Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Electricity is a vital part of our daily lives. It is a unique resource, endowed with twin properties: it is both energy and an information vector.
Electrical and electronic engineering is constantly at the crossroads between these two fields. Thanks to the extraordinary growth in micro- and nano-electronics, it has become possible to design increasingly complex electronic functions for common devices (telephones, computers, MP3 players, etc.), with nanometric components installed in increasingly smaller media (microchips). Other fields are also fully benefitting from these advances: biomedical technology, with sensors that are increasingly sensitive, and embedded systems, as well as space engineering.
Electrical engineers are actively involved with the development of all tools (images, sound, multimedia) that are used by new information and communication technologies. They therefore develop technologies in the field of acoustics (sound recording and broadcasting), wireless antenna or sensors, electromagnetic waves, signal processing (digitizing, compressing, security), optics, photonics, and also image analysis.
Energy also constitutes a bedrock for training in electrical and electronic engineering. While the production, transportation, and storage of electricity remain crucial, another key challenge relates to its management from the point of view of sustainability.
For example, the irregular energy production from a wind turbine must be absorbed and made useful within a wider network. This operation involves coordinating with other energy sources which is often difficult to achieve. Thanks to their background in the field of power electronics, distributed electrification systems, management and rapid communication of information, or microelectronics, electrical engineers will play a major role during the forthcoming decades in developing solutions to the energy problems which will need to be solved.
Once the scientific basics have been acquired during the first year of the Bachelor’s studies, the curriculum offers general classes on electronics, circuits and systems, and signal processing. This training is complemented by practical work in laboratories, as well as projects. During the final year, the students choose two out of three areas which make up the core of their training: micro- and nano-electronics, information technologies, and energy.
Bachelor: simplified study plan
During the Master’s studies, the students specialize in one area of their choice. For example, micro- and nano-electronics focuses, among other things, on circuit design, embedded systems, and real-time computing. With information technology, the students take advanced courses in signal processing, image recognition, sound processing, and optics. The energy area deals with the dynamics of networks and their optimization, power conversion, control electronics, mechatronics, and industrial electronics. The program is further complemented by projects and practical work.
Other programs are also open after graduating with the Bachelor’s degree, in particular some interdisciplinary Master’s programs.
Further information on Master’s study programs.
Please note that the information regarding the programs’ structure as well as the simplified study plan may be subject to change and that these are no legally binding. Only the official regulations and study plans are binding.
Their ability to analyze and synthesize information, combined with their broad theoretical understanding, enables them to offer futuristic solutions to the enormous challenges that today’s society is facing, while at the same time always taking ethical, environmental and societal repercussions into account.
In this way, they are able to exploit their command of complex circuitry, multimedia systems and various forms of onboard intelligence in fields as varied as transportation, biotechnology and aerospace.
Lastly, some graduates prefer to continue their academic careers through cutting-edge research and enter a doctoral program in Switzerland or elsewhere.
What I like the most in my job? Waking up every morning to find new technical solutions and develop different applications.
I work as a software engineer for Mikron SA, a company developing and building assembly automation and test solutions. I am responsible for the automation part in our building machine projects. I program for PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers), which integrates different peripheral systems into the machines, like lasers, sensors or vision systems. I work mostly on pharmaceutical or automotive projects.
When I graduated in 2009, the worldwide economic crisis made the situation difficult. There were not many opportunities in the job market. My priority was to stay “up-to-date” to continue to be competitive when the situation improved. I found a one-year internship in an engineering office as a software developer. I also took language classes. I have now been working for Mikron SA for four years and I am given more and more responsibilities.
One of my classmates works for clean energies, in the wind energy field, another one develop embedded systems for Diesel motors. I chose to study electrical engineering after attending a presentation given by the section director at EPFL. I liked the numerous applications possible and I could imagine myself working in the field.
Working in team is part of my routine. The clients’ needs require us to develops complex processes, and I collaborate with different experts: mechanical engineers, industrial vision specialists and electrical technicians. It is very rewarding! Even if sometimes I regret that our job is “too” industrial: because of cost constraints, we cannot always make as many tests or experiments as in research.
I have always been interested in electronic systems. I know it can be something quite abstract for many people, but I have always wanted to discover and learn more about these technologies.
When EPFL organized open days for prospective students, I was impressed with the infrastructures, the labs, the projects’ importance, and the diversity on the campus. It was clear to me: I would study electrical and electronic engineering at EPFL.
For my Master’s thesis, I worked on a project in Germany, in a research institution. It was exactly what I was looking for: combining the possibility to work in the renewable energy field and learning a third language. I developed the electronic control of portable structures designed to orientate solar panels to follow the direction of the sun, and therefore increasing the productivity (in more technical terms, I worked on a new type of inverter-driver for an innovative solar-tracker system).
As soon as I created a LinkedIn account, companies started to contact me. Germany has a lot of interesting opportunities in energy and industry to offer. My first job was in Berlin with a small company where I could take responsibilities and initiatives from the beginning, even though my German was not very good! We developed a lab to test an energy storage system for energy produced by a residential solar plant. We were able to simulate the power of the production and consummation of four houses. Unfortunately, the solar field has become less important these last years, and I decided to orientate my career to another field I was really interested in: the railway industry.
Today, I work as a field engineer for Bombardier Transportation. We build the next generation trains that are going to replace the current Swiss Inter-regios and Inter-City ones. I have numerous tasks: I test software for embedded systems produced by our suppliers – air conditioning systems, converter, door control, brakes – and I implement our tests methods, making sure the systems work. I will also be involved in the launching of new trains and of the after-sale service.
I am very proud to be part of such an industrial adventure. I like being on the field, solving technical problems, and working together with experimented engineers and technicians with different backgrounds. Every day is a new challenge, something that not only gives me a lot of motivation, but also makes me want to learn more and share my knowledge.