaning the system needs to be robust enough to handle a number of simultaneous queries. “If a class of 30 students logs in at once, that must work fine,” says Cécile Hardebolle. “And if 50, 100 or 200 students try to connect at 8:15 am, all the servers must be up and running within 5 minutes.”


Pol del Aguila Pla uses automated grading in image processing labs based on Jupyter Notebooks.
Author(s): Sandy Evangelista
Imported from EPFL Actu

Jupyter Notebooks: interactive, digital tools for better learning

Thanks to Jupyter Notebooks, students can solve structural engineering problems by watching structural deformation as it happens, understand signal processing with the help of sounds, music or images, and grasp abstract concepts in physics – all in a simple, accessible manner. The notebooks’ digital environment combines computing power with course content so that students can practice computational thinking. This bolsters their conceptual reasoning and expands their programming skillset. Teachers use them to run virtual demonstrations during class and for assignments that students can work on remotely. In addition, the notebooks’ interactive interface enables students to work out problems and deepen their knowledge.


Cécile Hébert, an associate professor of physics at EPFL, uses Jupyter Notebooks to help students visualize all the different variables involved in a physics experiment. This gives them a leg up in understanding concepts that would otherwise be hard to grasp.

The project to develop the use of Jupyter notebooks in education at EPFL got underway in 2019. “We’d already been thinking about it for some time,” says Patrick Jermann, Executive Director of EPFL’s Center for Digital Education. “We discussed it with Pierre Vandergheynst, who was EPFL’s Vice President for Education at the time, since incorporating computational thinking into our degree programs was in line with EPFL’s strategic educational objectives. And Jupyter notebooks make it possible to use computational methods to help students understand concepts from a variety of disciplines.”

The Jupyter notebooks are an open-source technology born in the US. “They were originally named IPython Notebooks, after the first programming language they supported,” says Cécile Hardebolle, pedagogical advisor in charge of the project at EPFL. “Then came the Jupyter project, whose name is a contraction of Julia, Python and R – the first three languages implemented in the platform. Today, there are many more.”


Music is a central element in the interactive textbook designed by Paolo Prandoni to teach signal processing with Jupyter Notebooks.

To support the use of Jupyter notebooks at EPFL, the project team first had to set up the required IT infrastructure and adapt it to users’ requirements. This task fell to Pierre-Olivier Vallès, a systems engineer at EPFL. “Assembling the various components and getting them to work together was a massive undertaking,” he says. “Our goal was to create a system that could meet EPFL’s needs and fit in with our other IT systems, like the Moodle learning platform and our MOOCs services.”

The Jupyter Notebook for education service was rolled out gradually with help from teachers who were interested in the new teaching method and from those who had already been using the Notebooks for research purposes. Cécile Hardebolle explains: “The real technical challenge was to adapt the system to specific teaching requirements. For example, if a chemistry professor wanted to demonstrate computational chemistry and needed a given library, Pierre-Olivier would add it. We’re always on the lookout for new libraries and extensions that could fit well in an educational setting.” A range of fields taught at EPFL – such as chemistry, machine learning and geographic information systems – can benefit from the notebooks’ digital environment.


Guillaume Anciaux uses Jupyter Notebooks as exercise worksheets to help students learn about civil engineering.

Although using Jupyter Notebooks is easy, installing the servers to support them isn’t. The added value provided by EPFL is that, thanks to noto, the JupyterLab centralized platform for education, the Notebooks can be used without downloading and installing special software. This saves teachers a considerable amount of time and means that students can work from anywhere, even if they don’t have a powerful laptop.

The effort to roll out the notebooks service at EPFL has paid off: since 2019, over 5,500 individuals have connected to noto, including professors and users from other universities who are curious about the technology. There are some 2,600 regular users, meaning the system needs to be robust enough to handle a number of simultaneous queries. “If a class of 30 students logs in at once, that must work fine,” says Cécile Hardebolle. “And if 50, 100 or 200 students try to connect at 8:15 am, all the servers must be up and running within 5 minutes.”


Pol del Aguila Pla uses automated grading in image processing labs based on Jupyter Notebooks.
Author(s): Sandy Evangelista
Imported from EPFL Actu

“I feel rewarded every day I teach at EPFL”

Prof. Martin describes his teaching method as connecting the chalkboard with the lab bench. Flattered to have won this year’s best teacher award for the microengineering section, he nevertheless insists that “I feel rewarded every day I teach at EPFL.”

And he’s been reaping those rewards for 17 years now. However, he admits it hasn’t always been easy. “I lacked experience at first,” he says. “And since I tend to be shy, people said I spoke too softly.” But today – thanks to the help of a voice coach, encouraging feedback from students, and a few semesters of experience – Prof. Martin is delighted to get back in front of the classroom each fall. “Every new school year feels like the first time, since each class is so different,” he says.

Capturing students’ attention

He adapts to that difference by tailoring his lectures to the class’s level of knowledge every year. Prof. Martin has come a long way from his days as a child, when he stuck his finger in an electrical socket to see how it worked; today he teaches electricity to first-year Bachelor’s students. “I give my theory class entirely on a chalkboard. It’s a good way to capture students’ attention,” he says. He also passes out thick stacks of handouts, printed on a single side to encourage students to take notes and write out their solutions to problems. “That helps them put in the effort needed to understand the material,” he explains. As a further incentive for students to take notes, they can bring their handouts with them to exams.

Hands-on experiments are another method Prof. Martin uses to teach his first-year students. The experiments are designed to closely parallel the theory studied in class and to introduce or illustrate specific concepts. “By bringing a practical dimension to arduous subjects like physics and mathematics, I want the students to experience lightbulb moments,” he says. The combination of theory and first-hand experience gives students a better – and longer-lasting – grasp of concepts.

Thinking ahead

“The first year of a Bachelor’s program can be difficult and highly abstract,” says Prof. Martin. “But it’s important for students to understand that the fundamental topics they’re studying now are necessary to make robots fly.” To help students make that connection, he has them run experiments in EPFL’s Discovery Learning Labs (DLLs) – or as he likes to call them, “showcase labs.” His electrical engineering students can work with Prof. Martin as well as other teachers to explore the wide range of concrete applications for things like signal processing, embedded systems, photonics, acoustics and power.

Prof. Martin also teaches an optical engineering class for third-year Bachelor’s students along with one Master’s-level class. Here too, he wants students to get as much hands-on experience as possible, either by conducting experiments in DLLs or by running computer simulations on MatLab in order to model different types of optical systems. The student evaluations he receives are generally excellent, with 97–100% of them containing positive feedback along with praising remarks.

Prof. Martin led the microengineering section from 2016 to 2020. His is a relatively young field born from the merger of electrical and mechanical engineering around 20 years ago. “The study plan tends to change chaotically based on the opportunities at hand,” he says. He took advantage of his leadership role to revamp the Bachelor’s and Master’s programs – in close cooperation with fellow professors – by scaling back the number of first-year classes and introducing a common thread in subsequent semesters.

A MOOC in the works

Did the pandemic change Prof. Martin’s approach? It threw up several challenges, of course, which he navigated by recording some 180 videos – including of chalkboard lessons – which have been viewed on Switchtube over 18,500 times. The pandemic also made one thing clear. “I’m fully convinced that teaching in person is the best way to go,” he says. “Although I must admit that there were some benefits to structuring the content of a class to make it better suited for online lessons. I now plan to develop a MOOC version of my optical engineering class.”

Author(s): Anne-Muriel Brouet
Imported from EPFL Actu

“I feel rewarded every day I teach at EPFL”

Prof. Martin describes his teaching method as connecting the chalkboard with the lab bench. Flattered to have won this year’s best teacher award for the microengineering section, he nevertheless insists that “I feel rewarded every day I teach at EPFL.”

And he’s been reaping those rewards for 17 years now. However, he admits it hasn’t always been easy. “I lacked experience at first,” he says. “And since I tend to be shy, people said I spoke too softly.” But today – thanks to the help of a voice coach, encouraging feedback from students, and a few semesters of experience – Prof. Martin is delighted to get back in front of the classroom each fall. “Every new school year feels like the first time, since each class is so different,” he says.

Capturing students’ attention

He adapts to that difference by tailoring his lectures to the class’s level of knowledge every year. Prof. Martin has come a long way from his days as a child, when he stuck his finger in an electrical socket to see how it worked; today he teaches electricity to first-year Bachelor’s students. “I give my theory class entirely on a chalkboard. It’s a good way to capture students’ attention,” he says. He also passes out thick stacks of handouts, printed on a single side to encourage students to take notes and write out their solutions to problems. “That helps them put in the effort needed to understand the material,” he explains. As a further incentive for students to take notes, they can bring their handouts with them to exams.

Hands-on experiments are another method Prof. Martin uses to teach his first-year students. The experiments are designed to closely parallel the theory studied in class and to introduce or illustrate specific concepts. “By bringing a practical dimension to arduous subjects like physics and mathematics, I want the students to experience lightbulb moments,” he says. The combination of theory and first-hand experience gives students a better – and longer-lasting – grasp of concepts.

Thinking ahead

“The first year of a Bachelor’s program can be difficult and highly abstract,” says Prof. Martin. “But it’s important for students to understand that the fundamental topics they’re studying now are necessary to make robots fly.” To help students make that connection, he has them run experiments in EPFL’s Discovery Learning Labs (DLLs) – or as he likes to call them, “showcase labs.” His electrical engineering students can work with Prof. Martin as well as other teachers to explore the wide range of concrete applications for things like signal processing, embedded systems, photonics, acoustics and power.

Prof. Martin also teaches an optical engineering class for third-year Bachelor’s students along with one Master’s-level class. Here too, he wants students to get as much hands-on experience as possible, either by conducting experiments in DLLs or by running computer simulations on MatLab in order to model different types of optical systems. The student evaluations he receives are generally excellent, with 97–100% of them containing positive feedback along with praising remarks.

Prof. Martin led the microengineering section from 2016 to 2020. His is a relatively young field born from the merger of electrical and mechanical engineering around 20 years ago. “The study plan tends to change chaotically based on the opportunities at hand,” he says. He took advantage of his leadership role to revamp the Bachelor’s and Master’s programs – in close cooperation with fellow professors – by scaling back the number of first-year classes and introducing a common thread in subsequent semesters.

A MOOC in the works

Did the pandemic change Prof. Martin’s approach? It threw up several challenges, of course, which he navigated by recording some 180 videos – including of chalkboard lessons – which have been viewed on Switchtube over 18,500 times. The pandemic also made one thing clear. “I’m fully convinced that teaching in person is the best way to go,” he says. “Although I must admit that there were some benefits to structuring the content of a class to make it better suited for online lessons. I now plan to develop a MOOC version of my optical engineering class.”

Author(s): Anne-Muriel Brouet
Imported from EPFL Actu

Kristin Schirmer is awarded ENAC students’ prize

Every year in an anonymous voting process, the students at the EPFL award the “Polysphere” prize to their professors in recognition of their services to academic teaching. One prize is awarded in each faculty. On October 2nd 2021 at the EPFL graduation ceremony, known as the “Magistrale”, Prof. Kristin Schirmer had the honour of receiving this year’s Polysphere in the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC).

Since 2011, Prof. Schirmer has been engaged as adjunct professor at EPFL, and teaches ecotoxicology on the Environmental Sciences and Engineering bachelor’s degree courses. In addition, she supervises and mentors master’s and PhD students in the field of ecotoxicology. At Eawag, Prof. Schirmer has been Head of the Environmental Toxicology department since 2008. She is also adjunct professor at ETH Zurich.

Kristin Schirmer, what does this prize mean to you?

Kristin Schirmer: A great deal. I really value my interactions with young people, and it is very important to me to be able to impart my knowledge to the next generation. I would like to make sure that they are well placed to drive ecotoxicology further forward as a field of study – also at Eawag wherever possible. In doing so, I always try to show an interest in the students and their needs, and work with them as part of a team. So the fact that my commitment to them is recognised and valued means an awful lot to me.

What does excellent academic teaching mean to you?

I want to connect with the students on the level of everyday life – how ecotoxicology relates to them in their lives. For example, who hasn’t stood in the shower in the morning reading the ingredients on the label of the shower gel, and wondering what impact these substances might have on the environment once they disappear down the plughole? That’s where I come in. I believe also that people learn best when they have to work things out for themselves. For this reason, I usually take an interactive approach, with exercises, discussions and surveys. This also works very well in online classes, thanks to the various digital tools that are available. This year, as we were all sitting at home in front of our computers, I introduced a “song of the week”, which was always related to the topic at hand. A great playlist has come out of that, as well as an extra helping of fun and variety.

Can you tell us about any special experiences you’ve had in connection with your teaching?

I always encourage the students not to hold back with feedback to me – both positive and negative. On many occasions, the feedback has been very moving, and has stuck with me. For instance, I have been told that my course was the highlight of the week, or even the semester. It’s also especially nice to see that the students have taken something with them that they can apply in their careers. One former student, for example, wrote to me and thanked me, saying that he was in Brazil doing a work placement at an engineering firm and was able to apply certain things from our course when carrying out a sediment assessment. Those are wonderful boosters.

Author(s): Annette Ryser / Eawag
Imported from EPFL Actu

Kristin Schirmer is awarded ENAC students’ prize

Every year in an anonymous voting process, the students at the EPFL award the “Polysphere” prize to their professors in recognition of their services to academic teaching. One prize is awarded in each faculty. On October 2nd 2021 at the EPFL graduation ceremony, known as the “Magistrale”, Prof. Kristin Schirmer had the honour of receiving this year’s Polysphere in the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC).

Since 2011, Prof. Schirmer has been engaged as adjunct professor at EPFL, and teaches ecotoxicology on the Environmental Sciences and Engineering bachelor’s degree courses. In addition, she supervises and mentors master’s and PhD students in the field of ecotoxicology. At Eawag, Prof. Schirmer has been Head of the Environmental Toxicology department since 2008. She is also adjunct professor at ETH Zurich.

Kristin Schirmer, what does this prize mean to you?

Kristin Schirmer: A great deal. I really value my interactions with young people, and it is very important to me to be able to impart my knowledge to the next generation. I would like to make sure that they are well placed to drive ecotoxicology further forward as a field of study – also at Eawag wherever possible. In doing so, I always try to show an interest in the students and their needs, and work with them as part of a team. So the fact that my commitment to them is recognised and valued means an awful lot to me.

What does excellent academic teaching mean to you?

I want to connect with the students on the level of everyday life – how ecotoxicology relates to them in their lives. For example, who hasn’t stood in the shower in the morning reading the ingredients on the label of the shower gel, and wondering what impact these substances might have on the environment once they disappear down the plughole? That’s where I come in. I believe also that people learn best when they have to work things out for themselves. For this reason, I usually take an interactive approach, with exercises, discussions and surveys. This also works very well in online classes, thanks to the various digital tools that are available. This year, as we were all sitting at home in front of our computers, I introduced a “song of the week”, which was always related to the topic at hand. A great playlist has come out of that, as well as an extra helping of fun and variety.

Can you tell us about any special experiences you’ve had in connection with your teaching?

I always encourage the students not to hold back with feedback to me – both positive and negative. On many occasions, the feedback has been very moving, and has stuck with me. For instance, I have been told that my course was the highlight of the week, or even the semester. It’s also especially nice to see that the students have taken something with them that they can apply in their careers. One former student, for example, wrote to me and thanked me, saying that he was in Brazil doing a work placement at an engineering firm and was able to apply certain things from our course when carrying out a sediment assessment. Those are wonderful boosters.

Author(s): Annette Ryser / Eawag
Imported from EPFL Actu

Excellence through Diversity

What does excellence in education mean to you?

Kathryn: To me, excellence means going beyond the expected, attaining a level of exceptional quality. In terms of education outreach, excellence means understanding where a prospective student is starting from and identifying the populations that would benefit the most from studying at EPFL, including populations that one might not think of at first. We need to reach out to them where they are, providing them with the information they need and most importantly making it relevant to them. We can achieve this by listening to them and by working with the entire system that surrounds them, that includes schools, authorities, families, etc.

Pierre’s teams and my teams work hand in hand with many other units at EPFL to achieve excellence in education and to foster the skills and knowledge graduates will require in the working world. To accompany them, we strive to provide them with learning opportunities that go beyond the classroom, taking their aspirations and needs into account.

Clearly, a higher education institution such as EPFL is concerned by multiple aspects of excellence in education.

Pierre: For me, excellence in teaching can be measured by how much students have learned at the end of their curriculum and what they can do with this kind of knowledge and skill in life. It is about how they can exploit what they learned here, beyond an exam.

To achieve excellence in education, it is essential that we listen to students and not assume that we already know what is best for each of them.​​​​​

Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach
What do we need to do to ensure we provide a culture of excellence?

Kathryn: We need to be humble and listen to the needs and aspirations of the young people, and accompany them before and during their studies, as well as help them transition to the workplace. We should reach out to provide them with opportunities to discover and dive into science and technology, support them during their studies and in their extracurricular activities, to help them become well-rounded graduates, and smooth their transition into the work environment by offering them a mix of practical and theoretical learning experiences at EPFL.

Pierre: We have to ensure that we embody a culture of excellence throughout all of EPFL, from the administration through the teachers. All of us play a role in enabling students to come to their full potential and mature to excellence – and carry that excellence beyond the steps of our School.

What does this mean for our EPFL students, and for our prospective students?

Kathryn: Being part of an association or the coaching program, working on an interdisciplinary or MAKE project helps develop skills beyond what students learn in the classroom. Providing these opportunities to students means diversifying how we accompany them. With 10’000 students, we have an extremely diverse population with a wide range of interests and abilities. If we offer all of those students the possibility to further develop themselves, inside or outside the classroom, then we will have attained excellence, contributing to the development of high functioning members of society.

Pierre: Strengthening the diversity of excellence is key to achieving what Kathryn mentioned are well-rounded graduates. We work with the teachers to improve teaching methodologies, providing a combination of classroom and project-based learning opportunities or offer preparatory courses.

We are dealing with a diversity of excellence. When I think about the students in my lab, they can be excellent in many ways: some by their rigorous reasoning, others by their creativity; some by their ability to code, others by the data analyses skills, etc. A culture of excellence enables all students to attain their own potential beyond academic performance.

Pierre Dillenbourg, Associate Vice President for Education
A smooth transition from high school to tertiary education as well as a good first year experience is important to ensure we provide sustainable academic excellence in the future. What are we doing for that?

Kathryn: Through the Interface Gymnases-EPFL we have the opportunity to be in direct contact with high school teachers, to discuss issues related to their students’ transition and address them on both sides, at the gymnase and at EPFL, which will allow us to improve the transition and the first year experience. This is an important exchange platform, which we should maintain and expand.

Another form of direct contact, which is more hands-on, is the “stage pour enseignant·es”, where teachers are immersed in the EPFL environment, working and teaching side by side with a professor at EPFL. This experience allows both partners to learn from each other and integrate what they learn into their teaching activities.

Pierre: We have to continue considering the whole eco-system when we think of excellence. It needs to be part of every step in a student’s journey. That means working with the local authorities and high school teachers and, for instance, broadening our offer of extra training. For example, the LEARN Center at EPFL has trained nearly 1’000 elementary school teachers in Canton Vaud to bring computational thinking activities to their classrooms. This collaboration not only strengthened the dialogue among EPFL, the schools, and the authorities, it also allowed younger populations, who maybe otherwise would not have developed interest in science and technology, to discover a new universe.

Attainment of excellence does not begin at the doorstep of EPFL, however. Progress towards excellence should be initiated early on.

Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach

While there are many initiatives at EPFL that strengthen this culture of excellence among and for our students, attainment of excellence does not begin at the doorstep of EPFL. Progress towards excellence should be initiated early on, as we accompany our prospective students in their orientation and transition. EPFL offers a vast range of initiatives to support students’ discovery of science and technology, ranging from targeted summer schools to preparatory courses or the first year’s mentoring program. They have proven to facilitate considerably the transition from gymnase to EPFL and should absolutely continue to be developed.

Author(s): Education Outreach Department
Imported from EPFL Actu

Excellence through Diversity

What does excellence in education mean to you?

Kathryn: To me, excellence means going beyond the expected, attaining a level of exceptional quality. In terms of education outreach, excellence means understanding where a prospective student is starting from and identifying the populations that would benefit the most from studying at EPFL, including populations that one might not think of at first. We need to reach out to them where they are, providing them with the information they need and most importantly making it relevant to them. We can achieve this by listening to them and by working with the entire system that surrounds them, that includes schools, authorities, families, etc.

Pierre’s teams and my teams work hand in hand with many other units at EPFL to achieve excellence in education and to foster the skills and knowledge graduates will require in the working world. To accompany them, we strive to provide them with learning opportunities that go beyond the classroom, taking their aspirations and needs into account.

Clearly, a higher education institution such as EPFL is concerned by multiple aspects of excellence in education.

Pierre: For me, excellence in teaching can be measured by how much students have learned at the end of their curriculum and what they can do with this kind of knowledge and skill in life. It is about how they can exploit what they learned here, beyond an exam.

To achieve excellence in education, it is essential that we listen to students and not assume that we already know what is best for each of them.​​​​​

Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach
What do we need to do to ensure we provide a culture of excellence?

Kathryn: We need to be humble and listen to the needs and aspirations of the young people, and accompany them before and during their studies, as well as help them transition to the workplace. We should reach out to provide them with opportunities to discover and dive into science and technology, support them during their studies and in their extracurricular activities, to help them become well-rounded graduates, and smooth their transition into the work environment by offering them a mix of practical and theoretical learning experiences at EPFL.

Pierre: We have to ensure that we embody a culture of excellence throughout all of EPFL, from the administration through the teachers. All of us play a role in enabling students to come to their full potential and mature to excellence – and carry that excellence beyond the steps of our School.

What does this mean for our EPFL students, and for our prospective students?

Kathryn: Being part of an association or the coaching program, working on an interdisciplinary or MAKE project helps develop skills beyond what students learn in the classroom. Providing these opportunities to students means diversifying how we accompany them. With 10’000 students, we have an extremely diverse population with a wide range of interests and abilities. If we offer all of those students the possibility to further develop themselves, inside or outside the classroom, then we will have attained excellence, contributing to the development of high functioning members of society.

Pierre: Strengthening the diversity of excellence is key to achieving what Kathryn mentioned are well-rounded graduates. We work with the teachers to improve teaching methodologies, providing a combination of classroom and project-based learning opportunities or offer preparatory courses.

We are dealing with a diversity of excellence. When I think about the students in my lab, they can be excellent in many ways: some by their rigorous reasoning, others by their creativity; some by their ability to code, others by the data analyses skills, etc. A culture of excellence enables all students to attain their own potential beyond academic performance.

Pierre Dillenbourg, Associate Vice President for Education
A smooth transition from high school to tertiary education as well as a good first year experience is important to ensure we provide sustainable academic excellence in the future. What are we doing for that?

Kathryn: Through the Interface Gymnases-EPFL we have the opportunity to be in direct contact with high school teachers, to discuss issues related to their students’ transition and address them on both sides, at the gymnase and at EPFL, which will allow us to improve the transition and the first year experience. This is an important exchange platform, which we should maintain and expand.

Another form of direct contact, which is more hands-on, is the “stage pour enseignant·es”, where teachers are immersed in the EPFL environment, working and teaching side by side with a professor at EPFL. This experience allows both partners to learn from each other and integrate what they learn into their teaching activities.

Pierre: We have to continue considering the whole eco-system when we think of excellence. It needs to be part of every step in a student’s journey. That means working with the local authorities and high school teachers and, for instance, broadening our offer of extra training. For example, the LEARN Center at EPFL has trained nearly 1’000 elementary school teachers in Canton Vaud to bring computational thinking activities to their classrooms. This collaboration not only strengthened the dialogue among EPFL, the schools, and the authorities, it also allowed younger populations, who maybe otherwise would not have developed interest in science and technology, to discover a new universe.

Attainment of excellence does not begin at the doorstep of EPFL, however. Progress towards excellence should be initiated early on.

Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach

While there are many initiatives at EPFL that strengthen this culture of excellence among and for our students, attainment of excellence does not begin at the doorstep of EPFL. Progress towards excellence should be initiated early on, as we accompany our prospective students in their orientation and transition. EPFL offers a vast range of initiatives to support students’ discovery of science and technology, ranging from targeted summer schools to preparatory courses or the first year’s mentoring program. They have proven to facilitate considerably the transition from gymnase to EPFL and should absolutely continue to be developed.

Author(s): Education Outreach Department
Imported from EPFL Actu

Excellence through Diversity

What does excellence in education mean to you?

Kathryn: To me, excellence means going beyond the expected, attaining a level of exceptional quality. In terms of education outreach, excellence means understanding where a prospective student is starting from and identifying the populations that would benefit the most from studying at EPFL, including populations that one might not think of at first. We need to reach out to them where they are, providing them with the information they need and most importantly making it relevant to them. We can achieve this by listening to them and by working with the entire system that surrounds them, that includes schools, authorities, families, etc.

Pierre’s teams and my teams work hand in hand with many other units at EPFL to achieve excellence in education and to foster the skills and knowledge graduates will require in the working world. To accompany them, we strive to provide them with learning opportunities that go beyond the classroom, taking their aspirations and needs into account.

Clearly, a higher education institution such as EPFL is concerned by multiple aspects of excellence in education.

Pierre: For me, excellence in teaching can be measured by how much students have learned at the end of their curriculum and what they can do with this kind of knowledge and skill in life. It is about how they can exploit what they learned here, beyond an exam.

To achieve excellence in education, it is essential that we listen to students and not assume that we already know what is best for each of them.​​​​​

Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach
What do we need to do to ensure we provide a culture of excellence?

Kathryn: We need to be humble and listen to the needs and aspirations of the young people, and accompany them before and during their studies, as well as help them transition to the workplace. We should reach out to provide them with opportunities to discover and dive into science and technology, support them during their studies and in their extracurricular activities, to help them become well-rounded graduates, and smooth their transition into the work environment by offering them a mix of practical and theoretical learning experiences at EPFL.

Pierre: We have to ensure that we embody a culture of excellence throughout all of EPFL, from the administration through the teachers. All of us play a role in enabling students to come to their full potential and mature to excellence – and carry that excellence beyond the steps of our School.

What does this mean for our EPFL students, and for our prospective students?

Kathryn: Being part of an association or the coaching program, working on an interdisciplinary or MAKE project helps develop skills beyond what students learn in the classroom. Providing these opportunities to students means diversifying how we accompany them. With 10’000 students, we have an extremely diverse population with a wide range of interests and abilities. If we offer all of those students the possibility to further develop themselves, inside or outside the classroom, then we will have attained excellence, contributing to the development of high functioning members of society.

Pierre: Strengthening the diversity of excellence is key to achieving what Kathryn mentioned are well-rounded graduates. We work with the teachers to improve teaching methodologies, providing a combination of classroom and project-based learning opportunities or offer preparatory courses.

We are dealing with a diversity of excellence. When I think about the students in my lab, they can be excellent in many ways: some by their rigorous reasoning, others by their creativity; some by their ability to code, others by the data analyses skills, etc. A culture of excellence enables all students to attain their own potential beyond academic performance.

Pierre Dillenbourg, Associate Vice President for Education
A smooth transition from high school to tertiary education as well as a good first year experience is important to ensure we provide sustainable academic excellence in the future. What are we doing for that?

Kathryn: Through the Interface Gymnases-EPFL we have the opportunity to be in direct contact with high school teachers, to discuss issues related to their students’ transition and address them on both sides, at the gymnase and at EPFL, which will allow us to improve the transition and the first year experience. This is an important exchange platform, which we should maintain and expand.

Another form of direct contact, which is more hands-on, is the “stage pour enseignant·es”, where teachers are immersed in the EPFL environment, working and teaching side by side with a professor at EPFL. This experience allows both partners to learn from each other and integrate what they learn into their teaching activities.

Pierre: We have to continue considering the whole eco-system when we think of excellence. It needs to be part of every step in a student’s journey. That means working with the local authorities and high school teachers and, for instance, broadening our offer of extra training. For example, the LEARN Center at EPFL has trained nearly 1’000 elementary school teachers in Canton Vaud to bring computational thinking activities to their classrooms. This collaboration not only strengthened the dialogue among EPFL, the schools, and the authorities, it also allowed younger populations, who maybe otherwise would not have developed interest in science and technology, to discover a new universe.

Attainment of excellence does not begin at the doorstep of EPFL, however. Progress towards excellence should be initiated early on.

Kathryn Hess Bellwald, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Outreach

While there are many initiatives at EPFL that strengthen this culture of excellence among and for our students, attainment of excellence does not begin at the doorstep of EPFL. Progress towards excellence should be initiated early on, as we accompany our prospective students in their orientation and transition. EPFL offers a vast range of initiatives to support students’ discovery of science and technology, ranging from targeted summer schools to preparatory courses or the first year’s mentoring program. They have proven to facilitate considerably the transition from gymnase to EPFL and should absolutely continue to be developed.

Author(s): Education Outreach Department
Imported from EPFL Actu