EDME FAQ Frequently Asked Questions


Once hired, how can I find accommodation? How will I get a VISA?

For those questions, we ask you to contact the secretary of your lab who can help you in those matters.

Once at EPFL, what do I have to do to matriculate to the doctoral program?

The lab secretary has arranged everything for you in regards to work. But as a PhD student, you have got a double status. On the one hand, you are an EPFL employee; on the other hand, you are a PhD student. For this reason, you also need to register in your program. Once you have started in your lab, you are asked to bring the original master and bachelor diploma, the original grade sheets and your passport / ID card to the program’s office (GC A2 454, Ms Martina Keddouh). The program’s assistant will copy the originals and print out the matriculation form which you will have to sign and make your thesis director sign. Once the program’s assistant has all the required documentation, it will all be sent to the doctoral school so they can proceed to your official matriculation at the EPFL doctoral school. It is important to do this right after your arrival as it allows you to register for doctoral program courses, etc.

How do I find a mentor? And what’s the role of a mentor?

The doctoral program is going to attribute you a mentor as soon as you have matriculated at the doctoral school. You will find the list of all the EDME students and their mentor on our website. The mentor should be included when you are organising your exams. He should be preferably presiding the jury of your exams.

The mentor also has to sign your annual reports. This is the occasion for a short meeting with your mentor and discuss your personal situation on the progress on your thesis.

As decided at the time the mentoring system was put in place at the doctoral school, the mission of a mentor is to:

  • Detect and help resolve advisor-PhD candidate issues
  • Monitor that adequate progress is made in the dissertation
  • Detect possible health, personal, and other potential problems of the PhD candidate

In accomplishing his mission, the mentor can rely on other personnel resources and should make as much use of these resources as possible in the appropriate context. These resources include:

  • The thesis director (and his laboratory staff)
  • The program director
  • The doctoral program committee and assembly
  • Student Affairs (SAE)
  • The Support and Prevention Network (Help)

Given sufficient proximity to the student and his thesis director, the mentor should act to detect problematic situations and help identify the needs of the student and the most efficient solution.

How do I register for courses?

You can to register yourself for all courses you are attending at EPFL directly online on IS-Academia. You don’t need to complete a course register form anymore.  But even though you do not need to complete a course registration form for internal courses anymore and make it sign by your thesis director and the program’s director for approval, it is important that you keep your thesis director informed about the courses you are attending.

As for courses outside the EPFL doctoral school, please complete the external course registration form before the course and let your thesis director sign for approval. Once your thesis director signed, please send the completed form to me, joining a short course description (e.g. a course brochure). The program’s director will then examine your request. Once approved by the program’s director, I will return the form to you with all the signatures which mean that everything is ok and you can attend the course. At the end of the course, please send me the external course registration form completed with the result and the signature of your thesis director, joining a short course report and a copy of the course certificate. Only with this complete dossier, your credits will be validated.

I have to pass the Candidacy Exam? What do I need to do?

Within one year after your enrolment as a doctoral student at the EPFL, you are required to have 4 elements to your “definitive admission” for the doctorate:

  • Already have a minimum of 4 ECTS credits, preferably 6 or 8, out of the 12 requested;
  • Submit your research plan
  • Have the agreement of your thesis director to supervise your work
  • Take the candidacy exam

The candidacy exam includes an oral presentation by the candidate of his/her research proposal and is followed by questions from the jury members. The presentation will last approximately 30 minutes and will be conducted in front of a specially convened jury.

The jury of the exam is composed of:

  • a president (in general your mentor, if he is not available, another member of the EDME commitee)
  • your thesis director and co-director (where applicable)
  • one expert (preferentially from EPFL, external to the laboratory of the candidate and the thesis director)
  • second expert optional

Please make sure that all the jury members are available on the chosen date, before you fix the date for the exam!
The candidacy exam reviews your research plan and your general ability to complete a doctoral degree. The jury’s decision (pass or fail) will be notified at the latest one week after the exam.

The candidacy exam will be held at least nine months and withing twelve months of the enrolment. In the unlikely situation that you fail the candidacy exam, you will have one opportunity to retake it within 15 months after your registration date.

Please return the completed form “Candidacy Exam Proposal” signed by you and your thesis director (and if applicable, by your co-director) and your grade sheet as well as 2 copies of your research plan to the administrative assistant, Ms Martina Keddouh, of the doctoral program in Mechanics. Don’t forget to give one copy of your research plan to each member of the jury before the exam. Please note that the “Candidacy Exam Proposal” also has to be approved by the program’s director. Please make sure that you hand it in enough time before the exam so it can be validated by the program’s director.

The Research Plan contains between 12-15 pages.

  1. The summary should characterise the planned PhD work: give a brief presentation of the topic in the framework of which the planned research is to take place. At the end of the summary, please characterise the project in the form of eight keywords.
  2. State of research : referring to the main scientific publications in the field, indicate knowledge gained so far in the concerned research domain, specify gaps that remain to be filled, and indicate research going on in this field in Switzerland and abroad.
  3. State of research conducted by the candidate: indicate work already performed by the candidate in the research domain or in a neighbouring domain.
  4. Detailed research plan: on the basis of information given under 2) and 3), indicate the scientific and technical objectives you envisage to meet during the three years of PhD work.Show the importance of the results that you are planning to obtain and the developments they can lead to:
    – which are the inquiries, studies, analysis or investigations you are proposing to perform to meet the
    objectives indicated above?
    – how is the first stage of work planned to unroll?
    – how do you envisage the next stages? 
    Specify the methods you plan to use to meet the objectives:
    – methods directly applicable in the PhD work
    – methods that can be used in collaboration with third parties (advice, services, etc.)
    – methods that have yet to be defined and developed.
  5. Schedule of full project: as far as it is possible to have a general overview of a project that will spread over several years, specify the time schedule of the different project phases.

When do I have to hand in my annual report?

The student submits to his thesis director a yearly progress report of 3-5 pages on his research work. The first annual report is submitted to the thesis director at the earliest 1 year and at the latest 18 months after the research plan has been established. The annual report has to be signed and approved by your thesis director.

It also has to be signed by your mentor, so you have the opportunity to meet your mentor. His role is to detect and help resolve advisor-PhD candidate issues, monitor that adequate progress is made in the dissertation and detect possible health, personal, and other potential problems of the PhD candidate.

How can I obtain a prolongation?

On the website of the doctoral school, you find the form “Demande de prolongation” that you have to complete and make your thesis director sign. After you have got his signature, you are asked to send the form to the program’s assistant who will hand in the form to the program’s director for approvel. If the program’s director approves, the form will be sent to the doctoral school for the Dean’s approval.

Where do I find the internal rules of the doctoral schools in regards to researching and writing my thesis?

You will find all the needed information about the procedures and deadlines regarding the research and writing of your thesis on the website of the doctoral school. The doctoral program remains at your disposal if you have any further questions.