Our top ten news articles from 2022
EPFL published nearly 300 news articles on its homepage in 2022, detailing the latest developments in science, academics, student life, startups and EPFL in general. Here’s a summary of the ten most-read news stories from 2022, including one from the School of Engineering.
1. EPFL mathematician Maryna Viazovska is awarded a Fields Medal
In July, Maryna Viazovska, who holds the Chair of Number Theory at EPFL, has been awarded a Fields Medal, widely considered to be the highest accolade in her discipline and described as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics. At 37 years of age, Viazovska has thus become only the second female Fields Medalist – after Maryam Mirzakhani in 2014. The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to one or more mathematicians under the age of 40. Originally from Ukraine, Maryna Viazovska joined EPFL in 2016.
2. New implant offers promise for the paralyzed
A system developed by Grégoire Courtine and Jocelyne Bloch now enables patients with a complete spinal cord injury to stand, walk and even perform recreational activities like swimming, cycling and canoeing. A targeted epidural electrical stimulation of the area that controls leg movement allowed patients to regain some motor function. The scientists also identified a key neuron involved in the recovery of motor function.
3. New PET-like plastic made directly from waste biomass
EPFL scientists have developed a new, PET-like plastic that is easily made from the non-edible parts of plants. The plastic is tough, heat-resistant, and a good barrier to gases like oxygen, making it a promising candidate for food packaging. Due to its structure, the new plastic can also be chemically recycled and degrade back to harmless sugars in the environment.
4. More soil, less concrete
Architecture student Jeremy Morris assessed the life cycle of building materials in Vaud Canton. His research shows that the construction industry could shrink its carbon footprint by making more regular use of soil. Morris proposes three courses of action: changing the law so that soil is no longer treated as “waste” but instead as a “resource”, governmental subsidies for earth construction methods, setting up training programs in rammed earth and soil construction methods.
5. A key role for quantum entanglement
A method known as quantum key distribution has long held the promise of communication security not possible in conventional cryptography. For the first time, an international team of scientists, including researchers from EPFL, has demonstrated experimentally an approach to quantum key distribution based on high-quality quantum entanglement — offering much broader security guarantees than previous schemes.
6. How to compete with robots
Swiss roboticists and economists from EPFL and University of Lausanne developed a method for estimating the probability of jobs being automated by future intelligent robots and suggesting career transitions with lower risks and minimal retraining effort.
7. AI to control plasmas for nuclear fusion
Scientists at EPFL’s Swiss Plasma Center and DeepMind have jointly developed a new method for controlling plasma configurations for use in nuclear fusion research.
8. EPFL lab to digitize 1,000m2 'Swiss national treasure'
EPFL is leading the digitization and valorization of the Panorama of the Battle of Murten – a 100 x 10-meter work created in 1893 by German panorama painter Louis Braun – in an undertaking that promises to yield one of the largest digital images ever produced.
9. The days of the generalist are gone. Long live the specialist!
Is it better to be a generalist or a specialist? A team from ERPFL set about answering this question by digging through data on more than 30,000 biomedical researchers. In terms of career impact, the answer couldn’t be clearer: specialization confers a significant, long-lasting advantage. This finding, which could be extrapolated to other disciplines, confirms that the days of the Renaissance generalist are gone, and that we now live in the era of the specialist.
10. A new makerspace and medals
In March 2022, EPFL inaugurated the SPOT (Student Prototyping and Outreach Tank), a new building dedicated to mechanical and electronic prototyping. This space aims to provide students with all the resources they need to carry out their projects. These projects have enabled them to achieve great success in international competitions in synthetic biology, biosensing, solar boats and Formula student.