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Category: Graduate Studies (Page 1 of 2)

Grad Student Spotlight: Hugo & Tristan

Tristan (left) and Hugo (right), at home in the GTL student lounge.Today I had the pleasure of interviewing two French graduate students at Georgia Tech Lorraine, Hugo Elissalde and Tristan Ogier! They are on the same track here at GTL—both come from the same engineering school in France, are getting their Master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and will be graduating next year in 2019.

I was a bit nervous about approaching the gaggle of French students outside the GTL classrooms and asking if any of them would be willing to be interviewed for the blog. Thankfully, they were very nice and were good sports about it, and not one, but two grad students agreed to talk with me about their time here! It was a lucky day for me. Although they were about to head to a class as I started speaking to them, they agreed to meet me to be interviewed after their last class later in the day.

Later, in the student lounge, Hugo and Tristan told me about their motivations for coming to Georgia Tech Lorraine.  Hugo said, “For me, it’s because I want to work in America afterwards, and having an American degree helps a lot. Especially Georgia Tech’s.” They both agreed that Georgia Tech was a good school and the most practical choice for their career paths. After they finish their semester here in Metz, they will do six months of internships, followed by a final semester in Atlanta next fall.

When asked what they were most excited about for their semester at GTL, Tristan responded with the program’s proximity to many European countries, including Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany. The fact that everything is within an hour’s drive or train ride was exciting. Were they going to take any weekend trips? “Far less than the Americans, everybody has planned all their weekends already,” Hugo replied. “It’s more like, we plan on Thursday and Friday what to do for the weekend.” Having already lived in France and Europe, they don’t have the same urgent need as the American students to see and do as much as possible while in Europe. They are hoping to see nearby countries such as Germany and Luxembourg, however, and plan to go to Oktoberfest in a couple of weeks.

Lastly, I started to ask them if they had any fun facts about themselves to share, but midway through the question I realized that icebreakers like this might not be as ubiquitous in France as they are in the United States—so I decided to ask that instead. Do French people share fun facts about each other the way Americans often do when they meet for the first time in group settings? “Not really. When you know each other, you kind of joke about them, but you wouldn’t describe yourself with a fun fact,” Tristan told me. “Yeah, we are boring people,” Hugo chuckled.

On that topic, we will have to disagree. I may not have gotten a “fun fact” out of it, but it was great fun to talk with them and learn about the graduate experience at GTL! Best of luck to Hugo and Tristan with the rest of their semester!

Grad Student Spotlight: Ines El Glaoui

Ines El Glaoui is pursuing her Master’s in mechanical engineering, but before coming to GTL, Ines completed her Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering in Morocco at one of GTL’s partner institutions, the Université Internationale de Rabat. What I find interesting about her story is that she did not always want to become an engineer! In fact, her journey to where she is now is not that of a typical engineering student’s. Before deciding to major in AE for her bachelor’s degree, she studied computer science for three years as an undergraduate at a school in France. What made her decide to make the switch more than halfway through school? Ines was not able to successfully completed her third year as a computer science major, and she realized that computer science was not her passion to begin with. When asked why she switched to AE, she said that it just stuck with her and that she has liked it ever since.

While being at GTL for the past two years, she has traveled, researched, and gained a better understanding and taste of American culture. Something many American GTL students have been able to experience is French culture from interacting with graduate students and living in France. However, did we ever stop to think about the reverse of this experience? Of the locals of Metz, France and international students being able to get a small taste of American culture? I certainly did not think this way, and it was shocking to hear that Ines’ favorite part of GTL is getting a partial American experience. Since being at GTL, she says “Being here and being with American [students], makes me have a different point of view then what I had of the States before.” Ines said that she would not have thought it to be so different, but that it has been good to learn that people from the United States are not the same as the languages, cultures, and the way people from different places think. 

In the near future, Ines plans on continuing her travels throughout Europe as she goes to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. At GTL, she is working on research based on a special acoustics problem studying diffraction in materials. Ines will be graduating in December, and she hopes to work in France, preferably for an aircraft company, to gain as much experience as she can. She believes that her potential is much more in France than Morocco, as she believes that companies in Morocco would not value the international education that she has received from Georgia Tech as much as other places may. Another big reason for Ines deciding to stay in France after graduation is because France has a larger aerospace market; a lot of the industries in Morocco are agricultural and manufacturing. Later on in her career, she says she may move back to Morocco to be closer to family and her home.

Ines is fun, optimistic, and hard-working; when I asked her about her favorite things do in her spare time, she enjoys watching TV shows like Rick and Morty and reading. Some of her biggest pieces of advice for undergraduate students are to not be afraid to fail, to not stress over failing as everything will work out, and to remember that we are still young and have time to accomplish our goals.

Even though Ines’s time is coming to a close at GTL, she is hopeful, calm, and just loving life as she finishes her Master’s and awaits what the future may hold. Ines’ journey to finishing her engineering degrees may have not started out simple, but she is a strong, determined young woman who will continue to accomplish great things. To leave you with Ines’s last words of wisdom, “Don’t worry, be happy!”

From Morocco to Metz: Bennis’ Story

I met Bennis Mamoun the first week being at Georgia Tech Lorraine. I remember walking up to him and his friends to introduce myself. Upon meeting him, I found out he is from Morocco! That moment, I realized that not only was I studying in France with students from the Atlanta campus, but I was also studying with other students from all around the world that are at GTL for the same purpose I am.

Bennis, who goes by Ben, is from Morocco and completed his undergraduate studies in Aerospace Engineering at the Université Internationale de Rabat. Even though Ben is from Morocco, this is not his first time in France; he previously came to France as a tourist traveling to a couple cities – one of which being Paris. In comparison to being a tourist, he says that his experience of living in Metz has been great (and less expensive).

When it comes to being away from his family back in Morocco, Ben says he feels comfortable as he is used to being away from his family for school due to his previous university being in a different city. Aside from the different cultures between Morocco and France, he has been pleasantly surprised to see how well organized everything is especially when it comes to the school and transportation systems of France. His adjustment to life in Metz has been great, except when it comes to the shift of his meals to consisting mostly of bread, croissants, and delicious chocolate.

At Georgia Tech Lorraine, Ben is pursuing his master’s in mechanical engineering. Even though he is not doing research at the moment, he hopes to begin his research next semester under a mentor. When it comes to future plans for his career, he is very open to see where his career will go. Having his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and getting his master’s in mechanical engineering, Ben realizes the broad and significant number of opportunities he will have in the future. When I asked him what made him decide on getting his master’s in mechanical engineering, he said “It gives you enough tools to work in every other industry.” Long term, he hopes to one day live and work in Europe, and to have an internship experience to discover his interests before completing his master’s degree.

While Ben continues to pursue his asters, he hopes to have some new fun experiences along the way. This semester at GTL, he looks forward to planning a skiing trip, as that is something he has never done. Something many people do not know about Bennis is that he has been to four countries, loves cats, and is a “meme addict” – and for those who do not know what a meme is, it is a picture that has a funny caption on it. He says they make his day just a little brighter. Aside from reading memes, he enjoys watching TV series and playing video games such as League of Legends in his spare time. Best of wishes to Ben in the future as he work toward his master’s in mechanical engineering, try skiing for the first time, and continues laughing at funny memes!

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!

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