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Why EPFL? Why EDIC?

EPFL does great research in computer science, communication systems, and adjacent areas such as robotics. Now that the obvious is out of the way, here are some other good reasons to do a PhD here.

The quality of life: PhD students at EPFL are treated more like employees than students. You receive a salary that is way above the PhD salary of almost everywhere else, and there are no tuition fees. You also get employee benefits such as a free half-fare card for Swiss trains, a rebate on public transport passes, and so on. You get 25 days of vacation a year, which is 5 work weeks, plus holidays. Switzerland is not cheap, but the salary more than makes up for it. You will not have to keep a detailed budget, unless you have expensive hobbies. You also do not need a car, public transport can get you to virtually everywhere.

The environment: EPFL is right next to the biggest lake in Western Europe. Walk less than 10 minutes from your office and you’ll be standing at the edge of a super pretty lake, staring at the beautiful mountains on the other side. Or turn around and stare at the mountains on the Swiss side. Or go to any of these mountains to ski or snowboard!

The location: Switzerland is in a great location in Europe, you can easily travel to many countries for a weekend, often without even needing to fly. And the salary mentioned above means this is actually feasible from a monetary standpoint.

The students: EPFL students at the Bachelor and Master levels have to do small research projects in labs as part of their curriculum, which means you can supervise “minions” to do your bidding, such as interesting extensions to a project that you would otherwise not have the time for. EPFL students are also in general very motivated to succeed; EPFL has no entrance exam, but a high failure rate especially in the first year. Note that in Switzerland, virtually nobody stops at the Bachelor level, though some go to other universities for their Masters.

The teaching: PhD students at EPFL have to TA a course every semester except the first and last, which is <20% of the total workload. How much you want to get involved is up to you, you can do anything from purely back-office stuff like grading to giving lectures or even teaching your own small course. This is great if you love teaching or want experience to go into academia.

Here is an excellent guide from one of IC’s professors Mathias Payer.

Specific differences from US universities