Jean-Philippe Thiran

Prize in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering section

Jean-Philippe Thiran has been awarded the 2016 teaching prize for the Electrical and Electronic Engineering section. Since he began teaching at EPFL in 1998, he has received top-notch course evaluations from his students year after year. Professor Thiran, who has always considered teaching to be the core of his work at EPFL, developed three courses – at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD levels – on his field of expertise, signal and image processing. Through these courses, his students can acquire a deep and comprehensive knowledge of the subject.

Professor Thiran pays careful attention to the clarity of his explanations. “I also try to maintain a link with the students throughout class, to make sure they’re engaged and to pick up on anything they may not have understood,” he said. While theory is a necessary part of his teaching, he also gives students examples of real-world situations. “I explain the theoretical concepts in simple terms and then illustrate them with demonstrations that I do right there on the computer in class.” Through such concrete applications, he is able to show his students how an engineer’s work can have a direct impact on the real world, such as in medical diagnostics and handwriting recognition.

For Professor Thiran, image processing isn’t just technical – it’s an art form. For that reason, he has students experiment with it themselves in the lab. “I think it’s important for them to develop the ability to consider all the existing tools and to then select the most appropriate one for a given problem.”

Professor Thiran co-teaches the Bachelor’s course Signal processing and leads the Master’s course Image analysis and pattern recognition and its PhD-level extension Advanced image analysis and pattern recognition. In the Life Sciences and Technology section, he co-teaches Neuroscience for engineers. Outside of teaching, he is the director of the Signal Processing Laboratory 5 (LTS5) and of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering section – a new position that he takes very seriously: “I want to offer students a curriculum that is highly informative and that works together as a whole.”