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Welcome on board the flagship “2012” Share Share

Far from being synonymous with the end of the world, the year ahead will provide many building blocks for the global scientific corpus.

This year, Facebook will have acquired a billion users, and the YouTube epflnews channel will reach the figure of 500,000 videos watched since its inception!   2012 will be marked by a host of records of all kinds. From a scientific point of view, a number of milestones will be realised, the “International Year of Sustainable Energy for Everyone” for the UN... and the very last year of the existence of the world, if you go by the Maya calendar, which ends on the 21st December.

The planets will be featured, with a transit of Venus – the last of the century – across the Sun on the 6th of June. But it’s especially on Mars that all eyes will be focused, with the expected arrival of Curiosity, the module launched by NASA, which should land on the red planet on the 6th August. In November, a total eclipse of the Sun will plunge part of Australia and the South Pacific into darkness.

In the area of basic research, many consider that 2012 will be “Higgs Year”. Scientists at CERN will continue their hunt for the famous “boson”, with the goal of establishing its characteristics and –
perhaps – to explain why objects have mass.

As for EPFL and its own scientists, they will also be in the news. The European Commission will receive, during May, the final applications of the candidates for the “FET Flagship ” grants. The decision will be taken after a careful examination. Two of the projects in the finals are based at EPFL: the Human Brain Project (Henry Markram), and Guardian Angels (Adrian Ionescu) are in the race for significant financing over a period of ten years.

From neural implants to Einstein's laws
This year will also see EPFL’s Center for Neuroprosthetics really take off. The holders of the five chairs that constitute the center have all been appointed, and will take up residence on the campus, before moving to a specially designed building in 2013. The results of their research are already looking spectacular, in particular concerning implants and non-invasive brain–machine interfaces.

EPFL’s five faculties and two colleges will continue their work, with all the diversity of competencies that are so enriching for the School. We can expect some new grounds for enthusiasm in the areas of the environment and energy. The basic sciences won’t be left out of the picture, with new approaches to some of the laws postulated by Einstein. Astounding announcements are expected in the micro- and nano-technologies, as well as in computing. In addition, some very promising directions will be followed in bioengineering: this will include nano-injectors of pharmaceutical substances that can be triggered at a distance using a laser; or synthetic bone matter that the body will gradually replace by human bone tissue. The combat against tuberculosis and new approaches to cancer treatment will also see significant progress.

The laboratories will therefore be going full blast, and in the process the passion of the researchers will be transmitted via lectures, seminars, practical work and collaborative projects, which the School is continuously improving. Student life, in this small “town” that the EPFL campus has become, will once again be stimulated by numerous events – both festive, administrative and scientific – that are already entered in the calendar (see some links on the right).

So will 2012 be a year like any other? Definitely not. Rather, a year in which EPFL will build on past success, while adding its unique spice to the mix to impart a very special flavor. We wish you a hearty appetite for the sciences, and a healthy thirst for knowledge!