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Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Category: Faculty & Staff (Page 2 of 2)

We Are Family: Academic Assistant Corinne Guyot

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harry-w10-p2-p1Name: Corinne Guyot

Position: Academic Assistant

Years at GTL: 4 years

Interests/Hobbies: Hiking

One line to describe GTL: “A school with familial relationships.”

Piece of advice for students: “To make the most of our time in France because it is a beautiful country”.

Meet Corinne Guyot, our resident Academic Assistant here at Georgia Tech Lorraine. When she described GTL (see quote above), she said it was very “family-like” with how close the students and faculty interact. Even without her telling me this, I could definitely see that she feels this way about the community here by how sweet she was and the way she interacted with me and other administration members. It’s also a common theme I’ve heard around the office, as many of the other staff members I’ve interviewed has noted about how closely knit the people at GTL are.

Some of Mrs. Guyot’s duties are to arrange housing for both undergraduates and graduate students, communicate with partner French schools, and help graduate students out with application files. If we’re still talking family, we might even stretch a bit and call her “Mom” for all the things she helps us students with!

Outside of GTL, she really enjoys hiking. Her favorite places include the Alps, Vosges, and Sierck Les Bains. Her kindness struck once again when I asked her about some good hikes around/close to Metz. She didn’t just list of some locations, but instead pulled out a map of France and pointed out all the areas of interest.

Don’t be afraid to swing by Mrs. Guyot’s office in the administration building, it will definitely be worth your time!

Everything School: Academic Manager Vanessa Nau

Meet Vanessa Nau!Name: Vanessa Nau

Position: Academic Manager

Years at GTL: 2 years

Interests/Hobbies: Learning different languages; theatre

One line to describe GTL: “There’s only one Georgia Tech Lorraine.”

Piece of advice for students: “Make sure to keep a steady balance between work and travel.”

Say hello to Vanessa Nau, the Academic Manager for Georgia Tech Lorraine. This is her second year working at GTL and she loves it. The first year was a little crazy, she describes, as she had to learn the ins and outs of the job, interact with Americans, and deal with the culture shock that comes along with it. For her job, Vanessa does a ton. She’s the one that creates all the class and final schedules, helps with the visa process for European graduate students who continue their studies abroad in the United States, and everything in between. With the graduate students, she often describes herself as the role of “mother.” From dealing with renting apartments to overall American culture, she provides plenty of support to ease their transition.

Another term I could use to describe Vanessa is “linguistics enthusiast.” Not only does she know French and English, but she is well-versed in German, Italian, and Spanish! In fact, she worked in Germany the four years before she came to GTL. Vanessa also is a fond actor, being an actor for eight years. Combining these hobbies brings up an interesting note: in Germany, the acting group she was a part of performed in French and Spanish! Taking these passions to the next level, she hopes to teach French as a Second Language (FSL) in the near future.

If you ever have any academic issues, want to talk about languages and theatre, or just want to get to know this amazing lady, don’t be afraid to peek into Vanessa’s office!

Fixing Your Technological Issues: IT Manager Jean Jacques

Name: Jean Jacques Michel

Position: Information Technology

Years at GTL: 11 years

Interests/Hobbies: Working with computers and electronics.

One line to describe GTL: “An interesting opportunity to work in a different system in relationship with Atlanta and with American people”

Piece of advice for students: Go out and explore!

In an urban Metz folk tale, it spoke of a man who has been roaming the halls of the Georgia Tech-Lorraine building for many years. It’s the guy pictured above. Jean Jacques Michel, our resident information technology manager, has actually worked in the GTL building for the past 21 years! Georgia Tech-Lorraine used to sublet space to an electronics company and Jean-Jacques worked for that company in the beginning. So it’s safe to say he’s seen his fair share of progress of this institution throughout the years. He’s been here almost from the beginning, and watched the number of students grow and grow, each and every year.

Due to the small size of GTL, it seems like every administration member I meet is a do-everything superhero in their own department. Mr. Michel’s sector is technology. From plugs in the wall, the audio-visual projectors in the classroom, and even the printing, he handles and fixes every little bug that comes across our way. He truly loves his work, as his favorite feeling comes when solving a problem that arises.

I know that during my time here, I’ve never ran into any technological issues thus far and it’s thanks to this guy. If you’re having a smooth time with the technology here and manage to catch this guy around, thank him for all that he does because it’s truly something we should appreciate!

Behind the Scenes: Meet Dr. Nisbett

Behind every great man is a great woman. This saying grew in popularity due to its honest truth. Not coincidentally, behind most great things there is something just as great if not better. Colleges and universities are no exception. Often overlooked at some great universities are the great faculty that build the programs and curriculum. Well, not at Georgia Tech or GTL. Faculty are a huge part of our community on and off campus, bringing next level research and teaching skills to aspiring engineers. Georgia Tech frequently rotates faculty from the Atlanta campus, and this is how we were lucky enough to receive the talents of Adam Nisbett.

Dr. Nisbett is currently not a doctor – not yet anyway. He is working on his final year of his PhD and his dissertation with a discipline in Tensegrity Robotics this semester. Born and raised in Missouri, Professor Nisbett was home-schooled up until high school. The second oldest of 9 siblings, Professor Nisbett was strongly influenced by his family and Christian faith as a child. His first involvement in robotics was also influenced by his family. His father, a Mechanical Engineering professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology was asked to judge in the 1st Lego League Robotics competition. This piqued his curiosity, and Professor Nisbett became involved with the local team and the rest is history.

He went onto study mechanical engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, earning his Bachelor’s degree. There he also earned his Master’s Degree in electrical engineering computational intelligence. Hearing about Georgia Tech’s unique robotics program, Professor Nisbett came to Atlanta and furthered his childhood passion for robotics. Georgia Tech’s program allows integration of robotics applications from multiple areas of engineering, such as mechanical engineering (ME), electrical engineering (EE), aerospace engineering (AE), etc. It is here that Professor Nisbett’s dissertation gains traction.
As mentioned before he is working on Tensegrity, or to the common man,

A tensegrity structure.

Tension and Integrity applications. Pictured to the left is a tensegrity structure called a rollover, for its ability to be compressed and roll. Each beam is held together by strings that are tensioned perfectly to maintain the structural integrity. However, with a simple hand motion the whole structure can be almost flat and compressed. Professor Nisbett is currently working on control schemes for robotic compression of the strings and structure. The current scope of such technology is being considered for future NASA missions. The idea is to use the structure for the model of a rover or planetary lander. (He was quick to point out that the basics of this structure are all things we will be covering in our Statics class this semester.)

He is a very bright individual who is clearly focused on the future, not just his own but of mankind’s. Wrapping up the interview I asked, “Do you have any advice for GTL students or students in general?” Immediately a grin appeared on his face as he said, “Learn to enjoy learning!” In that, see what you’re learning as something interesting and applicable to you own life. He went on to say, “A lot of people treat schooling as something you have to get through. Don’t look for the drudgery in it, look for the targets, and find ways to motivate yourself with something interesting rather than thinking it’s something that you have to do.” From an approach such as this it is easy to see success in your life.

While only his first time at GTL, Professor Nisbett is already planning to supersede his great accomplishments. His design for a previous robotics work is featured on the cover of the GT ME 3180 Machine Design textbook which also happens to be co-authored by his father. However, Professor Nisbett is also aspiring to have a teaching career. This semester he is teaching COE 2001-Statics and COE 3001-Deformable Bodies. This is the first step in hopefully a long and successful teaching.

Faculty Interview: Professor Simpkins

MK-SimpkinsWhen I shuffled into my computer science 2316 class on the first day of the summer semester, I was not looking forward to the impending 10 weeks. There are some kids who just get computer science; it just clicks for them, and that’s great. But I am definitely not one of those kids. I am the kid that sits in front of my laptop, staring at the screen for an hour trying to debug code only to find that I named a variable incorrectly (something as simple as “doctors” instead of “doctor”). As you might presume, this does not bode well for my relationship with CS; we are not what you would call “sympatico.” Not to mention, my first ever CS professor’s voice had the same effect on me as Nyquil. It’s safe to say, I was not expecting much for my second CS class.

However, CS 2316 has been a nice surprise for me, not simply because of the topic, data manipulation,  but because of the professor. I mean, having a coding assignment that utilizes the themes and characters from Grey’s Anatomy is pretty awesome. Not to mention, having a student do a public dance in front of the class as punishment because his phone went off is hysterically entertaining.

Just recently, I decided it was time to sit down and talk to the professor who was responsible for my slowly improving relationship with computer science: Christopher Simpkins. I was able to learn how he got started in in the field, and believe me, it is pretty interesting… and a little unexpected.  

Professor Simpkins did not begin his career in computer science; actually, he began his career in the air force, attending the Air Force Academy. Clearly, this was quite a switch, a pilot to a computer science professor. He always knew that he wanted to go into a technical field though. Originally he thought he would end up somewhere like MIT or some other tech school, but when he and his father, a member of the air force himself, were watching an Air Force football game one day, he was asked the question if he had ever thought of attending the Air Force Academy.

That question started a long and tedious two year process of applying to the academy, which Simpkins was later accepted into. Realizing that it was the highest honor, he decided to attend the school and major in engineering.

After completing his academics, Simpkins began flying tankers, and even became the designated computer guru for his squadron. While he had originally planned to do a crossflow program to transition into being a fighter pilot, he soon realized that the air force life was not well suited for families. Having two small children, he wanted to be an involved father, so he switched his career path towards software engineering in Atlanta.

Still, having taught in the Air Force, Simpkins knew that his passion was in teaching, so he decided to go into academia. That’s when Simpkins found Georgia Tech. A great location, advanced engineers, and a high-class university, Georgia Tech became his new end goal. His experience with Georgia Tech graduates in the Air Force had provided him with a good idea of the type of people at Georgia Tech, and fortunately his expectations did not disappoint him when he became a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Now, Simpkins is a computer science professor for one of the top universities in the country in his field. Just like that, he made the switch from the Air Force into academia. Clearly a dedicated and motivated individual, I asked Professor Simpkins for any advice he could give to students at Georgia Tech Lorraine:

“Pace yourself with the travel. You’re taking real classes; you have a real Georgia Tech workload. Travel is like another class.”

For Simpkins, he suggests spending those few two day weekends exploring Metz, catching up on sleep, and getting some studying done. He also suggests taking advantage of the small class sizes, i.e., “take advantage of the access to professors.” Office hours is one of his own biggest tools in teaching his students. There have been many a day when I have attended Professor SImpkins office hours, and soon enough it is like another small lecture class with multiple students asking questions and example problems ensuing. I can definitely say that taking his advice is worthwhile.

While Professor Simpkins loves teaching, he still takes time to travel on the weekends with his family who are spending the summer in Metz with him. A highlight of his trip was seeing the Paris Opera Ballet perform, Giselle. His wife, a former professional ballerina, loves Giselle and has clearly passed on her passion for the arts to her husband. I am sure that it was a nice break from the tedious grading of my CS class’ homework assignments (although I am pretty sure he has written code that basically performs the grading for him).

All in all, it’s pretty neat to know that Georgia Tech is enabling its students to learn from such interesting faculty members as Professor Simpkins. Now, if only I could learn how to fit all of my homework, studying, sleep time, cooking time, and traveling into one twenty four hour day.  

Faculty Profile: Nico Declercq

Professor Nico Declercq

Professor Nico Declercq

Name: Dr. Nico Declercq

Position: Tenured Associate Professor

Favorite Color: Green

Favorite Food: He doesn’t have one but he recommends that the GTL students try food from the south of France.

Interests/Hobbies: Spending time with his family

Educational Institutions:  Ghent University, Belgium, 2005 – PhD in Engineering Physics; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2000- Master’s in Astrophysics; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 1996- Bachelors in Astrophysics

Dr. Declercq teaches thermodynamics this semester at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. He has taught at both the Lorraine campus and the Atlanta Campus teaching dynamics courses. Dr. Declercq is also doing research into ultrasonic nondestructive evaluation of materials and acoustics here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. During the weekends he travels back to Brussels to be with his family.

Some advice imparted by Dr. Declercq was that GTL students should travel but they should also make studying a priority as well.

Faculty Profile: Dr. Vicki Birchfield

Name: Dr. Vicki Birchfieldfd1d715c2a5b1582-8a5ff

Position: Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs; co-director of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies; affiliated with the Jean Monnet
Centre of Excellence

Favorite color: hues of blue

Favorite food: French cuisine – especially “les fruits de mer,” a.k.a., seafood, and above all lobster

Interests/hobbies: Paris marathon in 2001, Chicago/Atlanta half – yoga, cooking, reading, theater/arts

Educational institutions:

Auburn University – Bachelors;

Graduate Institute of International Studies (Geneva, Switzerland) – Diplôme d’études supérieur;

Auburn University – Master’s thesis on French women in electoral politics in political science;

University of Georgia – PhD in comparative political science in international relations


Throughout middle school the running joke was that teachers had a blow-up air mattress beneath their desks – and so basically did nothing outside of the classroom. Ha-ha, so funny! Except that’s never the case, and we knew it. Even in college, we don’t see half of what our professors are up to. All people are more interesting once you’ve taken time to get to know them: they have stories and perspectives different from anyone else. And now, let me assure all you middle schoolers: teachers are way cooler than you think.

Take Dr. Vicki Birchfield, for instance. She’s a co-teacher for the International Affairs class, and because the class is co-taught, we haven’t spent as much time in the classroom with her, but I got the chance to sit down and talk to her just a bit ago.

Our International Affairs class centers around the politics of the European Union in terms of Metz and the region of Lorraine. The inspiration of Professor Sonia Serafin, the other co-teacher of the class (and one of the French teachers here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine), brought this class to life, and Professor Birchfield helped to create a curriculum to fulfill the Global Perspectives requirement. The region of Lorraine has a rich history in terms of the European Union, and they know it. In fact, that’s what Professor Birchfield really wants GTL students to tap into: there is so much information and history at our fingertips.

Dr. Birchfield believes strongly in the value of a higher education – but also knows that there is a privilege to it, and coupled with it the “responsibility to be critical consumers of information and formulate one’s own view.” As this world become more and more saturated with information, it becomes harder to discern the factual, unbiased truth, but equipped with the tools of education, we can dig a little deeper for a better understanding.

That’s part of what she tries to bring to Georgia Tech-Lorraine with her class: the opportunity to bring the history of the European Project to life through site visits and class discussions. She creates this during her summer program in both Paris and Brussels, which takes 300 students to discover what Europe is – both culturally and politically. That’s also why she finds teaching one of the most rewarding part of her position in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs: opening their minds to the complexity in a career to essence of the life of the mind. She can bring her passion in her research into the classroom, and this coexistence between the spheres is beneficial, as it inspires a deeper conversation.

The mark of full professorship requires dedication in the three spheres of the position: education, research, and service. Dr. Birchfield has worked since 2000 at the Sam Nunn School an instructor, making waves along the way. Today, she runs a summer study abroad program, is affiliated with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and a co-director of the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, and has multiple publications. With all of the dedication she’s brought to her career and to Georgia Tech, Dr. Birchfield has been awarded full professorship, and it’s understandable that achievement represents one of her most cherished professional achievements.

However, when I asked the question “What is your biggest accomplishment?” that wasn’t her first response. In fact, she believes her greatest success lies in “the deep joy and fulfillment in relationships,” especially with her family. She’s accomplished quite a bit, but her husband and daughter bring her much happiness.

Another great source of pride is the being inducted as a Chevalier into l’Ordre Nationale du Mérite of France in 2012. Dr. Birchfield studied French extensively, even attending the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland for her Diplôme d’études supérieur. As a bit of a Francophone myself, this would be a wonderful dream come true: to be recognized by a country and culture that you’ve studied, lived in, and loved. For all the work she has done to promote understanding and the studies of France and Europe, she has been knighted by the country of France in a National Order of Merit created by Charles de Gaulle himself. If that’s not an indicator that you’re making an impact, I don’t know what is.

Her work is reflected across the Georgia Tech-Atlanta campus. She works closely with the French Consulate and, on top of her work with the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and Center for European and Transatlantic Studies, she organizes speakers – from diplomats to a panel of speakers on “Brexit” (the impending vote of the British people on their future in the EU) to a Danish filmmaker who created a documentary on the Denmark refugee dilemma.

So, yes, Dr. Birchfield has accomplished so much, but she has a life outside of work, too. Currently, she loves a good yoga session, and in years past, she’s run quite a bit, participating in the Chicago Half and the Paris Marathon. She really enjoys cooking, as well as reading and the arts – especially theatre! (The Atlanta theater scene is vibrant, and I love volunteering at a theater near Georgia Tech, so I was elated to hear this.) She’ll be spending some time here in France, though, so that will have to be explored when she returns to Georgia Tech-Atlanta. She loves travel just as much as the rest of us at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, too: her favorite places? Definitely in France: the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, the Emerald Coast of Brittany, and Belle-Île, a small island off of the coast of Brittany.

Faculty Profile: Meet Dr. Peter McKeon!

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Georgia Tech-Lorraine students have built relationships with fellow classmates and neighbors, but how well do we know our faculty? Last week I sat down with Dr. Peter McKeon, a professor here at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. This semester, he teaches ME 3017 (Systems Dynamics) and COE 2001 (Statics).


Dr. McKeon

Dr. Mckeon received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and his Masters and PhD through Georgia Tech-Lorraine (Fun fact #1: Dr. McKeon did his undergraduate degree with Dr. Layton, who also teaches classes at GTL.) He wrote his thesis in collaboration with the Insitut de Soudure, which involved a numerical and experimental study on developing a structural health monitoring system for high pressure gas reservoirs.

How did Dr. McKeon end up at Georgia Tech-Lorraine? It all started with a visit to Atlanta. There, he met Dr. Declercq, who convinced him to come to France for a research assistant job. (Fun fact #2: Dr. McKeon did his Masters and PhD entirely at Georgia Tech-Lorraine. He has only been to the Atlanta campus once).

Let’s go back even further. As a child, Dr. McKeon first aspired to be a zookeeper. His career dreams transformed as he grew older, and in high school he found he enjoyed physics. He liked that physics could predict what was going to happen in the world. By knowing some fundamental qualities of objects, he could predict a variety of outcomes, from their speed to their motion/trajectory. In college, Dr. McKeon enjoyed his music theory classes, and described these years as a time when he first became a mature musician. (Fun fact #3: Dr. McKeon played bass, guitar, and viola when he was little, as well as a little bit of a piano. He also took voice lessons). He studied the theory and mathematics behind music, and found there were many similarities between his two sets of interests.

Dr. McKeon enjoys many aspects of teaching. However, his favorite part is getting to interact with excited and curious students. He loves to see students engaged and eager to learn, already thinking ahead about how they can use the information he’s taught them and apply them to the real world. He described this as the beginning of a creative process, that he loves to be a part of.  I asked Dr. McKeon what his favorite subject is to teach, to which he responded without hesitation: Systems Dynamics. It was his own favorite engineering class, and the first time he truly felt like an engineer. Systems dynamics draws information from a variety of courses (differential equations, calculus, statics, electronic circuits, fluid mechanics, you name it) and makes something cohesive. In Dr. McKeon’s words, the class is “one culmination of understanding of math and science.” It was what first got him interested in acoustics (ironic, because he’s a musician) as a physics discipline. (Fun Fact #4: His PhD is in System Dynamics, Acoustics and Controls. He does work with structural acoustics, which are mechanical vibrations through material).

Dr. McKeon is involved in several hobbies outside the classroom. He plays mandolin and guitar in a band, and plays gigs on different nights here in Metz. He also manages one of Metz’s baseball teams. (Fun Fact #5: His favorite band is the Avett Brothers, and his favorite baseball team is the Pittsburgh Pirates).


Dr. McKeon and his mother at Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany)

I asked Dr. McKeon what the best phrase was to describe Georgia Tech-Lorraine, to which he answered, “Georgia Tech’s foothold and portal to Europe.” Surely, many students would agree that this is a spot on description of our current experiences. Metz holds a very special place in Dr. McKeon’s heart. In fact, he described it as one of the prettiest French towns he’s ever been too. “Downtown is gorgeous, and very appealing aesthetically. The people of Metz are very friendly for the most part. There’s a lot of history here and people have not forgotten it. There are a lot of American cemeteries around this region. The older generation has gratitude toward Americans for the role that we played in their liberation. So it’s special for us to be here in this north east region of France.” Dr. McKeon also loves Metz’s central location. “With one bus ride, I can be at the Luxembourg airport. There’s a one hour train ride to Germany. And I can take the TGV for a day trip to Paris.”

One piece of advice for Georgia Tech-Lorraine students? Dr. McKeon has plenty. “ I think that students are in general too hard on themselves. I think they often expect a lot of themselves, and this experience in general is a very cool experience, but not an easy one.  Many students travel every weekend, and it’s a lot to take in. Allow yourself time to breathe while you’re here. Schedule in a few days of rest. Realize you’re not super humans. Prioritize and budget your time to be effective.

But wait, there’s more! “Students should also realize the advantages that Georgia Tech-Lorraine has, and try to leverage and take advantage of them as much as possible. For example, lectures here are tiny classes with a lot of almost one-on-one attention. These same classes would be huge lectures in Atlanta. Use this opportunity to participate in class and get the extra help you need.”

One last piece of advice from Dr. McKeon: “In general, realize that education can be a group activity. We should be striving to learn together and not try to do everything on our own. Students should try to help each other learn as much as possible. It’s better for everybody if everyone can learn the material together.”

Look out for Dr. McKeon in the halls of Georgia Tech-Lorraine! And stay tuned for more Faculty Profiles to come!


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