What a year! When I started as the Dean of ENAC in 2020, I never imagined that one of my main challenges would be to perform my duties largely remotely.
Both spring and fall classes were moved online, telecommunicating became the norm, and our Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD students, professors, and post-doctoral fellows had to be resourceful in order to meet their class requirements and perform their research. The situation was difficult. I was moved to see how everyone gave their best to deal with it and overcome the burden. It required a lot of patience and flexibility, and I am proud of the resilience and innovativeness of all our people working and studying in their labs, offices and classrooms. I am now looking forward to once again interacting and exchanging personally with everyone to further build our community.
Looking back, I am very satisfied with all the work accomplished in 2020 by the Dean’s Office and the ENAC Board, particularly all the effort and dedication put into recruiting professors and building our strategy.
We defined five key areas to further grow in the years to come:
Based on our vision – “ENAC is the leading faculty for sustainability in the built and natural environment” – we have been further fostering interdisciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration and making it more visible. For example, the CLIMACT Center, a joint initiative with UNIL and co-directed by Prof. Michael Lehning (ENAC) and Prof. Julia Steinberger (UNIL), was launched by EPFL’s upper management, while we put in place interdisciplinary research clusters that allow for bottom-up initiatives within ENAC. Our new cluster manager is spearheading and fostering interdisciplinary development and inviting partners from industry, the public sector and NGOs to collaborate with ENAC on our three challenges: climate change, digitalization and urbanization. The labs have been asked to contribute, and most of them were involved in a series of workshops designed to identify potential problem areas. We now have many exciting projects on the way, all of them aimed at pushing science forward.
Moving ahead in the fields of environmental and civil engineering as well as architecture also means encouraging diversity at all levels. The testimonials posted by Polyquity last September left me speechless. In response – and drawing on our students’ experience and commitment – we decided, together with the associate deans, to create a Diversity Office at ENAC, that was officially launched in early 2021 and that builds on the work of the ENAC Gender Equality Working Group (ENGW).
ENGW’s mandate had been to attract excellent female candidates for our faculty searches. The newly created Diversity office, headed by Rizlan Bernier-Latmani, aims to tackle diversity issues by involving the entire ENAC community, namely professors, Bachelor’s and Master’s students, PhD students, postdocs, senior scientists, and technical and administrative staff.
At ENAC, we want to support our faculty members in their efforts to adopt open science practices. For this purpose, we created ENAC-IT4research, a team that offers services in data engineering, data science and data visualization. ENAC-IT4research will also showcase open science research outputs at ENAC and foster links with other EPFL entities involved in data science and open science, such as the Swiss Data Science Center and the EPFL library.
And as nothing would be visible without communications, I am thrilled with the look of our new website, the newsletter to our partners, and the wealth of articles published on our news channels showing how diverse and high level the research conducted at ENAC is. I aim to further improve our communications and keep our partners and colleagues well-informed, in close collaboration with Mediacom. Our goal is to share our knowledge on sustainability challenges in the built and natural environment, remain open to future collaborations and reach out to the German-speaking part of Switzerland.
I am confident as we move forward in 2021. New collaborations and the high quality of disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and teaching at ENAC show how we actively contribute to the common goal of finding solutions for a sustainable future.
The disciplines grouped in the school of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC) at EPFL are called upon to find solutions to the most important challenge of our time: to guarantee a sustainable living environment for humanity through a successful integration of human activities within the biosphere.
Within the three teaching sections, 70 laboratories and various research units of ENAC, our students, doctoral students, post-doctoral fellows and professors are advancing knowledge in the fields of architecture, civil engineering and environmental engineering. Here are some highlights of 2020’s achievements.
The excellent work carried out in 2020 by ENAC students and researchers has been rewarded with multiple prizes in Switzerland and abroad. We are proud to present them here.