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Category: Graduate Studies (Page 1 of 2)

Journée Portes Ouvertes

The first weekend of February is an exciting time for the scientific high schoolers of Metz. It’s the opportunity for them to see all of the great engineering and technology schools that are present. Centrale Supélec, Arts et Métiers, and even Georgia Tech Lorraine all host their open houses over the course of the weekend. The students get to have tours of the campus, mingle with current students, and see all of the cool stuff going on in the laboratory.

For Georgia Tech Lorraine, it is an opportunity to share with the community exactly what GTL is. No, it is not a separate university from the one in Atlanta. Yes, graduates receive a degree from “the real Georgia Tech” in Atlanta. Yes, classes are taught in English. All of these questions may seem more obvious to us, but French people are extremely proud of their education system (rightfully so), so they are not familiar with other systems – much like we don’t know much about others ourselves.

As part of my French class, I was given the daunting task of explaining the American education system, with an emphasis on university, in under 15 minutes. Our class worked together, over the course of two weeks, to prepare a PowerPoint. We spent hours deciding whether to explain quality points on GPA’s, how to best explain the process of high-stakes testing, and how to give the cost of universities without completely scaring them away. (For a public university in Europe, the cost of attendance is usually between 250-500 euros per semester.) After the presentation was ready, I was volun-told to be at the open house to present it to visiting high-schoolers.

When Friday rolled around, I was definitely nervous. We crammed a TON of information into the presentation, and I was going to have to present it six times, to a total of 150-ish people. However, as soon as I got to the GTL building, I was eerily calm. The presentations went well, although we were running on a 7-minute delay, so I really had to hurry through all of the information. Nonetheless, I think I was able to give the students, at least an idea, of how education works in the states.

Saturday, there were no organized visits. People were able to come in at their own pace, ask questions, and look around. Most of the people that came were students interested in engineering, however, there were some people that came by just to see what was GTL.

Now that all of the logistics is explained, I can move on to what I learned and observed from this open house. Lesson 1: the world is so small. I met a student that did a year-long exchange in Roswell, 15 minutes away from where I grew up, and we even had mutual friends on Facebook. I also met a girl who does the exchange program with my high school, so she has a pen-pal that is a current high-school student at Campbell, and I have been to her school before. It is just a reminder that you never know who you know, and you never know who knows who you know, you know?

Lesson 2: French education is like a self-serve ice-cream machine with 4 flavors, and the American education system is a visit to Menchie’s. Every school in the US has their own spin on scheduling, grading, courses offered, etc. In France, you choose your path for the baccalauréat and the rest is pretty standard.

Lesson 3: The French master’s students that are doing dual degree through GTL are geniuses. In order to do GTL, most of them have to make it through an “Ecole Prepa” and place in the top 15% or so on the national exams, then make it through 2 years at a top engineering school in France, and then be selected by their school and pass admission criteria by Georgia Tech in Atlanta. These kids are so, so smart.

In the end, la journée portes ouvertes was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the French education system and promote Georgia Tech across the Atlantic!

 

An American Grad Student in Metz: Meet Taylor!

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Taylor Spuhler when she was on her way back from class one day. I had already met Taylor at the pizza party on the first night. Immediately, it was clear that she is very outgoing, passionate, and always had an inviting half-smile on her face. So, I decided that I wanted to learn more about her and why she chose to do her Master’s at Georgia Tech Lorraine.

As we were walking back to ALOES from the GTL building, it started to rain (really, more like something between rain and sleet—very unpleasant). I, being the award-winning journalist that I am, know that you have to start off every interview with a softball question. So, I asked her why she chose to do her Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at GTL instead of the Atlanta campus. She told me that it was her first time to ever leave the country. (What an amazing way to spend your first time outside of the states—living in another country for an entire year.) She also talked about how important it is to learn about things from as many perspectives as possible, and at the end of the day she still gets a degree from Georgia Tech, so her degree is still easily recognizable in the states.

Continuing with the softball questions, I asked her what her favorite thing so far was. She talked about the cheese, I mean duh, but the part of the answer that stuck out to me was how happy she was with the French students in the Master’s program: her entire face lit up when she started to talk about how easy it was for her to make friends, and how everyone was so nice and welcoming. She even went into how she was nervous at first because she felt like every time that French people didn’t understand or agree with the United States, it would affect how they viewed her personally. This is something I think about all the time when I travel, and time and time again it gets proven wrong. Fortunately, this was also the case in Taylor’s experience. However, this did open the door for me to ask her about some of the difficulties she had been having.

I eased into this by asking if she spoke any French. She said no, but obviously she has picked up on the very basics, “bonjour, merci, je ne parle pas français.” Then I asked her what her least favorite thing was so far. She looked up at the miserable weather and said she is not a fan of all the rain we had been having. (If you haven’t heard, France is experiencing some intense weather: there is heavy rain and flooding across the country.) Other than that, she didn’t focus too much on the negative.

With the personal questions exhausted, I moved into the “formal” part of the interview. I asked her about her classes, potential research, and the facilities. She’s not doing research because she is not doing a thesis. This was a personal choice, certainly not the lack of research options at GTL, as there are plenty of graduate students doing research at GTL. Then I asked her which class was the most exciting one for this semester. (Granted, it was only the second week of the semester, and during the first week we only had two days of class, so it was very early and most of the interesting work for the semester hadn’t started.) She said that she was really excited for wind engineering, and that she already had a report for that class due in 2 weeks. Graduate classes don’t waste any time in getting started!  By this time, we had made it back to the residence building, and neither of us particularly wanted to stand out in the rain any longer. So, I thanked her for her time, and we went our separate ways. I really liked the approach and format for this interview because it was in the middle of her day and very opportunistic. I feel like it gave me a snapshot of her daily life, and made her more comfortable and give more natural answers. In any case, it was a delight to get to meet a graduate student, see what they were working on for the semester and the opportunities beyond undergraduate studies – and pick their brain to understand their decision-making process for studying at GTL.

Meet Remi Gourdon: New Grad Student with New Ideas

I met with Remi right outside his robotics class. Sidestepping a moving robot as another student navigated it through the hall, we sat on the couches to talk. Remi was friendly and helpful, clearly a hard-working person. At GTL for only four months, he has been here as long as we have. He was able to give me some insight in the differences between U.S. and French education. Here are his responses to some of the questions that I asked him.
What made you want to come to GTL?
I spent a summer as a U.S. university for professional development in Ohio in a small town. I had the opportunity to come to Georgia Tech from my school, and I took it. I wanted to experience more U.S.-style education.
What is your favorite part about GTL?
I like the way the courses are taught. It is very different from French engineering school. There are a lot of projects and practical work, as opposed to lots of lectures and tests. It gives time to read books and learn material and is more interesting when you can apply the theory you learn right away.
Are you working on any research right now?
I am working on a special problem in the robotics lab. It is not what you think of when you think of a traditional robot. Its function is the detection of faults in metal plates using ultrasonics. I am in charge of the processing of the signal, but we have lots of people who work on other aspects like mechanical and electrical.
What do you like to do for fun?
The amount of work here is different from what we are used to. This limits what I can do outside of school. This last weekend though, I visited Metz in daylight for the first time. It was very beautiful and I enjoyed to walk there.
Do you have any advice for new GTL students?
Be prepared for some cold. Be prepared [for] a much smaller campus. I spent a summer at a large campus and it is much different than here. At the same time it is good to have a small group that you can get to know. Make friends with the people, because they can help you in school and in travels.

Meet Brandon Carroll: Soon-to-be-Doctor and Excellent ECE Professor

Walking into Brandon Carroll’s office hours, I could tell that he had a lot on his plate. Answering a student’s question, his laptop screen filled with graphs and his notebook annotated in detail, it was easy to tell that this is a man of multitasking. I was thrilled that he had time for a few questions for the blog. He is one of my favorite professors, and has a knack for knowing exactly what the students mean when they ask questions, which is a rare gift. Here are some of the questions I asked him.

What classes do you teach right now?

I teach ECE 3710, which is a circuits class. It is definitely less stressful than my other class, which is ECE 3048. It’s a junior level Electrical Engineering class about signals and systems. It is a LOT of math, with Fourier and Laplace transforms. It has a lot of things that I haven’t done in a while. But you certainly learn the material better if you have to teach it.

What are you working on right now besides teaching?

I am working on my PhD with Dr. Anderson at the moment. So I have to work a lot on writing and defending my thesis. My research is about using machine learning algorithms to study chicken behavior based on sound. We put a microphone in the chicken house and analyze the sounds they make to determine how they are feeling. People are really interested in animal welfare, and if perfected, this system could replace the method of taking cortisol samples, which stress the animals out. This would be a way to measure the system without disturbing it, and would really benefit animal welfare.

What is your favorite part about being a professor?

Someone came up to me the other day and said, “This is the first time I ever fully understood convolution.” You can tell they are understanding something they didn’t before. Seeing that light come on is really rewarding.

What is your favorite part about GTL?

I haven’t thought about it a whole lot. This is my first year at GTL. It has been a lot of fun trying to learn a new language, although finding the time for that is hard. I love experiencing the culture around here. The food and baguettes are really amazing. The scenery around Metz is really pretty too. I took a 3.5 hour walk yesterday, and passed all these picturesque fields. It was amazing.

What are some of your hobbies outside of school?

I love playing tennis, and camping and hiking. I especially love reading. Picking a favorite book is hard, but I would have to say To Kill a Mockingbird. I also really liked The Book Thief, and The Name of the Wind is really cool too.

Graduate Student Interview: Sarah Malak

This week, I was able to catch up with one of Georgia Tech Lorraine’s graduate students, who are part of our institution that we undergrads don’t really see much of. Meet Sarah Malak, a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering and one of the most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with. Sarah was born in Atlanta and grew up a huge fan of Georgia Tech, even attending Tech home games when she was younger. However, Sarah decided to move out-of-state for college and only just recently reconnected with the university from her home town.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Akron in Ohio, Sarah received a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Polymers and Applied Mathematics, while also minoring in Arabic – talk about ambitious! She then moved all the way to the Middle East on a program with Middlebury College where she continued her Arabic studies in Jordan. She lived there for 6 months, also stopping by in Israel where she studied in Tel Aviv for around 3 months. Sarah told me that she traveled all over the country while she lived there and said that Israel was the most beautiful place she had ever been.

After finishing school there, Sarah decided to move to Paris where she attended an engineering school, Le Mont, for 1 year. Around this time, she met who the man that would become her husband in Brussels and moved with him to live in Nice. Following this, Sarah decided to get her PhD, and when she learned about Georgia Tech Lorraine, and the fact that she could actually attend the university she had loved in her childhood, it became clear to her it was a perfect opportunity.

Outside of her quite impressive academic history, Sarah also actively pursues many hobbies and interests in her free time. Among these are a number of musical instruments including piano, flute, Balalaika (a triangular Russian guitar), and the Darbuka (a type of Arabic drum). Another very interesting hobby of hers is belly dancing, which is in fact more than a hobby, as she is actually a professional in the art.

Outside of her PhD work, Sarah also acts as a TA for the undergraduate dynamics class here at GTL, which is where I first met her. As someone who has enjoyed getting to travel all over Europe and see lots of amazing things so far at GTL, it was really cool to hear about all places Sarah had gone for school, work, and just for fun. She told me that out of everywhere she’d been, Tel Aviv and Brussels actually stuck out to her the most. Israel for the incredible beauty and history of the country and Brussels for being one of the most interesting places to be. Since Brussels is home to the European Union parliament and is a center for much EU related activity, there always tend to be people from all over the world staying in the city at any given time, this combined with the fact that, in Sarah’s words, “[t]hings just don’t close there,” it makes it an amazing place to meet interesting people and do fun things.

Maybe I should give Brussels a visit myself, it sounds like a great place and it’s just as close to Metz as Paris is. Anyway, I really enjoyed talking to Sarah and if you happen to be taking dynamics here (which seems to be a lot of us) don’t hesitate to come visit her for help during her office hours, she really is a very kind and helpful person.

Thinking in Two Tongues: Graduate Student Christian Caracci

Name: Christian Caracci

Major/Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering

Year in Grad School: 1st

Undergraduate Institution: Florida Atlantic University

Interests/Hobbies: Skeet, sailing, tennis

One piece of advice for students: “Don’t procrastinate!”

Baguette or Croissant? Baguette

(“I want sandwich for lunch today, ”a mix of Italian and English) – could be something that pops through graduate student Christian Caracci’s head. Don’t understand? I’ll translate it into two different languages 1) English – I want a sandwich for lunch today. 2) Italian – “akslfjlas.” A most interesting fact about our fellow GTL-er is that he thinks in two tongues. He was born in Italy, but has spent time there and in America growing up. It’s been a mix of both countries in his collegiate career as he attended Florida Atlantic University in the United States as an undergraduate and doing the dual degree program that Georgia Tech Lorraine has with Las Sapienzia – University of Rome.

After completing his dual degree program, he hopes to go into the workforce. Specifically, operational excellence on the manufacturing side as in engineering management. In his spare time, you could catch him doing any of the hobbies above, in addition to traveling or playing pool with his graduate school buddies in the GTL lounge.

A quick FYI, we have a pool table that’s behind these board separators in the GTL lounge! It was like finding treasure when Christian and his friends found it and has been incorporated into their daily schedules.

Good luck with your studies Christain, and best of luck in the future!

Home-Country-er: Graduate Student Djegui Dembele

Posted by Harry

Photo Courtesy of Djegui Djembe.

Name: Djegui Dembele

Major/Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering

Year in Grad School: 1st year

Undergraduate Institution: Lycée Chaptal (Paris)

Interests/Hobbies: Playing tennis, solving a Rubik’s cube (11 seconds is his quickest), learning about science and relativity.

One piece of advice for students: “Pay lots of attention to the professor and ask lots of questions in class. If you do, it will save time down the line. Be an active member in class, or otherwise the amount of work doubles if you’re passive. Also, have an active lifestyle, too. And keep your body strong.”

Baguette or Croissant? Both, but baguette is much more flexible as it can be used at any meal. The croissant is only a morning thing.

Meet graduate student Djegui Dembele, who (surprisingly) is the first French Graduate Student I have met. This is also the reason for the title “Home-Country-er”, which is a slang word I made up to describe someone who is a native person to the country. Talking with Djegui was interesting, since we got to discuss some of the differences between French and American education styles. The biggest thing he points out is how much more independence-driven the English education style is. In America, we usually get assigned homework that we must do by ourselves. In France, it is usually done in groups with a teacher guiding them along the way. “It’s much less autonomous, we never work by ourselves,” Djegui describes. In addition, he mentions that in lectures, the professors go over the basics of a topic and leave the rest of the “figuring out” as homework.

Although different from what he’s regularly used to, Djegui is making the most of the opportunity he has with the graduate program and can’t wait to head to Atlanta next year! Best wishes Djegui!

Dr. Puybaret & GTL: Two Peas in a Pod

After a bit of running around, I was able to finally track down a fun candidate for interviewing this week. Originally I was all set for an interview with my Differential Equations professor, Dr. Jordan. However, Harry, being the master interviewer, had already snatched him up. Fortunately for me, this led to the interview of one brilliant Dr. Renaud Puybaret.

Upon entering Dr. Puybaret’s office, it was clear he was a step ahead of the rest. His entire door was covered in papers. Entering his office was much the same, as his desk was crowded with more papers and as he turned to greet me, his face seemed like one in thought. On his computer were two open windows, almost identical, showing black backgrounds with slightly lighter dark circles in a pattern across the screen. These were apparently simulations of some Nano-sized photovoltaic cells he was designing.
As you may have guessed Dr. Puybaret is not American, but born and raised in France, earning his degrees in Toulouse. He attended the French University, ENSEEiHT, earning his Masters of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering degree. Our wonderful advertising people here at GTL sold Dr. Puybaret on Georgia Tech’s graduate program. Dr. Puybaret originally had a full job lined up with Airbus following his graduation. He attended a presentation given by Professor Bertrand Boussert about Georgia Tech. “We were college students and they were giving out free food, so of course we attended. Yet, after hearing about all the great things they were doing, my friend and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it’!”

That day, he received his contract from Airbus in the mail. His then professor Dr. Ougazzaden, and now current boss, called him just in time. “Had professor Ougazzaden called me an hour later, the contracts would have be signed and there would be no going back. But instead I decided to be poor and do science.” Despite already having a job already lined up, Dr. Puybaret always felt that having an American degree would be a great thing. Most companies have American offices, and he’d always wanted to go to America. The decision proved both intelligent and fruitful. He began his doctorate in 2009 and officially received his PhD in June 2015. Dr. Puybaret described, with a smile on his face, all the great times he had. “Half the time I spent in America, which was a very good experience. Half my time was in the School of Physics in Atlanta.”
Upon completion of his doctorate, he went through Georgia Tech’s Innovation Corporation, where his thesis for his PhD became the ground for his own Nanotech Company. Dr. Puybaret focuses on fabrication of devices of size 50 to 100nm. There are two categories in Nano Physics: which utilizes graphene, and Inorganic Photovoltaic, using indium gallium nitride. Working under Dr. Ougazzaden, Dr. Renaud Puybaret is a Post-doc creating a company to make LEDs out of the Nanotech developed in his Thesis. However, the brilliance doesn’t stop there — on top of running his own company, Dr. Puybaret is also a professor here at GTL. He teaches ECE 3040 (Microelectronics) teaching the basics of creating transistors and photovoltaic cells.
With amazing researchers and professors such as Dr. Puybaret, it is clear to see why the GTL campus is growing so much.

From One Hemisphere to the Other: Graduate Student Claire Hardgrove

harry-w12-p1-p1Name: Claire Hardgrove

Major/Field of Study: Computer Science

Year in Grad School: 1st year

Undergraduate Institution: University of Sydney

Interests/Hobbies: Playing the trumpet and learning more about computer science.

One piece of advice for students: “Set up your environment well so you can focus on studying. Eliminate all secondary distractions so you can focus on the task at hand.”

Baguette or Croissant? Croissant.

‘Ello, mate! I introduce to you to graduate student Claire Hardgrove, a woman who has traveled pretty far from Sydney, Australia to be here at Georgia Tech Lorraine. Once again, GTL strikes with its diversity as a global institution. Claire is currently studying computer science here, with an interesting background that may surprise some.

Before coming to GTL, Claire studied geoscience as an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney. You’re probably wondering the same thing I am (namely, how did you go from geoscience to computer science?). Well, it’s really very neat: she’s actually studying the robotics side of computer science and using computer vision and perception to tackle environmental science problems. It’s not the first time I’ve met someone combining computer science with another discipline to solve issues today (go check out the post on Shane Griffith).
Another thing Claire noted was that even with the language barrier, it’s been nice to be in a little “bubble” of English speakers to help her adjust. After her time here, she plans on hopping to another continent, and maybe even going to San Francisco! Best wishes to your studies Claire!

The “Real” Behind Artificial Intelligence: Graduate Student Shane Griffith

Posted by Harry

harry-w9-p3-p1Name: Shane Griffith

Major/Field of Study: Computer Science

Year in Grad School: 8th year

Undergraduate Institution: Iowa State

Interests/Hobbies: Weightlifting

One piece of advice for students: “Find something you’re passionate about, and stick with it.”

Baguette or Croissant? Croissant

Are you a fan of the movie The Matrix or iRobot? Have you ever thought about how artificial intelligence could possibly take over the world? Go no further because we have a current graduate resident at Georgia Tech-Lorraine who studies up on that next-level science fiction stuff! His name is Shane Griffith.
Out of all the graduate students I’ve interviewed so far, Shane has by far been in school the longest. After graduating with a BS in Computer Engineering from Iowa State in 2008, he went to grad school there for three and a half years before enrolling in the Georgia Tech/GTL dual degree program. He was in Atlanta for two years, and has been at GTL ever since 2013. The research he does, which is looking at algorithms to help integrate robotics and artificial intelligence, is beyond your typical run-of-the-mill computer science. In fact, Shane makes it an interdisciplinary study by looking at these AI problems using not only CS, but psychology and biology as well. Looking at these problems using knowledge from different fields has brought success to Shane, as he recently had a paper that was published and orally presented at a conference.
Outside of class, you can find Shane lifting at Fitness Park in Metz or just doing more research because as his advice says, we should all look for something we’re passionate about and stick with it. Best of luck to you Shane as you wrap up your graduate studies and move us towards an artificially intelligent future!

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