Coaching and exams

Admission exam

After you start your work at SPC, you have up to one year to define, together with your supervisor(s), your thesis topic. Most students highly appreciate and use this opportunity, as the thesis topic results by progressively defining a problem of scientific interest, large potential impact, feasible within the timescale of the thesis, and adapted to your present and potential skills and interests. You will need to present and defend the project to a committee, including your supervisor and other experts, in what is referred to as the admission exam. If the committee believes the problem is a good choice for a thesis topic, and it is a good match for you, you are officially admitted to the preparation of a thesis at SPC-EPFL, which you have to conclude within three years following the admission exam. This makes a total of four years to complete your Ph.D.


During your thesis, you will be supervised by a senior researcher or professor (or a combination of the two), but, whenever needed, you will have the possibility to interact with a large group of senior scientists, from whom you will also obtain advice and guidance on their specific areas of expertise. Peer instruction is also very significant at SPC, as you will be part of a large group of graduate students, with a number of scientific and educational interactions, e.g. Ph.D. students’ seminars followed by … aperos … every other week, discussions on the courses you take and on the teaching you will make.

Final exam

At the end of your thesis you will prepare a manuscript, which will be send to an international committee that will judge it, and in front of which you will present your work in the final exam. The committee includes your supervisor, an expert within SPC, a president from EPFL, and two external experts who are internationally renowned in the field of your thesis.

Public defense of the thesis

A second, public part of the exam will take place a few weeks after, the soutenance publique, an event in which you will explain your thesis work in simple terms to colleagues, friends and family. This is the official second part of the exam, an interesting public outreach exercises, … and a good occasion to have a well deserved celebration!