Supervisory Board

The Supervisory Board is comprised of twelve members who provide strategy, oversight, and governance to the EPFLeaders4impact programme.

Grégoire Castella is passionate about innovation, humanitarian action and social entrepreneurship. He holds a PhD in Life Science from the University of Lausanne and worked several years for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in different regions affected by armed conflicts. As Antenna Foundation deputy director, he incubated innovative solutions for people living in poverty and co-founded Watalux SA, a social start-up. He also led MSF Switzerland Innovation initiative. He is now heading the Humanitarian Division of EPFL EssentialTech Center, an initiative supporting humanitarian organizations to better harness science and technology to increase their impact.

Young French neuroscientist granted an MSCA postdoctoral fellowship in sustainable innovation as part of the EPFLeader4Impact program. His research focuses on developing deep brain stimulation approaches to restore gate and balance functions in Parkinson’s disease, based on the deep understanding of the underlying neurophysiology in both animals and patients. His work aims to ensure healthier lives, promote well-being, and restore social inclusion of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Andrea Crottini leads the Technology Transfer Office an EPFL, a team of intellectual property and licensing professionals, and oversees the EPFL intellectual property portfolio. He is an IP manager with proven experience and successes in technology scouting and assessment (patents, software), protection, valuation and license negotiation. He lectures “Business Concept: Licensing” in the Innosuisse training program for startup entrepreneurs. Previously, Andrea was R&D Manager at Hach-Lange (Danaher Corp.). He graduated with a PhD in Physics and a Master of Intellectual Property and Management (LL.M. IP).

Zoe is the programme manager of the EPFLeaders4impact programme since she joined the Research Office of EPFL. Prior, she was coordinator in the partnering environment of the Human Brain Project, and was promoted to be task leader.  She gained field experiences with NGOs and did internships at the International Organization for Migration and at UN Women. Zoe obtained a MSc in Public Policy and Human Development at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance & United Nations University.

Wendy L. Queen obtained her PhD in chemistry from Clemson University in 2009 and was awarded a fellowship from the National Research Council.  She became a project scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley California. In 2015, she was appointed Assistant Professor in the Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering at EPFL, and in 2022 she was promoted to Associate Professor. Her research contributes knowledge towards solving globally relevant problems, like reducing energy consumption, developing sustainable processes, cutting CO2 emissions, and water purification. She won Merck’s 350 Innovation Challenge, was named one of C&E News “Talented 12”and won the Agora Optimus Prize from the Swiss National Science Foundation in 2022.

Riff Fullan has been supporting collaboration, knowledge sharing and learning in the development sector for over 25 years. As Program Coordinator with the Bellanet Secretariat of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (1996-2006), Riff focused on facilitation, evolution and strengthening of global and regional multistakeholder networks and communities. Riff then joined Helvetas, where he has led the evolution of the organisation’s orientation to knowledge management, and has authored successive knowledge and learning strategies, think pieces, manuals and guides. Riff has been an active member of the global Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev) community, having served on its Core Group from its inception in 2004 to 2017, and as a member of the peer reviewed KM4D Journal’s Editorial Board.

Alessandra is the Head of Tech4Impact at the Enterprise for Society Center, a joint initiative of UNIL, IMD and EPFL. Her experience extends to the fields of sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation, having contributed to multiple initiatives that foster the creation of sustainability solutions in Europe and Latin America, such as at the EPFL Vice-Presidency for Innovation, the UN International Trade Centre and now with the Levo Framework and her own civic tech organization. Alessandra holds a Master’s degree in International Development from Graduate Institute of Geneva and a B.Sc. in Management and Technology from the Technical University of Munich.

Roland graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2016 with an MSc in Natural Sciences (Chemistry), before undertaking a PhD at Imperial College, London, under the guidance of Dr Andrew Ashley. His doctoral work focused on the development of low-valent main group complexes as Lewis acids for small molecule activation and catalysis, particularly with hydrogen. After defending his thesis in 2021, he moved to Switzerland to start a postdoc position with Prof. Paul Dyson at EPFL, studying heterogeneous catalysis for CO2 transformations. He became an EPFLeaders4impact Fellow in July, with a project designed to commercialize the hydrogenation of CO2 to valuable products.

Dimitrios obtained his Ph.D in Mechanics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in 2017 and in 2018 he co-founded MeduSoil, a construction-tech EPFL spinoff which develops sustainable materials and systems for construction and environmental works based on biominerals. With CHF 3 Million raised so-far, MeduSoil brings its industrial biotech solution to more building projects around the world to safeguard civil infrastructure. Dimitrios is also teaching at EPFL his class “Innovation in construction and the environment” which seeks to instil the necessary skills to innovate in its graduates. Over 130 Civil Engineers have graduated from his class since 2019. In 2020 Dimitrios was included in the Forbes 30Under30 list in “Manufacturing & Industry” for Europe.

Esther (Elisabeth) van der Velde is the head of the Programme Management & Ethics Affairs unit of the EPFL Research Office (ReO-PM/EA) since October 2021. The unit manages a large portfolio of research funding schemes and is involved in all aspects of these programmes (launch of calls, evaluation/selection process, scientific/financial reporting, etc.). The unit also provides support on research ethics compliance and is the liaison with the EPFL Human Research Ethics Committee. Previously, she was the head of Ethics Affairs (2016-2021) and the Programme Manager for the Cofund EPFL Fellows programme (2013-2016) at the EPFL Research Office. Before joining EPFL, she worked at the United Nations (UNICEF, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

Jeroen van Hunen obtained a PhD degree from Utrecht University while working at NIKHEF, the Dutch National Institute for Nuclear and High Energy Physics. He then worked at CERN for the ALICE Silicon Pixel detector, and later joined EPFL to work under the LHCb experiment. After a stint at Credit-Suisse in Zürich, he transitioned back to EPFL and led the EPFL Doctoral School from 2013 until 2021. Under this position he launched two COFUND projects (funded by the European Commission) alongside the EPFL Research Office, namely EPFLinnovators and EPFLglobaLeaders. After serving as deputy to the Dean at the EPFL School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering for two years, he has now served as the Head of EPFL’s Research Office since August 2023.

Marie Violay completed her PhD at the Geoscience faculty of the Montpellier University in 2011 and was a research assistant at National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome and at ETH Zurich. In 2015 she was appointed assistant Professor and head of the Laboratory of Experimental Rock Mechanics at EPFL. She was awarded one of the seven Energy grants of the SNSF and the ERC Starting Grant in the area of Earth System Science. She got promoted associate professor in 2022. Her research focuses on mechanical and physical processes in the first 15 kilometers of the earth’s crust. She has developed new approaches to better understand earthquakes and geological reservoirs for the development of deep geothermal energy production.


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