One promotion and four new professors for the School of Engineering

The Board of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology announced on Friday, 28 September 2012 the appointment of four new professors and one internal promotion for the School of Engineering.

Helena Van Swygenhoven has been appointed Full Professor of Materials Science (at 20%).

Helena Van Swygenhoven has made major contributions to many areas of materials science, but she is mainly known for her research on mechanisms of plastic deformation in nanocrystalline metals. She is a pioneer in the introduction of modeling at the atomic scale in this area.

By using highly complex three-dimensional molecular dynamics simulation, she has studied, on an atomic level, the response of true nanocrystalline metals to applied stress. She has also demonstrated creativity in designing and developing experimental methods to validate the results of her numerical simulations.

In 2012, Helena Van Swygenhoven was appointed Fellow of the Materials Research Society for her “pioneering contribution in using a combination of large-scale atomic simulations and elegant experiments to reveal the mechanisms of plastic deformation in metals with nanocrystalline grain sizes”.

Hatice Altug has been appointed Associate Professor of Bio-engineering.

Hatice Altug’s experimental and theoretical research in photonics and plasmonics have contributed to the development of ultra-sensitive bio-nano sensors and photonic chip devices. In particular, she has developed manufacturing processes for photonic crystals, which are nanostructures that influence the propagation of electromagnetic waves. By combining nanofluidics and plasmonics, she has succeeded in developing devices which detect living viruses, biomolecules and chemical components.

The interdisciplinary character of Hatice Altug’s work enables her to teach in the areas of photonics, biodetection and microfluidics, in life sciences and technology, as well as biotechnology and photonics.

Simon Henein has been appointed Associate Professor of Microengineering.

Simon Henein’s research work focuses on the design and implementation of mechanical precision devices. In a very creative way, he has succeeded in developing innovative research programs in many areas of application, ranging from robotics to the aerospace industry and watchmaking. He has worked on the design and analysis of a mechanism for the spectrometer aboard ESA/NASA’s James Webb space telescope. He is also behind a number of innovations in the Swiss watchmaking industry.

This chair is sponsored by Patek Philippe SA, and its objectives are to develop new manufacturing technologies on a micro and nanometric scale, to create concepts and high performance materials for the watchmaking industry, and to train researchers and scientists so that they can work at the forefront of these technologies.

Jürg Schiffmann has been appointed Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Jürg Schiffmann’s research work focuses on the design of advanced mechanical devices, and specifically on high-speed rotating machines with applications in the area of energy. Through both experimental and computational research, he has become an acknowledged expert in the optimization of high-speed gas bearings and their application to heat pumps. This area requires solid, multidisciplinary knowledge in mechanical design, thermodynamics, turbomachines, rotor dynamics as well as in numerical simulation and optimization. Various applications have already been studied, such as drilling, volumetric and dynamic compressors and micro gas turbine generators.

Comfortable both in academic and industrial research environments, Jürg Schiffmann has directly contributed to the transfer of technology in his area of expertise.

Tobias Schneider has been appointed Tenure Track Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering.

Tobias Schneider’s research involves several aspects of fluid mechanics – fundamental and applied – combined with dynamical systems and pattern formation theory.

His work on laminar-turbulent transition in pipe flow has provided one of the most interesting breakthroughs in fluid mechanics during the last decade. He has made substantial progress on this long-standing issue by describing the boundary between turbulent and laminar flows within precise dynamical system concepts, and by suggesting that a turbulent state in a spatially confined region might in fact not be statistically stationary but, on the contrary, decays.

His generalist knowledge has also allowed him to contribute actively to many transdisciplinary projects ranging from microfluidics and genomics to the development of solar cells.

Article by Sandy Evangelista
Photos by Alain Herzog