The role of microtechnical engineers is first and foremost a question of harnessing the physical laws which govern the miniaturization processes. It is perhaps robotics which best exemplifies this intersection of different disciplines: Even if robots are not yet miniaturized, their operating principle is based on the combination and coordination of mechanical, electronic, optical, or computing components.
The numerous and different areas of microtechnical engineers’ work are, as a result, often closely linked to industrial production: this situation means that they need to find production techniques that are both efficient (robotics, atomization, assembly techniques, etc.) and financially viable for their purposes. The development of these techniques often relies specifically on the use or development of tools that themselves come from microengineering.
Microtechnical engineers absolutely have to be able to understand a product in its entirety. Furthermore, they are also often called upon to fulfill the role of project leader and to act as a real focal point at the center of a host of specialists from other engineering fields.
The first year of the Bachelor’s studies is mainly given to the acquisition of the scientific tools such as analysis or physics. The students also come into contact with practical realities with, among other things, the CAD project for which they design an object that they will develop during a processing internship during the second year of studies. The undergraduate program then covers all microtechnological sciences and is grouped around topics such as control systems, electronics and photonics, products and production. A first project completes the training.
Bachelor: simplified study plan
The Master’s degree in Microengineering offers a unique education for students with an interest in technology, a scientifically oriented mind and an aptitude for synthesis to gain global visions of modern technology. This program opens a wide range of career opportunities for young engineers. It is an ideal training towards innovative applications in highly attractive sectors such as portable communications, biomedical devices or the watch industry.
In addition to classes spanning from electromechanical systems to advanced artificial intelligence, this program offers a large set of hands-on activities where students learn by designing, prototyping and validating robotic systems. They can benefit from EPFL’s strong innovation ecosystem to invent new systems and applications, and start up their own company.
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.
Some graduates join innovative businesses as developers, consultants or project managers; others launch their own start-ups.
And while the program is geared towards industry and entrepreneurship, many graduates choose to continue their academic careers by pursuing a PhD thesis in fields running from phenomenological understanding to the conception of innovative products.
I had three job offers before the end of my studies, thanks to the lab that supervised my Master’s project.
The EPFL labs have great Master’s projects for students, closely related to the industrial world. It is a great opportunity for us to show the skills we have learned: I worked on an industrial project for my Master’s thesis, the mission went well and they hired me. I now work as an applied optical engineer at TESA, in Switzerland.
TESA produces and sells precision measuring tools, from micrometers to 3D measuring machines. I am responsible for developing photosensors and integrating them in the machine or the tool. Sensors are the heart of it and it is crucial to develop and master them.
I have always been very interested in technology, with a particular interest for light. For my Master’s degree in Microengineering, I chose to specialize in applied optics. When miniaturization is combined with light, many possibilities occur, such as suppressing and combining light, playing with cameras, or developing non-contact sensors. It is fascinating to work with state-of-the-art technologies that allow us to achieve cool and interesting things. Everything is possible in our miniaturized optical world related to metrology.
Working in the development area is part of my every day routine. And I am not working with abstract equations anymore! Light obeys very specific equations that we have to combine to find solutions, depending on the tool (laser, camera) used. To deeply investigate the problems, I work in collaboration with the mechanical and the electronics teams. Once the theoretical part is started, it needs to be tested in the lab. And it takes time: developing a practical device that matches the theory is a real challenge.
For managers, an EPFL diploma means high quality studies. I do not recall any unemployed graduate from my former classmates. One thing I use every day and that I learned at EPFL is how to deal with problems. Listening, analyzing, not rushing, being systematic and meticulous. Our analytical mind and global view make the difference. Actually, I am interested in project management, in order to use those strong analytical assets more and learn how to manage properly a product cycle from A to Z.
In my job, every day is different!
One day, I am in Emmental teaching a child how to use an insulin pump. The next day, I am at Geneva hospital analyzing glucose sensors. As a consultant in technical support and training for Medtronic Diabetes, my role is to teach people living with diabetes how to use our technology (insulin pumps, glucose sensors and a data analysis software). I help the patients, but sometimes also the health care professionals, solve potential problems. It is a very flexible job, but it also implies irregular hours and visits to clients every day and everywhere in Switzerland.
Thanks to my EPFL Master’s degree, I learn very fast and I very quickly understand technological systems: how the devices work, how to solve problems, how to interpret glucose data on our software. I do not really use the formulas learned in books, but mostly the methodology and the rigorous working method I acquired during my studies. I was therefore able to adapt easily to my new job, but also to the working pace and the language (Swiss-German).
I always wanted to have a meaningful job that contributes to society. I was interested in the medical field or the energy sector, and as I like interacting with people, I chose the medical field. For my Master’s degree, I decided to take a minor in biomedical technologies. I had specific classes and I was able to work on different projects in the EPFL laboratory of movement analysis and measurement. Those courses and projects are closely related to my current job tasks.
I studied Microengineering because it is a multidisciplinary field that has allowed me to study various subjects and to keep an overview on projects. This criteria was very important to me, as I had always had many interests – maybe too many – and I could not pick only one field of study. I would really advise students, if possible, to already have a first professional experience (internship, student job) during their studies. This allows them to develop their soft skills (foreign languages, management), create their own network and understand what kind of jobs are available on the market. At the end of my Master’s degree, I had to show patience to find the exact job I was looking for. I found myself confronted to a saturated job market, and was hurt by my lack of non-academic experience. Unfortunately, it is a situation most young graduates are not really prepared for.