Martin Vetterli, a researcher and teacher, has served as the president of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) since 2017. He is also a full professor at EPFL’s AudioVisual Communications Laboratory and an expert in the Swiss education and research landscape.
In his role as president, Prof. Vetterli has taken concrete steps towards creating a more inclusive and sustainable campus, such as by setting up a new Vice Presidency for Responsible Transformation.
From studies to teaching
Prof. Vetterli was born in Solothurn, Switzerland, on 4 October 1957 and attended primary and secondary school in the canton of Neuchâtel. He completed an electrical engineering degree at ETH Zurich in 1981, a Master’s degree at Stanford University in 1982, and his PhD at EPFL in 1986.
His next stop was Columbia University, where he taught as an assistant and then associate professor. He was appointed as a full professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Two years later, at the request of EPFL President Jean-Claude Badoux, Prof. Vetterli returned to EPFL as a full professor. He was put in charge of the AudioVisual Communications Laboratory, a position he still holds today. He served as EPFL’s vice president of international relations and then of institutional affairs from 2004 to 2011, and as dean of the School of Computer and Communication Sciences in 2011 and 2012. He also taught at ETH Zurich and Stanford University.
A researcher recognized by peers
In his research, Prof. Vetterli focuses on electrical engineering, computer science and applied mathematics. His particular areas of interest are wavelet theory, image and video compression, and self-organized communication systems. His work has earned him numerous national and international awards, including the Swiss National Latsis Prize in 1996. He received honorary doctorate degrees in 2021 from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and from the University of Bordeaux.
Prof. Vetterli has published more than 200 journal articles and is a co-author of three reference works. He is also behind some fifty patents, which have led to several startups being spin-off from his laboratory, such as Dartfish, Illusonic and Artmyn, and to technology transfers through patent sales, for instance to Qualcomm and Rambus.
An incentive for scientific research
From 2013 to 2016, Prof. Vetterli was the president of the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). In that position, he helped promote young scientists and engineers under the SNSF’s 2013–2016 Multi-Year Programme. He also bolstered the Foundation’s commitment to open access and open science.
A fervent advocate of cross-disciplinary research, Prof. Vetterli founded the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) on Mobile Information and Communication Systems in 2001. This led to discoveries in wireless network capacity and to new applications, such as for the environment.
Prof. Vetterli has supervised more than 75 PhD theses in Switzerland and the United States. He makes it a point of honor to track his students’ high-level careers, whether in academia or the business world, and actively encourages young researchers to develop commercial applications for their findings.