Published: 21.08.13

Making a difference 

Florian Emaury
Florian Emaury is leading the Politics Working Group within AVETH and is engaged in addressing the issue of foreigner integration at ETH. (Photo: Florian Emaury)
Florian Emaury is leading the Politics Working Group within AVETH and is engaged in addressing the issue of foreigner integration at ETH. (Photo: Florian Emaury) (large view)

When I joined AVETH, the Academic Association of Scientific Staff at ETH Zurich, in February 2012, I was surprised to discover that most faculty departments did not yet belong to the association. In comparison to VSETH, which is the equivalent association for students at ETH, or to similar associations at French universities, AVETH’s standing did not seem to correspond with the notable reputation of ETH. I then began to think about the real purpose of the association.

Owing to the work of Julian Cancino, the former president of the association, AVETH now incorporates 14 associations out of 16 departments at ETH. This growing network not only strengthens relationships between its members, it also allows for a more structured and fair representation of each department association For me personally, it also opens up possibilities to work with other scientists and create synergies. This is extremely important, especially given the fact that a good portion of the scientific staff are foreigners and do not have much of a network when starting at ETH.

As a foreigner myself, I particularly like that AVETH strives to create a welcoming environment to help people meet and get to know each other. Several social activities are organized to foster integration. I remember just arriving and attending the monthly "Get-to-know-pub", an event that brings new and existing scientific staff members together. It was a great experience and I ended up meeting a few people that are now good colleagues of mine today. But we don’t just drink beer together, we also organise other activities throughout the year like hiking, dance classes or ski weekends, which are all great ways to interact and get acquainted with one another.

But, it is not all about social activities. AVETH members work hard to represent the scientific staff and support them in protecting their rights and duties. In fact, ETH gives each category of employees the opportunity to fairly state their position on the current issues before decision-making bodies at ETH. This means representatives of the scientific staff can interfere and act based on the decisions made in the different commissions, and its part of our responsibility as scientific staff to use this opportunity given to us. In our quarterly meetings with the rector, we also have the chance to informally discuss problems and work out solutions for the future.

Since my involvement with AVETH, I’ve been often asked if we can really make a difference. I always answer this question in a positive way. Last spring, for example, we were instrumental in the revision of the doctoral regulations and were able to clearly voice the needs of doctoral students. The final regulation document is still a work in progress, but in our discussions with ETH officials we were able to make the desires of the doctoral students known. I am quite proud to have been a part of this process. It really proved to me that through AVETH the scientific staff can be influential.

Last but not least, being a part of AVETH is more than just voluntary work. It’s also about creating objectives, developing an internal structure and defining our communication strategy; these are all skills that will be beneficial to my professional life. All in all, it can be very time consuming but I find it very rewarding and encourage all PhD students, research assistants, post docs, and all other scientific employees to join. The larger the group, the louder the voice, the more we can achieve.


The Academic Association of Scientific Staff at the ETH Zurich (AVETH) represents all non-faculty scientific staff in various decision-making bodies of the ETH Zurich. Its mission is to make ETH Zurich a better place for the scientific staff to learn, teach, do research and live. AVETH and its departmental associations actively keep an open dialog with various decision-making bodies at ETH with the aim to address important work-related issues. The next AVETH general assembly takes place on October 2, 2013 at 6pm in HG D5.2

About the author

Florian Emaury obtained his Master of Science in physics in 2010 from the Institute d'Optique Paris Tech (IOGS) near Paris. After one year of working abroad in California, USA, he joined the Ultrafast Laser Physics Group headed by Professor Ursula Keller at the Institute for Quantum Electronics at ETH, where he is currently working on laser developments. Within the framework of AVETH Florian leads the Politics Working Group (PoWoG), whereby he is actively engaged in addressing the issue of foreigner integration at ETH and the topic of employee salaries.

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