2018 Alumni Awards and Honoris Causa Doctorates

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artificial intelligence

At EPFL’s 2018 graduation ceremony, the EPFL Alumni club gave out Alumni Awards to two former students who have had outstanding careers: Pauline Baumgartner-Harris and Déborah Heintze. The School also awarded two Honoris Causa degrees – one to Martine Clozel, a medical doctor, and the other to Yann LeCun, the computer scientist who heads up artificial intelligence research at Facebook.

2018 Alumni Awards

Pauline Baumgartner-Harris (CH ‘97)

Baumgartner-Harris, who grew up in Paris, was always interested in science and decided to follow in the footsteps of her father – a graduate of EPFL’s predecessor school, EPUL. She obtained a chemical engineering degree from EPFL in 1997. After completing an internship at an intellectual property consulting firm in London, she decided to pursue a career in this field and spent four years in the patents department of Firmenich. In 2002 she became a licensed European patent attorney and in 2004 was appointed Firmenich’s global technology marketing manager, where her role included developing a marketing strategy and serving as the interface between innovation, customers and R&D. Backed by this hands-on business experience, she returned to intellectual property, but this time at Nestlé where she managed IP for the ice-cream business, based at the company’s headquarters in Vevey. In 2013 she returned to Firmenich to implement the firm’s open innovation strategy, setting up a number of strategic partnerships. She was appointed vice president of intellectual property in 2016 and now heads a ten-person team.

Pauline Baumgartner-Harris.

Déborah Heintze (SV ‘12)

Déborah Heintze spent her childhood in Lausanne where she was passionate about math and sports. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in life sciences and technology at EPFL and then spent a year at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in Boston. Returning to EPFL, she graduated with a Master’s degree in bioengineering in 2012. Although she had originally planned to follow a conventional career path, she was given the opportunity to help launch a new business: Lunaphore Technologies, an EPFL spin-off whose revolutionary technology can slash the time needed to diagnose cancer cells from a few hours to a few minutes. She is now Lunaphore’s COO and manages a 30-person team. Her responsibilities include supply-chain management, regulatory affairs, sales & marketing and business development. In 2018, Lunaphore raised 5.3 million francs in capital, formed a number of strategic partnerships and was ranked #3 in the Top 100 Swiss Startups. That year Heintze also made it into the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Switzerland.

2018 Honoris Causa Doctorates

Martine Clozel

A medical doctor by training, Clozel is currently the chief scientific officer of Idorsia, a biopharmaceutical company that develops new drugs for innovative therapeutic treatments.


Yann LeCun

LeCun is Facebook’s chief AI scientist and is known for his important advances in the field of machine learning.

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