Alumni Testimonials

Computer and Communication Sciences – EDIC


EDIC Alumni in Academia EDIC PhD Theses Repository


Testimonials

When I decided to pursue a PhD at EPFL, I was well-aware of its outstanding strength in computer science. Despite that knowledge, I quickly found myself challenged beyond my expectations.

I was fortunate to be one of the initiating members of a large, impactful project, which not only attracted academic interest, but also high-profile industry collaborations. Under the supervision of Prof. Babak Falsafi and Prof. Ed Bugnion, the Scale-Out NUMA project aimed to drastically accelerate remote memory access in distributed systems, a key challenge for modern popular online services running on datacenters. We took a holistic approach, encompassing programming model, network protocol, hardware/software interface, and microarchitectural design. None of this would have been possible without the leadership of world-class experts, a great group culture that resulted in close and effective collaborations, and EPFL’s abundant resources.

PhD 2018

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Finding one’s research niche is one of the major challenges. The EDIC fellowship program was a decisive factor in my decision in initially choosing to study at EPFL. The program allows the students to explore various fields during the first year, before deciding upon a one preferred area of research focus. This flexibility of choice is exceptional among most universities. I strongly encourage PhD candidates to seek breadth and to explore many fields to build a useful PhD toolkit in view of one’s thesis and what lies beyond.

After finishing my PhD studies in the Programming Methods Laboratory led by Prof. Martin Odersky, I was offered faculty positions in North America and Europe. My first job out of PhD: University Lecturer in Programming Languages, University of Cambridge, UK …

EPFL has provided me with world-wide opportunities and a comfortable salary by “PhD student” standards. The best foundation for a good life.

PhD 2016

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Choosing to do a PhD at EPFL, had probably been one of the best decisions in my life. Not only that EPFL is regarded as a top research institution world-wide, with an incredible administrative and financial support, but it is also located in Lausanne – one of the most beautiful cities you will ever visit.

During my PhD I worked in the Data-Intensive Applications and Systems lab (DIAS) supervised by Prof. Anastasia Ailamaki. I loved everything about DIAS, practical research problems we tackled, the industrial experience we obtained through internships, the abundance of financial support to travel and build your network, group lunches, and collective presentations that fully equipped me for the post-PhD life. Needless to say that we had an incredible infrastructural support to do our research, in terms of latest servers, cloud clusters, whatever we needed for our research was there.

A PhD can be a stressful time. But with the support that EPFL provides and great research groups that constantly move the research frontiers it can also be an extremely exciting and enjoyable time. DIAS people were and will always remain my second family.

Finally, I have to say that EPFL and Switzerland mark you for the rest of your life. The name of the mark is – high quality. EPFL and Switzerland have a unique blend of high quality across various dimensions (high quality in research, and high quality of life) that you will continue to seek wherever you go.

PhD 2016

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I had several offers from PhD programs of top US universities, and in retrospective deciding to go to EPFL was the best choice. EPFL — and in particular its School of Computer and Communication Sciences — is considered a top research institution world-wide: the reputation of its faculty members speaks for itself, and the financial support is simply unbeatable, both if you have a start-up idea or if you are looking for postdoc opportunities.

Let me be more concrete and briefly describe my experience. I did my PhD in the Information Processing Group (IPG) under the supervision of Prof. Rüdiger Urbanke, and this was a great fit both in terms of topic and research style. The focus of my study was coding theory for wireless communications, and the highlight of my work was proving that Reed-Muller codes achieve capacity on the binary erasure channel, thus settling a 60 years old conjecture. I later got a fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation to do a postdoc at Stanford, and I will now start as a faculty member at IST Austria. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support that I received both in terms of an incredibly stimulating research environment and in terms of accessibility to funding. As a bonus, Lausanne with its lake is a really beautiful city!

PhD 2016

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Doing my PhD at EPFL was probably the best decision of my (pre-faculty) scientific career. EPFL is well known and highly appreciated among my colleagues at top US schools. Despite being a relatively young university, it has quickly gained its reputation as one of the top places for computer science research worldwide.

I did my PhD in the DATA lab, supervised by Christoph Koch – an outstanding mentor and the perfect match for me in terms of topics and style. EPFL generally features an amazing cast of students and faculty who create an incredibly inspiring and intellectually challenging academic environment. Besides bringing together the right people, EPFL creates the right conditions for students to thrive: abundant financial support, well organized administrative processes, and – last but not least – a beautiful location next to Lake Geneva, make the PhD a productive and pleasant experience. If I had to pick once more, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second and do my PhD at EPFL again.

PhD 2016

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I came to EPFL to do signal processing, and Martin Vetterli had this fantastic problem for me. It was about acoustics, and the problem’s pet name was “Can one hear the shape of a room?”. Imagine you’re blindfolded in a room and you snap your fingers … what can you say about the shape of the room from the echoes?

Quickly I realized how pleasurable it is to work on this problem at EPFL. We had access to everything we needed for our experiments: equipment, support, enthusiasm. We were even granted evening access to the monumental Lausanne cathedral to experiment with the acoustics! That’s what I love about research in Martin Vetterli’s lab. We’re curious about something, and we ask a question. Interacting with other researchers (there’s a strong conference-going culture in the lab), we learn that they’re curious about something similar, but they call it something else. We can’t make our ideas work, we get frustrated, so we move to work on new problems spawned by the original one. Suddenly, we get this simplest idea that solves the original problem, and the next thing you know, we’re popping balloons in the Lausanne cathedral!

Our solution is a combination of room acoustics, inverse problems, and Euclidean geometry – for any of these topics there’s someone in the school that you can talk to. What’s more, you get to attend courses about various topics from computer science, signal processing and information theory, given by the very people who invented these topics.

Our results seem startup-worthy. The support we get around here is terrific: Access to funding, training, contacts, a number of already successful companies, working space, connections in the Silicon Valley, and the inspiration to go for it.

PhD 2015

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While finishing my MS studies in France and Italy, I was looking for an institution with an opening towards applications, while still retaining an interest for fundamental, purely theoretical results. The EPFL Information Processing Group appeared to me as very strong and covering multiple sides of the subject. Now that I am on site, I indeed appreciate the communication between its various labs and their efforts to share developments.

This is the case not only within the Information Processing Group but throughout the School of Computer and Communication Sciences, with initiatives such as the “Know Thy Neighbour” program.

I spent my first year as a non-affiliated student, sharing a working room and courses with all the other students in the same situation. Getting to know these colleagues and their interests helps me now to keep contacts with other areas and makes it easier to get help in case of questions touching other topics.

Besides these purely academic considerations, Switzerland (and in particular the Lausanne area) is great for mountain-related activities such as climbing and trekking!

PhD 2015

LinkedIn EPFL Thesis

EPFL has one of the best computer science departments in the world. The reputation of IC extends far beyond Europe and is well recognized in the top schools in the USA. I feel very fortunate to have spent 5 years of my life working with an amazing group of colleagues and stellar faculty members. Pursuing my Ph.D. at EPFL was the best decision I made for my academic career.

Under the supervision of my advisor Prof. George Candea, I worked on techniques for automatically detecting, classifying and fixing concurrency bugs. Concurrency bugs are nasty bugs that significantly slow down development. The techniques we built were adopted by major companies like Microsoft and Intel and our results were published in the best venues in computer systems. My PhD. thesis was subsequently recognized by multiple awards.

One of the greatest things about EPFL is the collective involvement of the faculty to ensure students’ success. When I applied for faculty jobs, EPFL arranged a practice interview that accurately resembled the interviews in top schools around the world. I got interview advice from people with diverse backgrounds (from architecture to theory to systems), which is crucial since faculty of all backgrounds will be involved in an actual academic job interview.

These achievements and the extensive preparation helped me get multiple academic job offers. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of my advisor and my colleagues at EPFL.

PhD 2015

Homepage EPFL Thesis

My research focuses on techniques that help scientists and programmers gain confidence in the correctness and accuracy of numerical computations. These computations arise in a number of important areas, from cyber-physical systems such as train car controllers to scientific computing applications like simulations. Developing accurate numerical software is difficult because of finite representation of numbers, approximate numerical algorithms, and noisy data. The goal of my research is to facilitate the writing of numerical software by enabling the scientist to write programs using real arithmetic and a specification of uncertainties and let the compiler automatically choose the appropriate data type and algorithmic approximation. For example, my tools can verify that ranges of variables and roundoff errors in floating-point or fixed-point computations stay bounded below a certain threshold. My work builds on state-of-the-art theorem-proving technology, which is quickly evolving. This requires me to stay continuously up-to-date and follow up on changes, but also makes my work exciting.

I appreciate very much that I was able to choose my PhD topic myself, allowing me to combine my interest in computer science, mathematics, and physics. During my four years at EPFL and while presenting my work at conferences and seminars around the world, I met many interesting people and had many conversations that resulted in new ideas for my work.

It feels great to be part of the international research community!

PhD 2014

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I think of a graduate program as a place to learn, try, and fail many times, until finally you try and succeed. This process only happens if there is a supporting team that not only encourages you to try but also values your failures (in my opinion this is what research is all about). In this sense EPFL is a unique place. There is an impressive financial and administrative support ready for students who seize the opportunity to take up the challenge. Not to mention that when you are tired, you can reach the lake in five minutes to swim or the mountains in half an hour to hike.

PhD 2012

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I started a PhD with the idea that discovery excites me. Few years after, I realized that my motivation could not have been more correct. Doing a PhD is great and is great because of many things: the research problems you get to approach and understand, the brainstorming sessions you have with colleagues and professors from EPFL, the teaching activities and working with students, the friends you make from all over the world, the flexibility you have in managing your time, the travelling and participation in conferences.

On top of that, Lausanne is simply cute, it has the lake and the mountains, you never feel far away from nature over here. Almost any sport activity is possible at the EPFL sport center and skiing is not a luxury but a must. As well, concerts, exhibitions and theatre kept some of my evenings very enjoyable. Simply said, I just loved my PhD student life.

PhD 2011

LinkedIn EPFL Thesis

Recently I participated in a workshop at MIT called “Rising Stars in EECS”. It was an invitational workshop and the only participants from Europe were coming either from EPFL or from ETH. We can see from this fact that the top US schools recognize the researchers coming from EPFL. However, one should not perceive EPFL only as a place recognized by the top US Universities. It is also a school that blends in perfect harmony the advantages of Europe and the States.

The EPFL PhD students are fully employed, receiving a good salary, having paid holiday days, pension funds and all those things that the students became aware only after finishing their studies. They share big spacious offices (with windows!), there is generous funding to visit conferences and summer schools. In addition, EPFL has also this US thriver for excellency, by motivating students to do cutting-edge research and publish at the top places. The professors at EPFL are well-known and established international researchers and they stimulate students to aim for the same level of excellence.

As a world-renowned institution, EPFL often hosts the most prominent international researchers, and students are frequently invited to meet with them. During my studies at EPFL I had the honor to talk to five Turing award winners.

I enjoyed my studies at EPFL enormously. The moment when I graduated was at the same time one of the happiest and saddest moments of my life. I made good friends for life and it was hard to leave the EPFL life behind. However, I keep collaborations with my former colleagues going on and I am looking forward to every new visit to EPFL.

PhD 2011

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I first learned of EPFL while visiting a number of US Universities, before applying to a PhD programme. It surprised me that, even though Americans tend to be dismissive of European institutions, EPFL was so highly regarded. Personally, I think EPFL is a prolific research environment with highly energetic people coming from different parts of the world, who together build up a remarkable multicultural community.

Research labs are not overpopulated with professors, but instead with large groups of PhD students who have central responsibilities in both teaching and research, making us one of the main engines of the EPFL academic system. Communication skills and leadership are stimulated and encouraged at EPFL, either through teaching, research, or various other professional and social activities.

It is unquestionable that my time at EPFL has provided me with enormous personal growth and intellectual potential, which will most definitely lead me to a successful career in the future.

PhD 2010

LinkedIn EPFL Thesis

Doing a PhD at EPFL was great for a number of reasons. First, I consider EPFL to be the top place in Communication Systems in Europe. When I joined Stanford, I proudly discovered that it is also considered comparable to the top US universities by my colleagues here. It offers everything you would expect from a top research institution: well-recognized professors who can guide you through cutting-edge problems; an open culture which allows you to knock at any door with your questions and ideas; an interesting curriculum of specialized graduate courses; and a well-connected network with leading researchers around the world.

However, EPFL has much more to offer, which I think makes it a really unique place for PhD in the world: a culture of play and fun which always made me feel like I am meeting friends rather than going to an office, generous resources for traveling to conferences, competitive salaries, sunny and modern 2-people offices for PhD students; a friendly and effective administration which would be willing to help even with my personal issues, such as finding an apartment; a central location in Europe with excellent opportunities for travel; and last but not least, the privilege to enjoy your coffee while looking at one of the most beautiful sceneries in the world. The only disadvantage I can really think of is that, while English is the language at EPFL, the language in the city is mostly French. But even this can be turned into an opportunity by taking advantage of the free French classes offered by the Language Center.

I deeply enjoyed being a PhD student at EPFL and I feel proud to be an EPFL graduate.

PhD 2009

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I found EPFL from a poster on the American University of Beirut campus. Although it was the only school that I didn’t know before applying, its PhD program totally convinced me and here I am several years later, very pleased with my choice.

What is especially good about a PhD at EPFL is that not only research is first-class, but also the quality of life is great, the nature is amazingly beautiful, and most of Europe is just a couple of hours away. This place is unique. When I travel to conferences, I repeatedly realize and appreciate that my professor is very well known within peer groups. This means that we can do great research outside of the US too.

A PhD here allowed me to see and do much more than research. We constantly see famous people on campus (for example, Vinton Cerf who co-created the Internet). There is also a thriving startup culture on campus, with many free courses offered. The reputation of EPFL definitely transcends the demographic size of Switzerland.

PhD 2009

LinkedIn EPFL Thesis

I first arrived at EPFL for a Master’s exchange and I came back for a PhD since my first stay was so wonderful. My initial contact with EPFL was made through my advisor’s extensive professional network. I found the natural environment of Switzerland to be a calming influence, and comfortable for studying. I also found very pleasant the international level of informed discussions possible here at EPFL.

The biggest advantage of the doctorate program at EPFL is that we have a salary! And one of the great aspects is that students are given responsibilities that teach us to be an independent thinker and assume ourselves, which is not always the case in Japan. Furthermore, I had a great opportunity to increase my level of English attending free courses given at EPFL Language Center. Thanks to my lab colleagues, I learned to say “No, I do not understand”, which helped me overcome my Japanese cultural heritage. A lot of help and support came from the secretarial department not only for professional issues but also for my private life.

I can insist that I thoroughly enjoyed student housing accommodation in the center of Lausanne, 36 rooms of international students, varied cooking times, plentiful parties and good networking opportunities. It is true that at the beginning I was surprised to see that stores close so early compared to Japan. But this was just a question of time to be used to it! I also really appreciated here in Lausanne to have a relatively short commute in comparison with the 1 hour and a half crowded train ride that I had to get to my university in Tokyo.

For my future, I’m sure that my experience here at EPFL would help me to go on an interesting career. I will not hesitate to take advantage of existing structures such as the Forum, the A3 Alumni Association, and the Career Center, in my job search.

PhD 2008

EPFL Thesis

I did my undergrad studies at EPFL, including a year at Eurecom in southern France. At the end of my studies, I spent six months at IBM Research Watson Center, in New York, where I observed that IBM values EPFL as a source of new input, academic references and potential new hires.

I always wanted to pursue an academic career and decided to come back to EPFL to start a PhD after my time at IBM. I recognize the advantages of the international reputation of EPFL and I really enjoyed the fact that both EPFL students and faculty members come from the very best institutions worldwide.

I believe that EPFL represents a mix of old world traditions and new world excitement. Furthermore, I salute the creative freedom researchers have at EPFL, which leads to surprising results. After a postdoc time at MIT, I currently work at the University of Fribourg, but remain in contact with my former EPFL peers who are spread over the globe today. I really found the international environment at EPFL to be exciting, certainly encouraged by the common use of the English language. Last but not least, I am convinced that EPFL’s superior working conditions – spacious offices, good equipment, decent salary, pleasant campus – permit proper focus on research.

PhD 2007

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