International Scientific Advisory Board

The International Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB-COOP) was set up in 2006 to strengthen Cooperation@epfl’s performance and to help it face its new challenges

The mission of the ISAB-COOP was to independently guide EPFL to help it open up its scientific, research, educational and training activities, so that it could contribute to advances in solving the most pressing development challenges in the least favoured countries. The ISAB-COOP board provided EPFL with support to implement a policy strategy of scientific cooperation for development, which will be successful in the long term.

ISAB-COOP meetings
The first ISAB-COOP meeting was held on November 2006. As a result the strategic Plan of Cooperation@epfl was embodied in the document “Strategic Plan for Cooperation@epfl: The present and future of scientific cooperation at the EPFL”, which was drawn up by the Unit in 2007, together with the concept for its implementation for the years 2009-2012. The Presidency of the EPFL and the ISAB-COOP approved the strategic Plan the same year and since then it has served the Unit as a guide for the implementation of its activities.
Two further meetings of the ISAB-COOP board have been held at the EPFL campus, on March 2008 and on February 2010.
ISAB-COOP board members
The ISAB-COOP consists of an independent and multidisciplinary group of 12 members, all of whom have experience and international recognition in different areas related to scientific cooperation, science and technology, cooperation for development and sustainable development.
The ISAB-COOP is made up of the following experts:  



Marcel Tanner was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1952 and he did BSc and MSc studies in Biology, Chemistry and Medical Microbiology/Immunology and Zoology at the University of Basel, and holds a PhD in Medical Parasitology from the same university. He pursued post-doctoral research in Cameroon and Liberia, and followed this with postgraduate studies at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. As Head of the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology at the Swiss Tropical Institute, he undertook research on health development projects as well as in the field of control of communicable diseases. He has presided over the Commission of the Centre Suisse de Recherche Scientifique in the Ivory Coast since 1998. He has more than 400 original papers in peer-reviewed journals, 19 book chapters and he is co-editor of two books and has published more than 200 short communications and abstracts.

He has been Director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (former Swiss Tropical Institute) in Basel since 1997 and Professor and Chair of Epidemiology and Medical Parasitology at the University of Basel since 1993. He has been Professor at the EPFL since 2007.



Ana Maria Cetto was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1946. She obtained an M.A. in Biophysics from Harvard University, and an M.Sc. and a Ph.D. in Physics from UNAM. She is a former Dean of the Faculty of Sciences and of the Department of Theoretical Physics of the Institute of Physics, UNAM and she has over 35 years experience as a research professor and lecturer in theoretical physics and electron microscopy. She has made important contributions to the theory of stochastic electrodynamics and is author of some 200 scientific publications. Ana Maria Cetto is a former President of the Executive Committee of the Pugwash Conferences (Nobel Peace Prize 1995) and member of the Board of the United Nations University, and is currently serving as President of Latindex and Secretary-General of the International Council for Science. During the last years she was Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation, Vienna, Austria. 

She is currently researcher at the Institute of Physics at the UNAM in Mexico.


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Born in 1955, Martin Dahinden studied Economics (Business Administration) at the University of Zurich. He entered the diplomatic service in 1987. During his career, he held assignments in Geneva as member of the Swiss Delegation to GATT, at the Swiss Embassy in Paris, as Deputy to the Swiss ambassador in Nigeria, and at the Swiss Mission to the UN in New York. At the Head Office in Bern, he worked at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs’ (FDFA) Service for Disarmament Policy and Nuclear Issues, as Head of the OSCE Service of Political Affairs Division I, and held the post of Deputy Head of the OSCE Coordination Unit during the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE in 1996. In 1997 he was Deputy Head of the Swiss Mission to NATO in Brussels. After having worked as Director of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining from 2000 to 2004, he headed the FDFA’s Directorate of Corporate Management until he took over the position of Director-General at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation on 1 May 2008.

He has been Director-General at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs since May, 2008.

 More information…



Claudio Fischer was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1966 and he holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Lausanne as well as an MA in Public Administration. A former Secretary General of the Swiss section of the European Movement, he worked for the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science where he was responsible for Swiss participation in the educational, vocational and youth programmes of the European Union. From 1999 to 2002 he was Scientific and Technological Counsellor at the Swiss Science Agency for the Swiss Mission to the European Communities in Brussels where he was in charge of research, technology, innovation and education. He has been the Head of International Affairs at the State Secretariat of the Swiss Science Agency in the Federal Department of Home Affairs from 2002 to 2004, as well as Head of Bilateral Research Cooperation at the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research from 2005 to July 2007.

Since August 2007 he is Head of International Relations and Languages of the Swiss Parliament.



Born in Fribourg, Switzerland in 1940, Jacques Forster holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Neuchâtel. He was Head of the Latin America section of the Swiss Development Cooperation at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs between 1972 and 1977. In 1977 he was appointed professor at the Graduate Institute of Development Studies in Geneva, of which he was director from 1980 to 1992.  He was President of INTERCOOPERATION as well as Vice-President of the European Association of Development Research Training Institutes. He is the author of many publications on development economics and international development cooperation. From 1999 to 2007 he was Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva (ICRC).

Since 2006, he is a Professor emeritus of the Graduate Institute of Development Studies in Geneva. He remains a member of the ICRC and is since 2007 Vice-president of the Board of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva



Born in Antofagasta, Chile in 1951, Eric Goles is a Civil Engineer and mathematician and holds a PhD in Engineering and a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Grenoble. He has published 12 books and more than 115 papers in refereed journals or book chapters on complexity, computer science, discrete mathematics and mathematical modelling. He won the Sciences National Award from Chile in 1993. He is a former Director of Chile’s National Centre for Mathematics and a researcher at the National Centre of Scientific Research in France. He has been a Professor and researcher at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Chile as well as Director of the National Centre for Mathematical Modelling. In 2004 he won the prestigious UNESCO-CNRS Prize Jules Verne for a programme of scientific outreach for open television during the last 10 years. He was President of the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research from 2000 to 2006.

He is currently Professor at the Faculty of Sciences and Technology at the University Adolfo Ibañez, a researcher at the National Centre for Mathematical Modelling as well as Scientific Director of the Institute for Complex Systems in Valparaiso.


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Georges Haddad was born in La Goulette, Tunisia in 1951 and hold French nationality. He graduated from École Normale Supérieure and has an M.A. in Mathematical Sciences from the University of Paris VII and a DEA in Mathematics from the University of Paris VI, as well as a PhD in Mathematical Sciences. Appointed Professor at the University of Nice in 1984, he has since been Professor at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, where he was President from 1989 to 1994 and is currently Honorary President. From 1992 to 1994 he was Premier Vice-président (Chair) of the French Conference of University Presidents. He participated in the World Conference on Higher Education as Chairperson of its Steering Committee, and was also a member of the Task Force on Higher Education in Developing Countries (World Bank-UNESCO) from 1997 to 2000. He is a member of several scientific councils and the author of many publications in the field of applied mathematics, as well as on education, higher education and research. He was named a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur and an Officer des Palmes Académiques in recognition of his contributions to scientific research and education respectively.

He has been Director of the Division of Higher Education at UNESCO since 2004, and is the Organization’s representative on the Board and Council of the United Nations University.



Born in Mühleberg, Switzerland in 1947, Hans R. Herren holds an MSc and a PhD in Agricultural Sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. He carried out post-doctoral research at the Biological Control Division of the University of California at Berkley. He is one of the most outstanding crop protection scientists in the world. He was Director of the Biological Control Programme at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, and Director of the Plant Health Management Division and he is also a Former Chief Executive and Director General of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya. With relevant experience in international scientific cooperation for development, he has won numerous awards, including the World Food Prize. He is the author of some 80 scientific publications and a member of several scientific associations. As President of the Millennium Institute (MI) he is involved in research and capacity development of system models that link in a single dynamic framework the economy, society and the environment to inform policies towards sustainable development. These integrated models (T21), customized by the end-users from governmental and non-governmental organizations during the training period with MI are easy to use and transparent tools, allowing the developing countries to take over the drivers’ seat of their development endeavors, from planning to implementation.

He has been President of the Millennium Institute in Arlington, USA, since 2005.


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Carlos Lopes was born in Guinea Bissau and holds a PhD in history from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and several degrees in development studies from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. He holds an Honorary PhD in Social Sciences from the University Cândido Mendes. After serving in the public service in the areas of research, diplomacy and planning in his native country, he joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in 1988, where he occupied various positions, including Deputy Director for the Office of Evaluation and Strategic Planning. He has actively contributed to research on development issues and has authored or edited 20 books and taught at Universities and academic institutions in Lisbon, Coimbra, Zurich, Uppsala, Mexico, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. He has helped establish various non-governmental organizations and centres for social research, in particular in Africa. He was elected in 2008 to the Lisbon Academy of Sciences. He was Assistant-Secretary-General and Political Director in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in New York. He was appointed Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in 2007.

He has been Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), as well as Director of the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) since 2007.

More information…



Vijay Modi was born in Ahmedabad, India in 1956 and has a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University. After two years of postdoctoral research he joined the University of Columbia in 1986. He is the author or co-author of more than 40 journal publications and co-author of the book « Energy Services for the Millennium Development Goals » (2006). His current research projects include energy services and infrastructure planning in developing countries. He has acted as advisor to more than 50 student researches and he won the Greater Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates in 1997.

He is currently Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University, and co-leader of the Earth Institute cross cutting initiative in energy as well as Chair of the Science Council of the Millennium Villages Project.



Born in Langenthal, Switzerland in 1945, Roland Schertenlieb holds a Master in Civil Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and post graduates degrees in Environmental Engineering from the Stanford University in California. He is author of many publications specially in his main field of expertise: water and sanitation in developing countries. He has taught for many years at ETHZ and other international academic institutions. He is a member of the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and has been the chairman of its working group on environmental sanitation.

He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) and of its Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries (SANDEC). He is presently heading the Eawag/Sandec activities within the NCCR North-South Project on « Research Partnership for Mitigation of Global Change ». He is a life member of the International Water Academy.



Klaus Töpfer was born in Waldenburg, Germany in 1938 and holds a PhD in Philosophy and a Degree in Economics. He is known internationally for his personal commitment to the promotion of the environment and sustainable development. He made active contributions to the success of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and was a precursor in the negotiations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the establishment of the Global Environment Facility. He became Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and Director General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi in 1998. He was also appointed Acting Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (now UNHabitat) from 1998 to 2000. He has won many awards including the Bruno H. Schubert Environment Prize for 2002 and the German Environment Prize 2002.

He is a former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (1998-2006). Since 2006 he works part-time as Chief Professor of Environment and Sustainable Development at Tongji University in Shanghai.

Former ISAB-COOP members



Walter Fust was born in Mosnang St. Gallen, Switzerland in 1945, and obtained a Master in Political Science from the University of St. Gallen. He has occupied different governmental positions including Deputy Head of the Integration Office, Managing Director of the Swiss Office for Trade Promotion, as well as Secretary General of the Ministry of the Interior. As a diplomat he was assigned to Bern, Geneva, Baghdad and Tokyo. He is Chairman of the Board of the Global Knowledge Partnership GKP, a member of the Steering Committee of the Global Governance Initiative and he is also a member of the Policy Committee of the Global Coalition for Africa. He was Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs from 1993 until 2008.

 Walter Fust stood down from the ISAB-COOP on April, 2008.


/webdav/site/cooperation/shared/ISAB/Dieng.jpgBorn in Dakar, Senegal in 1956, Rose Dieng-Kuntz held a degree in Engineering  from the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications, as well as a DEA and a PhD in Computer Science from Paris-Sud University. In 1976 she became the first women from Senegal and from Africa to be admitted to the Ecole Polytechnique. She joined the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA) in 1985. She published 9 books and more than 100 papers in refereed journals, book chapters, conferences or workshops in knowledge acquisition, knowledge modelling and knowledge management, ontologies, semantic web, conceptual graphs and multi-agent systems. She was awarded the 2005 Irène Joliot-Curie Prize by the French Ministry for Research and the EADS Corporate Research Foundation for her contribution to science. She was Scientific Manager of the Acacia Knowledge Management Project-Team at the INRIA Sophia Antipolis research unit in France from 1992 until 2006. She was the Scientific Manager of the Edelweiss project-team.
Prof. Rose Dieng-Kuntz passed away on June 30, 2008. Her demise represents a loss of an extraordinary scientist and person, and an important member of our Board.



Born in Iran in 1959 and of Swiss nationality, Nassrine Azimi received a BA in Political Science from the University of Lausanne, an MA in International Relations from the Graduate School of International Studies of Geneva and a second MA in Urban Studies from the School of Architecture at the University of Geneva. She was the coordinator of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) environmental training programmes in Geneva and deputy to the executive director, prior to being assigned Chief of the Institute’s New York Office, which she reopened in 1996 and directed for five years. She was secretary of the Board of Trustees of UNITAR from 1994 to 2006. In 2003 she established UNITAR’s first Office for Asia and the Pacific in Hiroshima. She is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center.

She was Director for UNITAR’s Hiroshima Office from 2003 until 2009. Nassrine Azimi stood down from the ISAB-COOP on July 1st, 2009