Mathematics

math

Mathematics

The origins of mathematics go back to the dawn of civilization in the attempts to understand the movement of the stars, to compose calendars, to keep accounts, and for measuring arable land. With Ancient Greek civilization, mathematics became systematized in the form of axioms, theorems, and proofs. Science was born.
Throughout history, mathematics has played a central role in culture, science, and technology. It has been widened and consolidated with the development of foundations, abstraction, and rigor with a focus on exploring new fields and resolving new problems.
One of the greatest discoveries in the history of knowledge, attributed to European thinkers of the 16th and 17th centuries, states that the world can be partly described by equations. We are not foolish enough to believe that equations can tell us about beauty, justice, or freedom, or that they can help us to understand our feelings or our dreams. Yet the fact remains that there are more and more problems and phenomena that we can effectively describe and analyze because of mathematics.
The traditional branches of mathematics are as vibrant and dynamic today as they were 50, 100, or 200 years ago. Old (sometimes very old) problems are solved and new fields of research are explored; thus Fermat’s Last Theorem, a crucial question in the theory of numbers, was recently solved using modern methods of algebraic geometry. What we can call “traditional mathematical culture” still remains bursting with vitality.
On the other hand, we are witnessing a real explosion of new disciplines. Recent mathematical developments, coupled with the current potential of computers, have paved the way for new ways of doing science and understanding the world through developing mathematical models for highly complex phenomena, in particular through computer simulations of the behavior and evolution of the phenomena in question.
The vitality of mathematics is illustrated in the 2003 Nobel Prize. The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to John Nash for his work on the mathematical modeling of time series in finance and the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Paul Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield for their work on medical imaging which relies on mathematics linked with integral geometry.
Current developments in mathematics are extraordinarily rich. It can truly be said that it is a science of today and the future: the oldest science of the future.

Program presentation and study plan

BSc (180 ECTS credits)
The basics of analysis, geometry, linear algebra, and general physics are acquired during the 1st year, following which teaching continues with the inclusion of new branches such as topology, operations research, probability, statistics, and numerical analysis. During the 3rd year of the BSc degree, you choose all of your classes and will also carry out two semester projects. Your degree will thus have a personal touch which will serve you well in choosing a MSc program.

SEE THE SIMPLIFIED STUDY PLAN (IN FRENCH)

Prospects: MSc Programs
MSc in Mathematics (90 credits) focuses on different mathematical fields (algebra, analysis, probability, theory of numbers, geometry, and topology). The level and variety of classes taken will enable you to acquire great skills in fundamental mathematical tools, abstract reasoning, as well as anticipating differing fields of application.
MSc in Applied Mathematics (120 credits) focuses on the applications of mathematics (operations research, applied probability and stochastic processes, statistics, numerical analysis, and scientific calculation). You will be a specialist in analyzing complex problems requiring abstraction, the extraction of relevant parameters, simulations of the system studied, predictions and comparisons of results with reality. This program also includes a semester-long internship in industry.
MSc in Computational Science and Engineering (120 credits) trains you in the interdisciplinary fields of science and engineering based on modeling and computer simulation.
Other programs will be open to you after graduating with the BSc degree, in particular some interdisciplinary MSc programs. See our website at master.epfl.ch for further information.
Please note that the information regarding the programs’ structure as well as details of the study plan may be subject to change.

Video (in French): Marie, Mathematics student

Career Prospects

Successfully completing a BSc in Mathematics at EPFL opens the door to many more specific MSc programs. At the end of this MSc, you will then be ready to enter the professional world.
The possibilities on offer following mathematical training are ever expanding, with numerical data playing an increasingly important part in our society. As a result, you will find opportunities in all fields eager for statistical and probabilistic analyses, such as finance, banking, or insurance. Your skills will naturally also be sought after by the computer sector (particularly for modeling) and the communication-technology sector which has ever-increasing needs in coding, cryptography, and data protection.
After your studies, it is also possible to embark on a teaching career or to do a PhD (at EPFL or another institution) which will open the doors to an academic career.

Alumni testimonies

Irene Vicari

Irene Vicari
Bachelor and Master degrees in Mathematics (2010)
Quantitative Risk Analyst at UBS, New York




… when they offered me the chance to move abroad. I’ve always liked traveling and discovering new cultures: I grew up in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, I wrote my Master’s thesis in Australia and I worked in Zurich. The day my boss asked me if I wanted to move to New York for two years, I took the opportunity.

I love challenges. When I graduated from EPFL, I had two job offers: one in the industry and the other in finance. I chose finance. It gave me the possibility to live in Zurich and to learn the third national language, and the economic crisis made this field even more challenging for me.

At UBS, I work as a quantitative risk analyst. In other words, I develop methods to analyze the risk that the bank takes when it gives credits to its customers. I define scenarios to see how the portfolio of a client changes in different situations. Since I’ve been in New York, I not only implement the methods that we develop in Switzerland, but I also explain the functionality of the models and the outputs to the people who are going to use them and analyze the data. I therefore often interact with my colleagues, our stakeholders and the IT department.

The quantitative methods I acquired during my studies are very useful! When I develop or improve models for example, I need my background in mathematics. But what is very important too, is that EPFL taught us how to work: how to think, how to structure pieces of information, how to search for the data you need.

I will decide in 2 years if I want to stay longer in the USA or not. But in any case, this experience has been absolutely unique for my career and my personal life.

Contact

Looking for further details about this program?
Please check its specific webpages or use the contacts below:

+41 (0)21 693 25 65