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Computer experts quit Silicon Valley for Lausanne
swissinfo May 9, 2004 11:56 AM
Two leading computer scientists - Thomas and Monika Henzinger - are leaving
top jobs in the United States to join the Federal Institute of Technology in
Lausanne as professors.
Thomas Henzinger, who was full professor at Berkeley, told swissinfo he and
his wife were attracted by the institute’s philosophy.
The couple are considered experts in their information technology fields.
Thomas Henzinger is a pioneer in program verification, while his wife is a
specialist in algorithms.
German-born Monika Henzinger is currently director of research at the search
engine, Google. She starts work at the institute on October 1.
Her Austrian husband has already taken up his new post.
swissinfo: We often hear talk of a “brain drain” from Switzerland to the
United States. Do you think the Americans could one day lose their leading
position in scientific research?
Thomas Henziger: Of course, I would love to see the rest of the world, and
Europe in particular, becoming more competitive.
One of the reasons that the Americans are such a strong force in science is
that they know how to attract the world’s most brilliant students. If you
want to compete in this area, you need real commitment and financial
The American universities are unrivalled in the world. I think everyone
would agree with that, whether they like it or not. And their strength is
swissinfo: To pick up on that idea of commitment and funding, do you think
that a small country like Switzerland can sustain world-class universities?
T.H.: I think you have them already. The federal institutes of technology in
Zurich and Lausanne are of a very high standard compared with what’s
available in most European countries.
And there is certainly enough money here to achieve something. That’s
another reason why we decided to come.
swissinfo: Why have you chosen Switzerland and the Federal Institute of
Technology in Lausanne in particular when you could have gone to the other
Swiss federal institute in Zurich?
Thomas Henzinger: We have lived in the United States for a long time, but we
are both Europeans and we have wanted to come back for some time.
We looked at a variety of things, and probably the most important was the
philosophy behind this school. That really attracted me. They’ve made a lot
of changes recently that I think are in the right direction, like the
English-speaking graduate school and the tenure-track system for professors.
swissinfo: Your work is in embedded systems. Can you explain what that
T.H.: Embedded systems are not PCs, they’re computer systems that control
more and more things in our lives – from elevators, to cars, to aircraft.
There’s a lot of software that runs on these systems and it’s very often in
safety critical situations, like the software that runs the fuel injection
of your car or the braking system.
It’s very important that you do not have errors in safety critical systems.
My research focuses on methods to find and prevent such errors.
---- URL of this story http://www.swissinfo.org/sen/swissinfo.html?siteSect=105&sid=4919019 Related Sites Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne: http://www.epfl.ch/ _______________________________________________ Swiss-list mailing list Swiss-list_at_swiss-list.com http://www.swiss-list.com/mailman/listinfo/swiss-listReceived on Mon May 31 2004 - 21:16:58 PDT