EPFL celebrates 1,028 new Master's graduates

© 2019 EPFL / Jamani Caillet

© 2019 EPFL / Jamani Caillet

EPFL held its annual Master’s degree graduation ceremony on Saturday, 5 October, at the SwissTech Convention Center, with Federal Councilor Alain Berset as the guest of honor. In addition to handing out diplomas, the School awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa and recognized a number of outstanding EPFL students, teachers and alumni.

This year’s Master’s degree graduation ceremony - or Magistrale - was noteworthy because it took place in EPFL’s 50th anniversary year. In his welcoming remarks delivered to a crowd of 3,000 people Saturday morning at the SwissTech Convention Center, EPFL President Martin Vetterli spoke of the history of a school that is now poised to meet the key challenges of the future: from the digital transformation of science and society to issues like renewable energy, green transportation, and ethics in the realm of artificial intelligence. "You are more than scientists, engineers and architects: you are also citizens of the world," he said to the graduating class. Exhorting the young professionals to work for a better world, he added: "This is a huge opportunity - but also a huge responsibility towards society."

In his remarks, Federal Councilor Alain Berset said that he "always found it inspiring to see what EPFL is up to in the areas of education, innovation and technical excellence." He cited some of the remarkable inventions that came from the Ecublens campus, such as the computer mouse, the Solar Impulse aircraft, robotic hands, and the electronic implants that are driving medicine forward. For Berset, these advances amply justify the support that the Swiss government has provided to the School over the past 50 years.

Recognizing outstanding students and teachers

Professor Gisou van der Goot, the dean of the School of Life Sciences, together with Martin Vetterli, awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa to biologist and immunologist Maria Leptin, who runs the European Molecular Biology Organization. And like every year, a number of special awards were given to outstanding students. Three students were recognized for their high GPAs - Guirec Maloisel (5.98), Kevin Jablonka (5.95) and Aurélien Dersy (5.9) - while Benoit Bégot, a high-level karateka, was given the sports award. The students behind EPFLoop and the Lausanne Racing Team were also commended through videos and presentations of their projects - two excellent examples of the cross-disciplinary approach that is so important at EPFL.

The Polysphère awards were then handed out to the School’s top teachers. This year’s winners were:
- Pierre Rossi at the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Katerina Argyraki at the School of Computer and Communication Sciences
- Gisou van der Goot at the School of Life Sciences
- Romain Fleury at the School of Engineering

The Polysphère d’Or was awarded to Arnaud Magrez, a senior scientist at the School of Basic Sciences.

This year’s Alumni Awards went to Florence Schnydrig Moser and Nicolas Cudré-Mauroux. Schnydrig Moser graduated with a mathematics degree in 1997; she is currently the CEO of Swisscard, where she is in charge of 700 people who together manage over 1.5 million credit cards. Cudré-Mauroux obtained a Master’s degree in materials science in 1985 and a PhD in 1988; he is now the CTO of the Solvay group, a global leader in specialty chemicals and polymers.

First class of graduates in the digital humanities

After the graduation ceremony, the 1,028 new graduates were given their diplomas by academic section. This year’s graduating class is the first to include students from the Master’s program in digital humanities, which was set up in the College of Humanities in 2017; five students were awarded degrees. The program teaches the fundamentals and practical applications of both data and human science within a framework of cross-disciplinary research.