The Magistrale, EPFL’s traditional Master’s degree graduation ceremony, was held on Saturday, 6 October at EPFL’s SwissTech Convention Center (STCC). In addition to the school’s 2018 graduates, the event honored two new Doctor Honoris Causa recipients and a number of outstanding students, professors and alumnae.
It’s been five years in the making: this past Saturday, 1,043 students received their coveted Master’s degree from EPFL. The event, held at the STCC, was attended by some 3,000 people, including the students, their families and professors. A number of guests, such as Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, also took part.
EPFL President Martin Vetterli started off by taking a look at EPFL’s history and missions, before pointing out that today’s students don’t just want to understand the world, but have a hand in shaping and influencing it as well. "We are innovators, risk takers and knowledge entrepreneurs," he said. But he warned that science and technology can’t provide all the answers in life. His closing thought: "Now that you have your degree, the world is your oyster. But never forget: you are responsible for our planet."
Doctors Honoris Causa
Professor Vetterli then awarded two Honoris Causa degrees. The first went to Martine Clozel, a trained doctor who today runs Idorsia, a company that develops molecules used for pioneering therapies. The second was for Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief artificial intelligence scientist, who is also behind a number of important advances in the area of machine learning.
Unbeatable grade point average
Next up was Pierre Vandergheynst, EPFL’s Vice President for Education, who called on the new graduates to become the school’s ambassadors around the world: "You don’t look like EPFL - it’s EPFL that looks like you!" Together with Daniel Chuard, EPFL’s Director of Educational Affairs, Professor Vandergheynst handed out the student awards: the highest Master’s grade point average was earned by Slobodan Krstic, in mathematics, with the best possible score of 6. Coming in just behind him, at 5.97, was mechanical engineering graduate Jean-François Pinnazza. Third place went to Lubomir Bures, in physics, with a 5.96 average.
In keeping with tradition, student association AGEPoly then handed out the Polysphères, which are teacher awards voted on by the students. This year’s Polysphères went to:
- Julien Hugonnier, in the College of Management of Technology (this award is handed out once every three years)
- Carmen Sandi, in the School of Life Sciences
- Arjen Lenstra, in the School of Computer and Communication Sciences
- Virginie Lurkin, in the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Fabien Sorin, in Materials Science and Engineering
- Antonio Gentile, in the School of Basic Sciences, who received this year’s Golden Polysphère.
Two alumnae recognized
Leïla Ojjeh, who is in charge of EPFL Alumni, handed out awards to past students who have had a remarkable career. This year, two women were recognized: Pauline Baumgartner-Harris, who received her degree in chemical engineering in 1997 and is now head of intellectual property at Firmenich, and Deborah Heintze, who graduated with a degree in Life Sciences in 2012 and is now the co-founder and COO of Lunaphore Technologies.
Daniel Borel, another well-known alumnus, treated the audience to the story of how he started Logitech a few years after completing his studies at EPFL in 1973. He urged the new graduates not to be afraid of pursuing their passion and to view failure as a precious experience that can help them get where they want to go.
Science should better society
Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin was the final speaker. He underscored the importance of lifelong learning and always remembering that enjoying your work is a crucial aspect of professional success. He encouraged the audience to think about the meaning and impact of their actions every day, with a reminder that "science is a form of personal commitment to bettering the community."
The diplomas were handed out to the students by section on Saturday afternoon following the Magistrale ceremony.