Andersen's tenure marked by cross-disciplinary cohesion

Marilyne Andersen will remain at EPFL as a full professor at ENAC. © EPFL

Marilyne Andersen will remain at EPFL as a full professor at ENAC. © EPFL

We took a look back at Marilyne Andersen’s five-year tenure as dean of EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), a post she held from September 2013 to August 2018.

Professor Marilyne Andersen stepped down as dean of ENAC on 31 August 2018. Her main focus during her five-year tenure was promoting cross-disciplinary research. She also made strides to improve cohesion among ENAC’s three disciplines in order to boost creativity and generate more added value.

For instance, she spearheaded the development of an affinity map, which is an online tool that researchers can use to quickly spot common areas of research among ENAC labs and pinpoint new opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration. She also helped set up an annual Research Day to facilitate interactions among scientists and engineers; an exploratory grant for new cross-disciplinary research projects; and the Design Together program where ENAC students from different fields work together in project teams.

In January 2017, Marilyne Andersen introduced the InnoSeed program to enhance the societal impact of research being carried out at ENAC. Under this program, the school’s researchers can take part in a variety of inspiring workshops and seminars on entrepreneurship, learn about the different forms of innovation support available at EPFL and in Switzerland, and forge new contacts among local businesses and public-sector organizations.

More recently, she oversaw the opening of the Student Kreativity and Innovation Laboratory (SKIL), EPFL’s first makerspace, which has already proven highly successful after just one semester. The SKIL is likewise designed to foster cross-disciplinary research, but with a bottom-up approach – establishing ENAC as a pioneer in new teaching methods where students are pushed to conduct research projects on their own, albeit with the assistance of professors and researchers.

The Solar Decathlon and Smart Living Lab

The benefits of cross-disciplinary research were evident in the Swiss team’s victory at the October 2017 Solar Decathlon, a competition where students from universities around the world vie to build the most promising solar-powered house. Marilyne Andersen was the faculty advisor for the four-year-long project and headed the team of over 100 ENAC students along with other EPFL students and students from the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg (HEI-A), the Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD) and the University of Fribourg (UNIFR).

By taking home first place, the Swiss team bolstered EPFL’s reputation abroad and showcased the smart living lab, the EPFL site in Fribourg where the team’s house was fully designed and tested.

This site is part of EPFL’s new satellite campus, which Marilyne Andersen helped get off the ground thanks to her ambitious, pioneering vision of the future of the construction industry. She will remain a member of the joint steering committee and will head the expert committee in order to provide a seamless transition for the construction of the new building on the Fribourg campus.

Healthier finances and a gender equality policy

Another key achievement during Marilyne Andersen’s tenure was straightening out ENAC’s finances, in part to ensure that the school could continue to hire new professors. Twelve new professors were hired during her time in office, including seven tenure-track assistant professors. Andersen also introduced a proactive gender equality policy to support female job applicants for research and professorship positions.

The EPFL Presidency has appointed Professor Andrew Barry, head of the Ecological Engineering Laboratory (ECOL), as interim dean of ENAC.

Read more in ENAC News: "Andrew Barry appointed interim dean of ENAC"

EPFL will soon issue a call for applications both internally and internationally to select a permanent dean. Marilyne Andersen will remain at EPFL as a full professor and head of the Laboratory of Integrated Performance in Design (LIPID).