An internship in a French-Japanese Laboratory: Interview of Adèle a MAT4 student

Adèle is a MAT4 student and did her fourth-year internship in a French-Japanese laboratory situated in the University of Tsukuba, city located fifty kilometers north of Tokyo which is around 45 minutes by train.

She found her internship via the partnership maintained between the Tsukuba University and Polytech Grenoble. Everyone in the material departments is aware of the possibility to go abroad for either a three month internship or a double degree, thanks to M. Vallée who is very involved in the partnership.

She stayed there 3 months in a laboratory doing mainly research work on plasma etching. Two Polytech’s teachers work there including M. Vallée. She was supervised in her work by a Polytech teacher. There was also in the lab a student in MAT5 doing his double degree, and a Japanese student.

The trip in itself consists of a 12 hour flight to Tokyo and a 45 minutes train to Tsukuba. There you meet with a Japanese student named Masato here specially to help you with the paperwork. You have to make a resident card to work there and everything is written in Japanese. Thanks to Masato who spoke a very good English, this was not a problem. Masato is a kind of a rarity there because very few Japanese spoke good English.

There were also a lot of former Polytech students still there doing their double degree to help you acclimate and understand how everything works. They have a year of experience in Japan which is very helpful for the newcomers. There were also seven MAT4 doing the exchange at the same time and even more on the campus. A kind of association was also on the campus for foreign students to meet up, organize parties and cultural outings.

The first few days were quite hard due to jet-lag. During summer in Japan, the sun rises at 4 am and sets at 6 pm which she found to be very pleasing. The general feeling as a tourist is very reassuring. Whereas you may be kind of overwhelmed in cities such as Paris where you can find tourist traps and you have to be kind of suspicious, in Japan everyone is very polite and friendly. Even if they don’t speak English at all, they will always be keen to help you. Some even may want to take a photo with you because they rarely meet Europeans.

One thing that you may not adapt to is the food. Even if it’s really good you may find yourself dreaming about cheese or saucisson. Fruits and vegetables are quite expensive but the restaurants are mostly very cheap, you can have a very nice meal for around six euros.

You also have to adapt to their culture to not seem rude or impolite. Many little unwritten rules are to be followed which can be a little confusing sometimes. Rules such as to only whisper in the subway, or to take off your shoes in restaurants.

All in all, the adaptation is very easy since you are not alone and everyone understands that you come from a very different background. Your English skills are also a major plus for the lab work. With the locals, you will often find yourself mimicking the message you want to pass.

On the subject of accommodation, you will be given a list of rooms on the campus or more spacious studios. In her case, Adèle had a thirteen square meters room with a tiny bathroom, a fridge and a heating plate which she found to be perfect for three months. When you do a double degree, you will be roommates with your French mates and fellow Japanese students in a much larger space.

One of the many differences with our universities is that the buildings are separated between male or female students.

The rent was around 280 euros for thirteen square meters which is not very expensive given the location.

Considering the lab work, the tutors where very helpful and taught her how to use the various devices that she had to use. Her tutor gave her his expectations for the week to come and she had to make herself her schedule to accomplish her various tasks. She was on average in the lab from 10 am to 6 pm. There was no pressure on you as long as you had the job done.

The integration with the other colleagues was very easy, some of them were already her classmates in France and the Japanese student didn’t hesitate to go on lunch with them. They went to restaurants and karaoke’s with colleagues to have fun and to socialize.

Outside of work the activities in Tsukuba consisted mainly of karaoke’s or batting centers (a place where you have a baseball bat and balls are thrown at you) but you can also visit the rice fields or hike on mount Tsukuba.

Tsukuba japan

In the streets of Tsukuba

The most interesting thing to do was to travel out of Tsukuba, which they could do for about 2 weekends out of 3. They visited mainly Tokyo but also the cities of Nikko, Yokohama, Osaka and Kyoto, where they hang out in the streets, visited a lot of tiny temples, restaurants, castles, museums and did shopping.

temple japan

One of the many temples they had the chance to visit

One of her favorite memories is from the Team Lab museum which you can see in the following picture.

team lab museum

Team Lab museum in Tokyo

The Chinese district in Yokohama is also fantastic and the food is delicious. In her top 2 of places to visit.

Yokohama bay japan

Yokohama bay

They also saw some fireworks, traditional festivals such as the Sanja Matsuri or Sanja Festival which is one of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo. Prominent parades revolve around three mikoshi (portable shrines referenced in the festival’s name), as well as traditional music and dancing.

Traditional parade during Sanja Matsuri

Traditional parade during Sanja Matsuri

Another highlight of one of their trips was their stay in a traditional Japanese house with a garden in the center, an onsen (a traditional hot bath) and a host who spoke English and was a really pleasant encounter.

In summary, everything about her internship was perfect. She got to discover an entirely new culture with her friends, had a very interesting work subject with a fantastic team and would gladly recommend this choice of destination for an internship if you have the chance to do it.

She may return to Japan to visit again, but after having been to other new countries!

Semestre à l’étranger : Une expérience convenable à tous ?

Les départs à l’étranger à Polytech Grenoble et dans tout le réseau sont assez courants. En effet, toutes les écoles d’ingénieurs sont fortement incitées à rendre des expériences à l’étranger obligatoires dans le cadre de la scolarité. Bien que ce ne soit pas une contrainte officielle de la CTI, beaucoup d’écoles observent cette recommandation et la rende obligatoire dans le règlement des études de leurs filières. Cependant, la plupart des étudiants choisissent de partir en stage à l’étranger ou en woofing plutôt que d’effectuer des études à l’étranger. Un contraste important causé par la peur des étudiants d’être confronté à plus de difficultés en partant en semestre à l’étranger.

Axel est un étudiant en TIS 5 qui est parti à l’Université de Montréal (UDEM), au Canada, grâce au programme TASSEP. Avec lui, nous allons découvrir comment se passe un semestre d’études à l’étranger et essayer de briser le mythe d’une sur-complexité administrative lorsqu’on étudie dans un autre pays.

Premier argument ? Le programme TASSEP, qui est un programme réputé pour être difficile d’accès pour les étudiants de Polytech, Alex y est rentré malgré tout et comme il l’assure : « Il faut toujours tenter car qui ne tente rien n’a rien. » En effet, quand on est l’un des seuls à oser, beaucoup plus d’opportunités s’offrent à nous. On comprend, certes, la paresse des élèves devant le dossier à compléter pour effectuer une demande : un dossier doit d’abord être déposé au bureau des Relations Internationales, et un autre (plus complet) doit être soumis en ligne à l’UGA. Dans ce dossier, sont demandés le CV et les relevés de notes, entres autres, mais plus particulièrement le projet de motivation et une réflexion budgétaire.

Liste des documents à déposer aux RI de Polytech Grenoble

Comment as-tu établi ton projet et ta lettre de motivation ?

« Mon projet est venu au fil des années : j’ai toujours été intéressé par l’informatique et j’ai acquis des connaissances en santé depuis que je suis arrivé en TIS. Je n’étais pas sûr de ce que je voulais faire mais j’étais intéressé par les nouvelles technologies. Je souhaiterais allier la réalité virtuelle avec la santé et le domaine des jeux vidéos. Quand je me suis rendu au RI et que j’ai eu une réunion avec mes responsables de filières ils m’ont tout de suite soutenu. Et c’est à l’UDEM que mon aspiration s’est concrétisée. »

Une fois le projet défini, il suffit juste de rédiger la lettre de motivation (en s‘appuyant sur un modèle si besoin), et d’y coucher ses motivations.

Et comment établir un budget pour une situation qui nous est complètement inconnue?

Cela nécessite beaucoup d’organisation et de prévisions. J’ai eu la chance de pouvoir faire mon stage de TIS 4 (qu’on nous conseille de faire à l’étranger) en Belgique avant de me rendre au Québec. Cela m’a aidé car je n’ai pas eu à faire beaucoup de dépenses là-bas. Je pense que pour tous les types de budget, il faut réfléchir à notre motivation et à combien on est prêt à mettre dans ce projet. Il faut aussi être débrouillard et chercher des bonnes affaires, même si l’aspect qualité/prix est important. Par exemple, quand nous sommes arrivés à Montréal avec mon ami, nous avons booké un Airbnb pour avoir le temps de chercher un appartement pour le semestre. Le problème c’est que bien que le prix était accessible, on s’est retrouvé dans un Airbnb avec des punaises de lit et des cafards.

Au final, Axel et son ami ont dû choisir un appartement coûtant 600€ par personne et par mois, ce qui est bien plus cher que le prix moyen d’un appartement en colocation à Grenoble. La chose à retenir c’est qu’il ne faut pas hésiter à allouer un plus grand budget car le confort au cours d’un semestre de trois ou quatre mois n’est pas à négliger. Certains étudiants boursiers peuvent s’inquiéter de cela mais Axel l’étant lui-même soutient que : « Bien que je sois boursier à un petit échelon, les aides rendent la concrétisation de notre projet possible. En plus de la bourse du CROUS, je recevais la Bourse Régionale de Mobilité Internationale (BRMI) et l’Aide à la Mobilité Internationale (AMI). »

Quelles difficultés as-tu rencontrées au cours de toutes ces étapes administratives ?

« Au niveau du plan administratif, vu que je suis parti au Canada pour des études de moins de 6 mois, j’ai juste eu à faire une demande d’AVE, qui coûte vraiment peu cher. Un formulaire est nécessaire au Québec qu’il faut transmettre à la RAMQ ; il est obtenu auprès de la caisse primaire d’assurance maladie et permet d’être couvert au Québec en gardant son affiliation en France. La seule petite difficulté que j’ai rencontré était de respecter le délai imposé pour constituer mon dossier pour les RI et l’UGA. »

Dans la plupart des pays, le passeport français accorde l’extrême chance de ne pas avoir à demander un visa d’études ou de séjour si on reste pour une courte période (de moins de 6 mois en général). Cela permet de diminuer les démarches administratives et de faciliter le délai entre l’acceptation de l’université et le moment où on peut acheter son billet, ce qui est bien sûr un plus pour le budget. Pour le Canada, l’AVE se demande en ligne et est accordée en moins de 72h. Axel a même pu la faire depuis la Belgique pendant son stage de TIS 4.

Montréal de nuit ©Free-Photos sur le site Pixabay

Comment as-tu été accueilli à l’UDEM ?

« A l’arrivée j’ai été intégré dans un programme de parrainage comme les autres étudiants. Mon parrain m’a fait découvrir l’université et la ville. Le seul point déstabilisant était de me retrouver dans un campus immense mais j’avais planifié d’arriver avec de l’avance pour prendre mes repères. »

L’arrivée à l’université se passe comme prévu quand on a de la chance. Ce qui change souvent, néanmoins, est le programme de cours choisi lorsqu’on avait déposé le dossier aux RI. En effet, ils arrivent que certains cours soient supprimés ou qu’ils excluent les étudiants en échange d’une année sur l’autre.

Quels sont les avantages qui t’ont poussé à étudier à l’étranger ?

« Pour moi le principal avantage est de découvrir une nouvelle culture. J’ai pu sortir de chez moi et concevoir une nouvelle manière d’aborder l’enseignement et l’apprentissage des cours. D’abord, à l’UDEM on avait un choix bien plus large de matières (malgré quelques restrictions) qu’en France. Les cours ne sont pas imposés comme dans le système universitaire français où le choix est très réduit. Là-bas, il y a aussi plus de flexibilité : les étudiants peuvent tester un cours et s’il ne leur plait vraiment pas, ils peuvent le lâcher ou changer de voie. »

Le plus surprenant à l’arrivée dans un nouveau pays est la différence avec le système d’enseignement français. Cela diffère grandement selon la région géographique mais en général on tombe sur un système plus souple où la relation étudiant-professeur est moins formelle. Dans toutes les matières qu’il a eues, Axel raconte que les professeurs sont vraiment présents et ludiques, et qu’ils s’assurent qu’on comprend tout.

Il est plus facile de suivre des cours en français mais dans tous les cas, il ne faut pas hésiter à se présenter à chaque professeur au début du cours, de lui signaler qu’on est étudiant en échange (même si vous ne serez probablement pas le seul), d’autant plus si le cours n’est pas enseigné en français ou en anglais. De cette manière, le professeur s’adaptera de manière à ce que vous compreniez bien l’ensemble du cours et il essaiera sûrement de parler plus lentement.

Il faudra aussi adapter sa propre attitude. Selon Axel, les étudiants québécois sont différents des étudiants français : « Ils ne sont pas désinvoltes comme on l’est un peu en France. Comme on peut assister aux matières qu’on choisit, tout le monde est automatiquement plus intéressé. » Tout comme les professeurs québécois qui sont d’après lui des personnes motivées qui cherchent surtout à transmettre leur vision des choses et leur goût d’apprendre, et qu’il est possible de passer voir dans leur bureau. « Là-bas, les devoirs servent à noter le travail, mais aussi à comprendre et vérifier qu’on a bien compris le cours. La date de l’examen est fixée pour qu’élève réussisse. »

Si tout était à refaire que changerais-tu ou améliorerais ?

« Les Airbnb : j’essaierais de chercher un appart dès l’arrivée. Sinon pas grand-chose. »

Les professeurs de Polytech gardent-ils contact avec toi durant le semestre ?

« Les profs te tiennent au courant des événements et des choses à faire, mais avec le décalage horaire (même s’ils essaient de le prendre en compte) ça rend parfois difficile d’allier les contacts avec les deux universités. »

Comment as-tu organisé ton retour en France en ce qui concerne l’appartement, le décalage horaire, etc. ?

Pour le retour en France, j’ai eu de la chance car le semestre UDEM se finit le 23 décembre alors que celui de Polytech se finit autour de mi-janvier. J’ai eu le temps pour me remettre à l’heure française, passer fêtes avec ma famille, et trouver un appartement. Cela a été un peu difficile car les propriétaires louent rarement pour 2 mois, mais j’insiste sur la nécessité d’être un peu débrouillard pour ce type de projet. »

Après une telle expérience, il est certain que vous reviendrez tous avec une plus grande indépendance et en étant plus dégourdi.

Quels conseils donnerais-tu aux futurs étudiants qui souhaitent partir en semestre ?

« De mettre leur appart en sous-location si possible. Et sinon d’oser même si les probabilités d’être sélectionné sont faibles. »

Le fait qu’Axel ne changerait rien à l’expérience qu’il a vécu, c’est la preuve qu’une telle expérience en vaut la peine. Tout ce qu’il faut pour réussir son séjour, c’est partir avec les bonnes clés en main.

Extraordinary Conference at UGA: K. Thorne, the Physics Nobel Prize behind Interstellar and the gravitational waves discovery

Kip Thorne, 2017 Physics Nobel Prize winner.

Since 2012 the Université de Grenoble Alpes (UGA) is inviting first class scientists and personalities to expose their work to students of every field and school of the university through ‘’extraordinary conferences’’. As part of the science week 2019, an extraordinary conference was held by Kip Thorne, not only to explain his forty years of research on gravitational waves but also to present a new scientific price: the Cécile DeWitt-Morette award.

As a matter of fact, gravitational waves (GW), space bending and black holes are deeply linked to science fiction with many pieces of art like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stargate, Planet of the Apes or Startrek. These principles has been for a long time considered as ‘’Sci-Fi’’ culture myths, however on 14th of September 2015 gravitational waves were detected on earth for the first time in human history, confirming 50 years of theories and opening a full new display of our universe. These waves, particles moving back and forth, stretching and squeezing the space, aren’t emitting light, electricity nor magnetic fields, making their detection a lifetime challenge. This waves breakthrough has been directly led by K. Thorne, and thereby Cécile DeWitt-Morette.

« Conférences d’exceptions » 2019 at Amphi Weil, UGA .

Even though A. Einstein mentioned gravitational movements’ theory in 1916, it all started few years after World War 2 as Cécile decided to make the old and low french scientific field flourish again. Along with his husband and numerus acquaintances, she created the Ecole de Physique des Houches in the Alpes, a school bringing many scientists together for summer and winter sessions every year in order to discuss world’s future. Kip Thorne attended one of the first session, such as many other future Nobel Prize owner like famous Fermi, Pauli, Dyson, Hawking and many others. Gravitational theories started there, with discussions of the brightest minds of the world, in a tiny house lost in the Haute-Savoie Mountains. Many of these gathering sessions gave birth to highly theoretical and precursor books: Relativity (1963), High energy physics (1966), Black Holes (1972) and Gravitational Radiation (1982). It marked the beginning of the Golden Age of gravitational and quantum research, the 70’s concluding with the prototype of the first Gravitational Interferometer, not working yet.

Despite the lack of concrete observation (mostly due to the wavelength of GW: 10-21m), Les Houches studies convicted the scientific field of the possibility of gravitational movements and waves As much as half a dozen laboratories where built onto kilometres long interferometers (UIRGO Europe, PTA, LISA, Caltech), imagined by the 1980 model of K. Thorne and R. Sacks. All of these leading finally to the first ever gravitational waves detected in 2015.

Gravitional Waves bending space and time around two black holes.

1.3 billion years ago, two black holes circling around, items that aren’t made of matter, went colliding. As black holes are bending space and time around them, their collision created only ‘space-time’ gravitational waves. These waves travelled through space until reaching Earth on 14th September 2015, where the first ever gravitational distortion waves detections has been achieved, confirming all of K. Thorne’s life work. Since then, 10 other events creating gravitational waves have been detected, five of them being Black Hole-Black Hole collision, but also two Black Holes swallowing neutron star, two Black Holes swallowing something identified, and one collision between Neutron Star. This explosion was seen by over 20% of world’s astronomists making it the biggest energy blast calculated since Big Bang and the most observed event in space research history. Even though this explosion is detected due to X-Ray, UV, IR and electrical emissions, we have now found out that gravitational waves are also made in biggest physical explosions.

Recent year’s breakthrough, as well as future year’s science evolution, around black holes, time travel and space bending have been initiated 50 years before by Kip Thorne and many scientist at Les Houches School right in the middle of the Alpes. Today, these subjects are massively developed in the Pop/Sci-fi culture which is inspired by K. Thorne, who directed the scientific part of Interstellar about singularities, birth of galaxies and time travel. The Nolan’s super production is now an iconic movie and continue to show how much Sci-Fi culture is the greatest mean for scientist community to spread cultural knowledge, as much as this culture use them to make people dream.

The Interstellar scientific team has been led by K. Thorne, who created the accurate model giving birth to the famous Black Hole.

For her involve, hard work, brilliant mind and personality, Cécile DeWitt-Morette is now honoured by the ‘’Prix Cécile DeWitt-Morette, Ecole des Houches’’, a freshly new award rewarding a scientist aged less than 55 years old and still researching to promote him and give him visibility. This extraordinary conference has been greeting the first ‘’Prix Cécile DeWitt-Morette, Ecole des Houches’’ nominee: Francesca Ferlaino, from Patrick Levy and Kip Thorne hands.

Interview of Mr Promayon – The head behind the TIS department

Well, to begin with, I had the pleasure to interview one of the veterans of this school and one of the pillars of the Health Technology Information department, Mister Emmanuel Promayon. He’s a computer science teacher in this department and throughout this interview, he will introduce you to the TIS department and its evolution over the years. But first who is M. Emmanuel Promayon you may ask?

By the way, I recommend you finish reading the article, there is a small interesting fact at the end. 😉

1)   Who is M.Promayon?

Promayon is a computer science teacher in the TIS department but besides teaching in Polytech, he’s a researcher in a laboratory near the University Hospital of Grenoble. His research consists mainly of modelling behaviour on the body, also called biomechanical modelling, and developing software tools useful in the development of new products used in the clinical environment. His story with Polytech began in 1999, just a year after finishing his PhD, and he was recruited to work on the project of implementing a new department which became the Health Technology Department that we know today.

2)   The origin of the TIS department…

The person behind the creation of the Health Technology Information was Pierre Baconnier and others were involved in this project such as Catherine Berrut, Pierre-Yves Gumery, Sylvie Charbonnier and Emmanuel Promayon, who all still teach in Polytech. The reason behind its creation was to take into account the development of the health industry, especially with medical instruments and devices, as health science really started to open to IT. Also, at the time, to have the same competences as the TIS graduates, you needed to have a computer science background and have worked with health professionals for many years so that they understand their needs and finding adequate tools to help them. In order to get the project started, they implemented a competency list so that they could track what they need from an engineer coming from this department and opted for a single option, which resulted to adding up two other options nowadays, in the final year before graduating. After all these implementations, they began recruiting in 2000. In the beginning, the industry didn’t have a specific type of need while the new engineers entered the market but things have changed today.

Interviewing Mr Promayon
3)   …till its success nowadays

Promayon was the director of the department 2 years ago, where he had a 5-year time span where he managed the TIS department and developed new ideas that could benefit the department. At the end he just thought that the position needed some fresh air. Today, he is really satisfied with the result and of what his colleagues and him achieved throughout the years. In fact, the department responded clearly to the need of the industry where the new graduates have a clear profile of being intermediates between the technology part and the health professionals. Furthermore, some companies didn’t know this kind of profile was needed which explains the fact that most of the new engineers get a job right after their course. Even though everything has been settled, new challenges are still yet to come…

4)   His vision on the future

While the department is well established, he still thinks that huge challenges are still to come due to the constant evolution of technology and health and companies looking for new specific profiles so they always need to think ahead for what’s coming in the future. In addition to that, they need to have an idea of the tendency of the job market to change some implementations and adapt to the need of the industry with their new criteria. Despite these challenges, he’s very confident about its future, especially how it is well-organised in order to get all the inputs needed in the real world.

5)   His advice for the future upcomers

Studying hard was one of his pieces of advice obviously but most of all to enjoy the student life as much as possible, especially with the diversity that the departments of this school has to offer. In fact, particularly in the TIS department, newcomers have widely different backgrounds so it’s a challenge for both sides, for the students and the teachers, to adapt and to understand despite the difference of levels within the class.

To finish this article, I want to thank M.Promayon for this opportunity and his interesting point of view that I wanted to share in this work and we wish him all the best in his future.

FUN FACT!

Mr Promayon has a very exquisite knowledge of English mainly because of his Irish wife and his two children, all bilingual, so they tend to speak mainly English. His children even correct him whenever he makes a mistake. LOL!

Interview of Guillaume, member of the BDSM (Mountain Sport Office)

⇒ Hi Guillaume! So, can you introduce yourself to those who don’t know you yet?
Hi! Of course!
My name is Guillaume Colin, I am a GCC student and the Material Manager of the BDSM.

⇒ And you are also a high level athlete, aren’t you?
Yeah, in rock climbing, I won the University French Championships and I participated in a World Cup in Chamonix last year.

⇒ So, can you tell us about the BDSM, what are the purposes of this organization?
The BDSM was founded by Thomas Bioud and Marylou Pellerin, which are currently president and vice-president of the office.
The idea of creating this organization emerged in the spring of 2018 :
the main goal was to provide the opportunity for students to meet new people and to go hiking, skiing and climbing around Grenoble.
We recruited the office’s members in the different sections of Polytech, and we started the administrative steps quickly, so that the association could be ready for the school startin September 2018.
The other purpose of the BDSM is the equipment loan : we provide members with mountain equipment.
The school management was rather against this idea, mainly for responsability’s reasons, that’s why I made a training, provided by the FFME (French Federation of Mountain and Climbing), in order to be able to manage the material.

⇒ Can you tell us about the events you have already organized, and those you planned to organize?
The first event we oragnized was an aperitif at the top of the Moucherotte, over the 60 participants, 50 of them took their BDSM membership after this event.
We also organized a DVA (Detecting and Locating Avalanche Victims) formation.
For the end of the year, we plan to organize a barbecue at Fort St Eynard, and for the next year, we want to organize a week end in the Callanques with the collaboration of Polytech Marseille!

⇒ Okay, thank you for your time and I wish you all the best for your exams!