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New dean for Sydney Uni’s Engineering and IT faculty

Professor Willy Zwaenepoel has been appointed Dean of the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, starting on 15 June 2018.

Currently based at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Professor Zwaenepoel is a well-established global leader in experimental computer science research, with a particular interest in distributed systems and operating systems.

“Professor Zwaenepoel will join the University of Sydney at an important time for our Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies as it moves ahead with its strategy and engages in a significant digital and physical infrastructure renewal,” said University of Sydney vice-chancellor and principal Dr Michael Spence.

“In particular, Professor Zwaenepoel’s expertise in commercialisation will be of great benefit to the faculty, and indeed the wider University as we seek to broaden our external engagement.”

Born in Belgium, Professor Zwaenepoel studied at Ghent University before completing his master’s and doctorate degrees at Stanford. He spent almost two decades at Rice University in the United States, before spending nine years as dean of EPFL’s School of Computer and Communication Sciences.

Professor Zwaenepoel has been elected as a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery.

He was a key advisor to Nutanix from 2010 (currently valued at US$5.5 billion) and his research has led to two startups, iMimic and BugBuster, being acquired by Cisco. 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. He continues to advise several start-ups and is as a member of the board of ICT Switzerland.

“I am excited about the possibility of leading a faculty that is on a rapid upward trajectory and has plenty of opportunity for further growth,” said Zwaenepoel.

“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.”

Zwaenepoel will also bring to Sydney what he describes as a singular focus on excellence in recruitment, promotion and retention while dean at EPFL, where he recruited a number of senior academics from prominent US universities and increased the number of women academics as he grew the school and increased its profile.

“A ‘good people above all’ line of thinking has informed many of my decisions,” he said.

Zwaenepoel will take up his new role in June, replacing Professor Archie Johnston whose term concludes at the end of this year.

“Professor Johnston has made a significant contribution in making and sustaining the faculty’s outstanding international reputation. He has worked with colleagues to build a wonderful foundation for the future and we wish him well,’ the vice-chancellor added.

Professor Kim Rasmussen, deputy dean and associate dean (Research Management and Research Education) in the faculty, will serve as acting dean until Professor Zwaenepoel’s arrival.

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