Visit to EPFL and AGM

06 Apr. 2013

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The Rolex Learning Center opened as EPFL’s central library in 2010. It is a campus focal point where students can work, especially in groups. Curving ramps connect levels and separate noisier and quieter areas. Many pillows are available. Few windows have the same shape. Lake water feeds exchangers that heat or cool the Center, which is 30% more energy-efficient than new buildings have to be. The Tokyo-based architects nixed solar panels as unaesthetic. Rolex paid 30% of the CHF 110 million construction cost; their clocks adorn the walls.

At lunch, Professor Stephan Morgenthaler, Chair of Applied Statistics and Dean of International Relations, who has also taught at MIT, told us that EPFL has grown to 9000 students, including 2000 doctoral candidates. Buildings now fill the Ecublens campus. EPFL may soon start selective admissions to prevent further growth in the student body, which is 50% Swiss, 36% from the rest of Europe, 8% from Asia and 3% from the Americas. French can be a barrier, but EPFL’s fees are a magnet. EPFL has considered raising tuition to CHF 2500 a year for foreign students, but hesitates because “it doesn’t matter much to us and a lot to them”.

Students who fail to keep pace in their first three to four weeks at EPFL may never recover. 70% complete their first year. Compared to US students, Morgenthaler said, Swiss students ask fewer questions in class and are less likely to seek out professors in their offices.

One reason for the high rankings of EPFL in Europe is the tenure-track system, inspired by US practice, which motivates young faculty to work hard and publish. EPFL spawned 126 start-ups between 2000 and 2012, but also works with larger companies. Including Rolex.

George Raymond
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The Annual General Meeting made the following appointments to the Executive Committee:

  • Martin Hahn as President, replacing Michael Helke, who had reached his term limit
  • Bublu Thakur-Weigold as Vice President, replacing Martin
  • Makoto Ikeda as member
  • Nicolas Haenni continues as Treasurer.

Bublu will serve as Event Coordinator, and Mak as Communications Officer replacing Martin Hahn. Both are new Committee members. It also reappointed Hans Hagenbuch as Auditor and newly appointed Frédéric Chambour as Deputy Auditor to replace the long serving Hans Herriger.

With a view to the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Club’s founding, the General Meeting named the founding members as Members of Honor. They are:

  • Oscar Kaalstad (Founding President)
  • Jan Sissener (Founding Vice President)
  • Howard Hornfeld (Founding Secretary)
  • The late Philippe Vuilleumier (Founding Executive Committee Member)
  • The late Henri B. de Cerenville (Founding Executive Committee Member)
  • The late Eugene Lee Amazon (Founding Executive Committee Member)

Michael Helke
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Minutes of the meeting are available upon request for our members.