Patrick Jenny, an engineer at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, has won this year's Latsis prize for his work on fluid dynamics.
The award, which is worth SFr100,000 ($76,000), is one of the most renowned research accolades in Switzerland.
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), which presents the prize, said in a statement that it was only the second time it had gone to an engineer.
The 39-year-old professor at the Institute of Fluid Dynamics was honoured for his "efficient and innovative solutions" in the computer-assisted simulation of complex fluid systems in nature and technology.
The Latsis prize is awarded each year to a promising researcher under the age of 40.
According to the SNSF, Jenny has been successful at bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and its practical uses.
"Ultimately it's the engineer's task to get theoretical concepts to work in real life," said Jenny in the statement.
Fluid dynamics studies fluids in motion, such as liquids and gases. It has a wide range of applications, including calculating forces on aircraft as well as the mass flow rate of petroleum through pipelines.
Jenny received his doctorate in computational fluid dynamics from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 1997. He then spent two years in research at Cornell University in the United States.
From November 1999 until April 2003, Jenny worked for oil and gas company Chevron in California.
He returned to Switzerland in 2003 as SNSF Professor for Computational Fluid Dynamics.
The recipient of the Latsis prize is chosen by the foundation, which makes the nomination on behalf of the Geneva-based Latsis foundation, which was created in 1975.
Jenny is due to receive his prize on January 12 in the Swiss capital, Bern.
In addition to its European prize, the Latsis foundation also presents a number of annual awards to encourage and reward researchers responsible for important and promising contributions to science and technology in Switzerland.
swissinfo with agencies
The Latsis Foundation was created by Greek shipping tycoon John S Latsis, who died in Geneva in April 2003, aged 93.
It gives out each year four university prizes valued at SFr25,000, as well as one national and one European Latsis Prize worth SFr100,000.
The national Latsis prize has been awarded through the SNSF on behalf of the Latsis Foundation since 1984.
The recipient is chosen by the SNSF.