Julien Hugonnier

Prize in the Financial Engineering Section

Julien Hugonnier does not shy away from advanced finance and math concepts, and that makes his Master’s course one of the most difficult in the Financial Engineering program. It nevertheless receives top marks from students, both for the course content and the professor’s approach. “I find that really rewarding,” says Professor Hugonnier. “I strongly believe that you mustn’t sacrifice mathematical rigor for intuition, even if that means the students need to work a bit harder.” Hugonnier has won his section’s 2017 prize for excellence in teaching.

Professor Hugonnier believes in traditional teaching methods and constantly seeks to ground the material he is teaching in the business world. “It’s pretty easy to find real-life examples in a course on financial derivatives because the media often talks about them,” says the associate professor. The subject he teaches is a fundamental part of financial engineering, and the students will be able to apply what they learn in many other areas, such as interest-rate modeling and corporate investment and finance policy. “The classes are really intense – three-hour lectures with a large number of exercises,” he says. “I put all my course notes on Moodle so that in class the students can really focus on that day’s discussion rather than on having to take notes.”

When Professor Hugonnier joined EPFL in 2009, his main motivation in taking the academic route was not to teach. “I learned to appreciate the value of teaching. Like many others, I pattern myself after the charismatic professors I had when I was a student.” Hugonnier brings a lot of energy to the classroom and, given the manageable size of his class, is able to engage directly with the students. “I’m also lucky to have first-rate assistants, all of whom have received awards for this course,” he adds. Hugonnier plans to turn his course notes and exercises into a book.