Previously the Head of the School of Computer and Communications Sciences at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Professor Willy Zwaenepoel plans to continue his singular focus on excellence in recruitment, promotion and retention in his new role as Dean of Engineering at the University of Sydney.
“A ‘good people above all’ line of thinking has informed many of my decisions,” says Professor Zwaenepoel of his time at EPFL where he recruited senior academics from prominent US universities, including a number of female academics.
“To be a top 10 faculty, you need to have top 10 academics and the best students, and then create an environment for them to be productive,” he says.
Professor Zwaenepoel sees the growth in biotechnologies and their reliance on data analytics as one of the most exciting opportunities for the Faculty to increase its influence and research expertise.
Already operating one of the largest biomedical engineering programs in the Southern Hemisphere and with the University of Sydney’s strong multidisciplinary links with medical staff and academics at Westmead Hospital, the Faculty has a solid foundation on which to build its capabilities in the healthcare sector.
To capitalise on the already strong educational offering, Professor Zwaenepoel is keen to ensure that computing and data analytics are central to all engineering degrees, offering a distinct point of difference in the Australian market and ensuring that students are fully prepared for the jobs of the future.
Bringing with him from Switzerland two postdoctoral staff and students, Professor Zwaenepoel is also looking forward to continuing his research in operating and distributed systems here at the University.
An established global leader in experimental computer science research, he is best known for his work on the Treadmarks distributed shared memory system, which was licensed to Intel and became the basis for Intel’s OpenMP cluster product.
He was also a key advisor to Nutanix from its creation (currently valued at US$8.8 billion) and his research led Cisco to acquire two startups, iMimic and BugBuster.
Professor Zwaenepoel brings to the Faculty considerable experience in commercialisation and a wide range of international research networks including several in Silicon Valley. He has played a major role in attracting industry funding, including a Microsoft gift totalling 9 million Swiss francs (around AUD$12 million) to EPFL and ETH Zurich.
“The University of Sydney’s engineering and IT academics attract plaudits from around the world and I hope that under my leadership we can work together to foster collaboration and application of research ideas to real-world problems,” he says.