new excellence program for PhD students

 This new program aims to prepare EPFL PhD graduates for a bright future – not only as scientists and engineers, but also as engaged, active leaders of society. It’s also intended to help PhD students who plan to go into the business world make the transition from academia. The program is open to all EPFL PhD students who passed their candidacy exam at the start of their PhD studies. It includes a series of classes that go beyond the technical topics typically covered in the School’s PhD programs, so as to equip students with key transferable skills.

The curriculum includes leadership training by professional coaches as well as courses on charisma in scientific fields, management, communication, legal affairs, technology transfer and risk management. Program participants can also attend networking and other types of knowledge-sharing events like seminars, company visits and alumni meetings. This will give them an opportunity to form contacts with business leaders and non-profit organizations.

Developing valuable skills

“These are skills that most people don’t have a chance to acquire this early in their career,” says Luisa Lambertini, EPFL’s Associate Vice President for Postgraduate Education. “The EPFL PhD Excellence Programme is a great opportunity, and a unique one, that shouldn’t be missed.” Lambertini developed the program in conjunction with her colleagues Philip Mair and Anikó Borbély, EPFL’s Philanthropy Services, and two philanthropic donors: Fondation du Domaine de Villette and Philippe Petitpierre, Chairman & CEO of Holdigaz.

“This program is the latest initiative to receive the generous support of the donors in our EPFL Student Support Program,” says Michaël Thémans, the head of EPFL’s Development Office. “It illustrates our commitment to foster talent and grow our impact on society, both now and in years to come, with a particular focus on our PhD students.”

For the past few years, EPFL has been putting in place initiatives to help prepare students for careers beyond academia, giving them a more diversified skillset. In addition to the PhD Excellence Programme, the School has two other such programs for PhD students: the EPFLinnovators program, introduced in 2018, and the EPFLglobaLeaders program, introduced in 2020. “This new initiative is one more step in this direction,” says Lambertini. “We drew on the experience acquired in the previous two.” The first cohort of PhD Excellence students will start in the spring 2022 semester and, if everything goes well, will receive certificates of completion three years later. Plans are already under way for the next two cohorts as well, in the spring 2023 and 2024 semesters.

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