École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), or the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, is a public research university in Lausanne, Switzerland. Unusually for a Swiss university, it is controlled by the federal government.
The university originated from the École special de Lausanne, a school with just 11 students. In 1869 it became the technical department of the public Académie de Lausanne. After the academy became the University of Lausanne, the école established itself as a federal institute in its own right: the EPFL.
EPFL is highly regarded for its research and teaching in engineering. More recently, EPFL has branched out into the life sciences; acquiring the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in 2008. The university belongs to the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain, a union of research institutes and universities which also includes ETH Zürich.
Like other Swiss universities, EPFL is unselective in its undergraduate admissions. Selection is based on the results of first year exams, which approximately half of students fail. EPFL has a highly international student population, with nearly half of students coming to study at the university from abroad.
EPFL has coordinated ambitious international research projects, including the Blue Brain Project and the Human Brain Project, attempting to reconstruct mammalian and human brains digitally. The institute is home to a nuclear reactor, a fusion reactor and a Blue Gene/Q supercomputer. The EPFL in Figures 2013 report describes an entrepreneurial attitude among staff and students and an average of 12 new start-ups a year since 1997.
The EPFL campus, shared with the University of Lausanne, is located beside Lake Geneva and is powered entirely by electricity produced from hydropower. EPFL has several satellite campuses and facilities in Switzerland. The EPFL campus hosts regular music festivals, and has two museums: the Musée Bolo and Archizoom.