We Are ETH is a podcast series featuring stories from alumni and friends of ETH Zurich around the globe. Published every two weeks on Fridays, it provides an in-depth look into the world of ETH Zurich alumni and friends. The first episodes feature members of the ETH Circle, a community of ambassadors who work together to increase the international visibility of ETH Zurich.
Hosted by ETH Circle Member and Entrepreneur Susan Kish, We Are ETH will bring you conversations with the people who have taken their ETH experience out into the world and turned it into a company, a career, and a way of life.
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The development of AI has sparked a lot of interest and enthusiasm, and Anne Scherer thinks its rate of development is expected to continue to surprise us. Anne is co-founder of Delta Labs AG and author of the book You and AI, in which she tries to make people more aware of what’s going on in this field by reducing fear of that technology. Before founding Delta Labs, she was an Assistant Professor of Quantitative Marketing at the University of Zurich, a researcher at ETH Zurich, and completed her PhD at the Technical University of Munich. Anne shares her experience at ETH Zurich and how it influenced her entrepreneurial spirit, and discusses the intersection of AI and creativity. She explains why increasing AI literacy in society is important to have more informed discussions about AI. Download transcript of this episode
Olivier de Weck is a leading systems engineering expert, which he describes as “the art and science of building, implementing, and operating complex systems.” Born in Switzerland, he holds degrees in industrial engineering from ETH Zurich (1993) and aerospace systems engineering from MIT (2001), where is now Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems. In this episode he compares ETH Zurich and MIT, highlighting their similarities and global impact. He explains the concept of “ilities” (as in reliability, flexibility, etc.) in systems engineering and its importance in designing and maintaining complex systems. He shares his fascination with space, and explains the potential for Mars settlement. Download transcript of this episode
Georg Polzer went straight from completing his studies at ETH Zurich to co-founding Teralytics, an official Spin-Off company of ETH Zurich. An AI-powered platform providing mobility data solutions, Teralytics collects and analyzes large amounts of location data to improve transportation efficiency and equity. Georg highlights the importance of designing transportation systems based on recent and all-encompassing data. He also emphasizes it is essential to incorporate the needs of all citizens, including vulnerable populations. With this information, he can help understand emerging trends, and advise how they impact people’s mobility choices. Download transcript of this episode
Mariko transitioned from ETH Zurich to the University of Michigan before joining NASA, where she works on mission formulation: the journey from a mere idea, to a project for space exploration complete with scientific objectives, cost constraints, and technological feasibility, which can take several years. The conversation covers planetary protection, the evolution of remote sensing technologies, and the search for Martian groundwater. We learn about the holistic approach to space programmes, the importance of mentoring, and why everyone should be paying forward to the next generation. Download transcript of this episode
Starting as an entrepreneur, Pascal Mathis co-founded Get Your Guide, ETH Zurich’s first tech unicorn, and later transitioned to angel investing and co-founding Wingman Ventures. Pascal believes that Switzerland has the potential to become the next Silicon Valley due to its talent pool and stable business environment. Pascal emphasizes the importance of logical thinking and problem-solving skills acquired during his time at ETH Zurich. He shares insights into the pre-seed stage of investing, and offers advice for both investors and entrepreneurs. Download transcript of this episode
For Patricia Schramm, former president of the American Swiss Foundation, learning the classics at ETH’s neighbour, the University of Zurich, was invaluable. From using Latin to learn English, and now working as a consultant for the Alumni Association of ETH Zurich, education has been the core of her career. Patricia talks about following your passions wherever they lead, how an unexpected move to New York led to her staying there, and the importance of letting serendipity have a say in your future. Download transcript of this episode
Moving from Rome to study at ETH Zurich, Michela Puddu’s PhD experience inspired her to become an entrepreneur. Her work has been recognized with several awards, and she is a regular speaker at Swiss and international events. Michela speaks about building her own company, overcoming a fear of public speaking, and why it’s important to have a co-founder – or two! Download transcript of this episode
Biodiversity expert and former ETH faculty Lian Pin Koh is a pioneer in the use of drones in conservation. As an ex-nominated MP in Singapore, and a professor at the National University of Singapore, Lian Pin’s impact extends to different areas of policy and education. We hear about the nexus of nature and technology, the creation of conservation drones, and his love of Star Wars. Download transcript of this episode
From product development to encouraging more people into STEM, Petra wants her work to have an impact in every possible area. She is passionate about driving innovation at every level, and credits ETH Zurich with helping her achieve the type of structured thinking required to do this. Find out why she speaks four languages fluently, what brought her to study mechanical engineering at ETH Zurich, and learn about the joys of childhood trips to Technorama, the Swiss Science Centre. Download transcript of this episode
As we count down to COP28, it’s clear we cannot live as if we had three planets at our disposal, when we have only one. In this episode, Nicoletta tells us how her journey in sustainability began – and why making the topic real for people can help integrate sustainability into our daily lives. Download transcript of this episode
It’s hard to believe that women only got the vote in Switzerland in 1971. Renata von Tscharner, retired President of the Charles River Conservancy, shares candid insights based on her unique experiences campaigning for the vote. Telling the inspiring story of her career as an urban planner, she also highlights the importance of swimming in rivers, and learning to play the accordion. Be sure to listen until the end for a musical surprise! Download transcript of this episode
How do antifungal proteins in yeast practice forms of warfare against each other? What could this mean for the development of antifungal medicines? Sonja’s in-depth knowledge and passion for the world of fungi helps us understand that mushrooms are more than just a pizza topping. Download transcript of this episode
Ultimately, Vincent would like to science to shift the focus from theory to real applications. He’s not interested in engineering for engineering’s sake, but engineering with purpose. With this in mind, we learn about his work in robotics and how robots are coming out of factory settings into our homes. Download transcript of this episode
Rasmus says that AI is neither good nor bad. It’s about how it’s applied. In this episode, we learn about the potential and the pitfalls of AI, hear about the profound impact of Chat GPT, and the need for government spending and regulations in Europe. What are the biggest challenges around the successful application of generative artificial intelligence over the next few years? What are the politics of AI? How does Rasmus think it will evolve? Download transcript of this episode
In this episode, we get to know Felix’ passion for jazz and fundamental physics. Having completed a PhD in quantum optics at ETH Zurich, he intended to become a professor – until he realised that he wanted to change field because what he was working on was so niche, no one really knew about it. We learn about developing resilience; how sometimes you just have to do something completely different; and that you need to learn from setbacks, and not only define yourself through your profession. Download transcript of this episode
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As Maya Bundt puts it herself: “life happens.” In this podcast, she helps us connect the dots to explain a colourful career that includes soil science at ETH, a stint in management consulting, and a long stretch in reinsurance. This sets the scene for how she became the leading expert in cybersecurity she is today. She explains why we are vulnerable to cyberthreats, and why we need to understand and manage those risks personally as well as a society. Download transcript of this episode
In this episode, Hans Gut explains how he successfully put out an ad in the NZZ saying he was looking for a job, and was overwhelmed by the response. We learn about the importance of family, and having to go through some situations where you don’t like parts of the job you are doing. Hans tells us about taking opportunities to build up something from scratch, surrounding yourself with the right people, and building powerful teams. Download transcript of this episode
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In this episode, we learn about what happened when Joe came to Zurich having been warned that ETH was a conservative place. He tells us that when he makes choices, he wants to take a road that will lead to other roads. We hear about Joe’s definition of the metaverse; his love of electronic music and science fiction; a Proustian moment involving a sip from a Hürlimann beer; and why he came to a small technical college called ETH. Download transcript of this episode
In this episode, we learn what first made Ogi Stanovcic come to Switzerland, and then ultimately made him decide to stay. We hear about the promise and perils of ChatGPT, about how one time the best bandwidth to be had in the country was at ETH Zurich, and how it’s actually possible to be friends with those with whom you are in business with. Download transcript of this episode
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In this episode, Mulan explains how she made up her mind to move from China to study architecture, and specifically to ETH to do this. She faced many challenges, and tells us how she turned them into an advantage, becoming a unique architect bringing together East and West, with values and perspectives shaped by her time at ETH and her upbringing in China. Download transcript of this episode
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In this episode, you’ll get to know some great insights from the world of sports that apply to research and development, and even life in general. We also learn why Luca thinks that sports and ETH overlap too little in his view, and get to know the fascinating worlds of fluidics and hyperloop technology. Download transcript of this episode
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Meet Julie Cantalou, a former colleague from the Office of the President at ETH Zurich that has made the transition to the world of politics. She is the Co-Secretary General of the Swiss Green Liberal Party. In this episode, you’ll get to know the Swiss political system, learn about ETH’s role in policymaking, and find out what are the key issues Julie is campaigning for in the elections in Zurich on 12 February 2023. Download transcript of this episode
While charting her career as an HR professional, Shanthi talks about her lessons in leadership. She sets out her thoughts on the ethics of technology using the example of AI, and discusses the role of an institution like ETH Zurich in generating discussion and debate on such topics. But did you know that she has travelled the world and steered companies in various industries through business terminations, mergers and acquisitions, and major gender diversity issues? Download transcript of this episode
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George Szpiro, member of the ETH Circle, became the Israel correspondent for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) in Jerusalem in 1986, and he was reassigned to the US in 2012. After the newspaper deadline, George would continue writing at night on science and maths topics. He has written 7 books to date. His latest book on paradoxes will be published in 2023. His research interests are financial mathematics, risk theory, and genetic algorithms and their use in predicting regularities in time series. Download transcript of this episode
Anette Freytag, a Landscape Historian currently at Rutgers University and formerly with ETH Zurich, explains why landscape architecture is not only a discipline, but an attitude and a way of life. Anette combines art and gardens in her study of Landscape Architecture, Theory, History and Design, whilst seeking ways to give back to the local community. An example is the March to Rutgers Gardens by the AIR Collaborative, of which we play a clip in the episode. Download transcript of this episode
Felix Seidel is a Data Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Caltech. Recorded live in the studio in Zurich, Susan talks to Felix about how the ETH connection was a constant throughout his career. We learn about the origins of his interest in climatology through his passion for flying, and he explans how the different twists and turns in his career path took him to where he is today. Download transcript of this episode
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On the occasion of the ETH Circle Annual Meeting, we bring you a special live recording of the We Are ETH Podcast. It features Gisbert Schneider, the Director of the Singapore-ETH Centre, in conversation with Susan, with our ETH Circle Members as the audience. They discuss everything from his foray into rock music, to his moves from Frankfurt to Zurich to Singapore. Listen to learn about why everyone should learn how to program, and what makes ETH Zurich a unique place for research. Download transcription of this episode
Our 6th episode is all about ETH alumna and chemist Margherita Fontana of Dow Chemicals. A scientist at heart, she discusses with host Susan how resilience comes from learning how to cope with uncertainty, and how she came to drive change because she didn’t feel included. An advocate for women in STEM, she explains how ETH prepared her for the challenges she would encounter later in her career, by laying the foundations for dealing with complexity, and problem-solving. Download transcription of this episode
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In this episode, Susan talks to Philippe Kahn, founder of four successful technology companies, with a focus on his most recent passion: sleep. In addition to talking about the content of his work, Philippe shares his work ethic, which explains why he still practices playing the flute daily. He also connects the dots for us between his passion for sailing, Einstein and mathematics. Download transcription of this episode
In this episode, Susan talks to Swiss diplomat Martin Dahinden. He is an expert on Swiss security policy in an international context, and currently lectures on this topic at the neighbouring University of Zurich. A keen cook and great storyteller, he is also the author of a book highlighting the Swiss contribution to culinary history, entitled: “Beyond Muesli and Fondue”. Download transcription of this episode
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Episode 3 tells the story of ETH alumnus Martin Bosshardt, one of the founding members of the ETH Circle. The former CEO of Open Systems, Martin is currently leading ETH Spin-off company Anapaya Systems, which provides SCION-based networking software and solutions – a new internet technology for more secure and more reliable online networks. Download transcription of this episode
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In our second episode, Susan talks to Jennifer Giroux dialing in from Detroit, USA, about connecting the dots that led her back to her home-town, via ETH Zurich and beyond. Jennifer is a social research and strategy consultant focusing on the social impact space. She spent 7 years at the ETH Zurich Center for Security Studies. She is an active member of the ETH Circle. Download transcription of this episode
In our first episode, Susan meets Jeannine Pilloud, the CEO of Ascom Holding AG. You can read Jeannine’s ETH Circle portrait here. Previously, she notably held positions at IBM and SBB, the Swiss Federal Railways. After first studying German, history and journalism at the University of Zurich, she went on to complete a degree in architecture at ETH Zurich. She was recently appointed to the Board of the ETH Alumni Association. This, is her story. Download transcription of this episode
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About Our Host, Susan Kish
Susan Kish works to create lasting change in the industries that underpin global prosperity. A seasoned executive, entrepreneur, and strategist, Susan catalyzes progress at the intersection of sustainability and disruptive technology, helping sectors from media to energy meet their biggest challenges. In shrinking the distance between innovation and its real-world applications, she has earned the trust of high-profile partners across diverse fields.
Her clients include US public media giant PBS and sustainable global investment pioneer Emerald Technology Ventures. Previously, as Chief Marketing Officer at the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), Susan worked to accelerate the industry’s collective effort to address climate change. At IHS Markit, she launched the Innovation Agora @ CERAWeek—the energy industry’s largest annual conclave—showcasing the world’s most promising green technologies. At New Energy Finance—later to become BloombergNEF after an acquisition by the financial intelligence behemoth—she started the BNEF Summit, today a staple of the global clean energy agenda.
Susan’s understanding of impactful, cross-platform multimedia story telling began during her time at Bloomberg and permeates all her work today, including as a fellow at MIT Connection Science and director on several boards and non-profits. She lives outside of Boston and in her spare time enjoys cooking and spending time with her family, including a wonderful, rambunctious puppy. She is an active Member of the ETH Circle.