New program to train leaders of a more sustainable world

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The leadership training programme includes a training for ’my thesis in 18

The leadership training programme includes a training for ’my thesis in 180 seconds’. On the picture, Dianele Ongari who took part to the event in 2019. Alain Herzog © 2019 EPFL

On 1 October EPFL will launch EPFLglobaLeaders, a new program that will provide research grants to PhD students working in sustainability-oriented fields.

EPFLglobaLeaders is a new PhD fellowship program intended to encourage young scientists and engineers to work towards a more sustainable future. It is being funded by the EU through a Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Actions co-funding program. -It-s essential for tomorrow’s leaders to have a good understanding of science and technical analysis, so that they can confront global challenges effectively and draw on a solid knowledge base when they make decisions,- says Jeroen van Hunen, head of EPFL’s Doctoral School.

The new program is another example of EPFL’s contribution to achieving the UN-s 17 Sustainable Development Goals , which were adopted in 2015 by all UN member states, including Switzerland. -As an internationally renowned engineering school, we have a central role to play in the transition to a more sustainable society, one that draws on technology and innovation,- says Caroline Vandevyver, head of EPFL’s Research Office and projects. -EPFL has clearly made this a priority, as reflected in initiatives like Tech4Impact and the creation of the Vice Presidency for Responsible Transformation.-

Leadership classes and real-world experience

EPFLglobaLeaders is open to students in any of EPFL’s 21 PhD programs. To be selected, students must be planning to conduct PhD research on a sustainability-related topic and show their motivation to take on a leadership role in driving change, whether in the public sector, the private sector or politics.

-With EPFLinnovators , a similar program for entrepreneurs, we-ve seen an increase in applicants to the Doctoral School, with some excellent profiles. We expect to see the same thing with EPFLglobaLeaders- says van Hunen. A total of 48 PhD students will be selected in two application rounds , from 1 October to 15 December 2020 and from 1 February to 15 April 2021. The applications will initially be reviewed by a committee of representatives from the Doctoral School and the Research Office, and the short-listed ones will be sent to potential thesis supervisors. Once the proposed thesis projects have been matched up with a supervisor, the applications will undergo a final review. The entire selection process should last around six months. Selected students will receive through EPFLglobaLeaders around CHF 2,000 per month for up to four years.

-191 of the 350 research labs at EPFL are working on projects that address at least one Sustainable Development Goal,- says Vandevyver. -So I-m sure we-ll get applications spanning a wide variety of topics. Personally I think medtech is a promising field, and it-s one where EPFL has specific strengths.- Students taking part in the program will also be given classes on management, technology transfer and risk assessment. The idea is to equip them with the full range of skills needed to develop novel, sustainable solutions to global challenges while taking societal, economic, political and environmental factors into account.

The program will include a three to 12-month internship at a non-academic organization. -Between the internship and the classes on transferable skills, students will have a well-rounded experience,- says van Hunen. -And the program requirements mean students will be already thinking about their career when they start their thesis, allowing them to select the EPFL trainings and services that are best suited to their long-term goals.-