Happy Mother’s Day!

Throughout the month of May, the celebration of mothers takes place.
As we all know, the responsibility of motherhood is huge, and the mental load can easily be very stressful.

This holiday exists so we can show appreciation to women who have an influence on our lives, whether it is our biological mother, our stepmother, our adoptive mother, a mother-to-be, a mother who has passed away, and the list goes on.
Hopefully we all have a mother figure in our lives that is there to support us, to help us make the right decisions, and to care for us. 

A bit of history…

This holiday has its own history, depending on the country. 

The celebration of a mother figure is known to have started in ancient Greece, when people celebrated Rhea, the Great Mother of the Gods.
During the 16th century, Christians used to celebrate Mothering Sunday in the UK, a very religious commemoration at the time that honored women and their children.
Mother’s Day, as we know it nowadays, started in the United States. The first women to desire to start this tradition were Julia Howe and Ann Jarvis, who campaigned for a peaceful celebration in the late 1800s. In 1908, the first Mother Day’s celebration took place as Ann’s daughter organized a private memorial for Ann, who had recently passed away.
This idea quickly spread throughout the whole country, even if the proposal to make it an official holiday was denied at first. Eventually, in 1914, the President of the United States accepted it as a national holiday, held every year on the second Sunday of May. After that, several countries all around the world followed up the tradition and officialised this holiday… But what about France?

Mother’s Day in France

The origins of this holiday in France are quite different from what I have just told you about.

In the early 1800s, the French emperor Napoléon I, thought of creating a day where people would celebrate mothers of large families. This idea did not come to life until 1896, as a way of motivating people to be more family-oriented and have more children. Shortly, during the first decade of the 20th century, mothers of big families were starting to get honored as much as the fathers. 

French people would have to wait until the end of World War I to start celebrating Mother’s Day inspired by the American tradition.
In 1918 a celebration took place to honor the women who lost their husbands in battle.  Mother’s Day became an official holiday in the following years, with the intention of celebrating and honoring mothers and their involvement in their family’s lives.
In 1950, a law was passed stating that Mother’s Day would occur every year on the last Sunday of May. However, if the Pentecost (Christian holiday after Easter) happens on that same Sunday, Mother’s Day is postponed to the first Sunday of June. And guess what? That is what is going to happen this year! Mother’s Day in France will be celebrated on June 7th of 2020.

The new way of celebrating Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day, which was first created to make mothers feel appreciated, has now been highly exploited. In fact, retailers quickly understood how this holiday could be beneficial for them and started to take advantage of it.

From Mother’s Day pre-made cards to expensive gifts, the commercialization of this holiday is one of the most successful ways to make money in most developed countries.

What could we do to make Mother’s Day less of a commercial holiday?

Well, there are a lot of possibilities! 

    • Instead of buying pre-made cards at your local supermarket, you could make your own.
      It is quite easy, fast and you have the power to do whatever you want to your card – make it simple or extravagant, you decide!
    • Write a letter to the mother figure you want to celebrate.
      Writing letters is a lost art. Unlike cards, which are meant to be aesthetically pleasing, take this chance to express yourself and tell them how much they mean to you.
    • Food, food, food!
      You could prepare her a little something to eat, in order to show her your appreciation. Whether it is breakfast in the morning or any other meal, this is a lovely idea that would make anyone happy.
    • A drawing goes a long way.
      The simplest things can bring the most happiness in life. If you are an artsy person, you could definitely draw something cute and give it to her as a gift.
    • Make use of your printer.
      Some moments are so special that they become part of the highlights of our lives. Do not hesitate to print a picture (or a picture collage) that means a lot to both of you.
    • Most importantly, do not forget to tell her how much you care about her.
      Sometimes we do not show much affection to the ones we care about the most. This is the perfect opportunity to remind them how important they are to you.

Hopefully, you enjoy this year’s Mother’s Day close to the women you appreciate the most in your life. If not, do not forget that distance does not invalidate your feelings. Cherish the sweet memories!
Also, keep in mind that there are various celebrations honoring other family members such as fathers and grandparents and they are just as important! Appreciate your relationship with others and keep on making great memories.

A Brazilian student in Polytech : Interview of Marilia Rosato, a MAT student

Marilia came from the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), a public university located in São Carlos. The university hosts 26 000 students on its campus, when the population of São Carlos is around 245 000 inhabitants. We can compare it to the UGA and Grenoble in a smaller size. There, she was studying materials science and engineering.

She wanted to do a year abroad to discover a new culture and to gain new technical skills. Coming here was the only opportunity that she had to do a masters abroad and to obtain a double degree.

To come here, she had to learn the language first. She started to learn French doing 2 hours of classes per week for a year. It allowed her to have a B1 level. And from a French student perspective, she and all of her fellow Brazilian students who came here had a very good French level and I think we were all impressed to see them adapt so quickly.

The fact that she came here with other Brazilians student was a big plus. They could help each other settle in and not be overwhelmed by the administrative procedure and the distance from their home. To find lodging, they were helped by Polytech to complete all the procedure with the CROUS.

Then the classes started. At first it was a little difficult to integrate with us, the French student. The language barrier still being quite difficult to overcome, the French that they had learnt was quite different to the one that we use to communicate daily. Especially us, younger people. But with time, they adapted and they felt well integrated in the class.

The first semester was the hardest for them. It was also the hardest for us, as this is usually the hardest semester in MAT. The schedule was also a lot busier than what they were used to. With the added concentration effort that they had to make in order to understand French, it was quite hard at first. The second semester was easier and since Marilia already had done well in the first one, it was less stressful.

About Grenoble, she found it to be great. The mountains are great and plenty of activities are available. She found it very dynamic all year long. The food is also a big plus.

She also had plenty of time to travel across Europe with her Brazilian mates, which was great since you don’t travel across continents very often. Their first trip was to Iceland during the Toussaint break of 2018. She has visited 11 countries in total.

In summary, she loved it here in Grenoble. We all know how discovering a new culture is always very enriching. But she can say that this experience has changed her life for good, because of all the friendships that she created here but also with the new opportunities that this has given her career-wise. Finally, she has to finish her studies in Brazil starting in August but she plans to come back to live here in 2021.

Internships in the City by the Lake

Sylvie Charbonnier is a GIPSA lab researcher whose field of research is signal processing and automatic control. In her job, she’s had many opportunities to work with foreigners, through scientific conventions or article peer reviews. And for many years, Ms Charbonnier has sent TIS students to the US, thanks to a fellow researcher who supervised their work at Chicago University. Thanks to this contact, many TIS students have got to hone their skills in digital signal processing while working on sleep analysis.

Have a lot of TIS students got the opportunity to do their internships in Chicago? Or students from other programs?

My contact used to supervise one student a year. He also did welcome one of my PhD students, who worked there for an entire year. IESE or RICM students could have done their internship in his lab, since the subject revolved around signal processing, but only TIS students were sent over there.

Bird’s eye view of Chicacgo © Alex Qian

This opportunity for TIS students to do research abroad started from around 2008 for about seven years. Unfortunately, the relation started to abate five years ago, as Ms Charbonnier explains: “When I stopped working on sleep analysis, it just happened, and after a while [our relation petered out].”

Would you be willing to find another contact abroad?

You don’t make relations to send students abroad, but, when you see an opportunity you may use it to help students who are looking for an international experience.

For this reason, students from any program in Polytech Grenoble should be aware that their teachers can help them find a research internship. Ms Charbonnier is used to going to China to give lectures to students at the university with which Polytech Grenoble has an agreement. Furthermore, many of her colleagues work in collective research projects with funding from the EU. Our teachers get to travel and meet a lot people: that’s why you should be on the lookout!

The science of boredom

No matter who you are and what you were doing during the lockdown, at some point or another, you must have felt this weird and pretty obnoxious feeling that we all know so well, boredom. Of course, boredom is not a feeling exclusive to the lockdown, but the limitations in term of movement and activities available greatly enhances the probability of it occurring. But why, why is our brain « torturing »us in such a way,  wouldn’t life be less boring  if « boring » didn’t exist ?

The face you make when you are bored

Boredom is by definition the feeling of ininterest in an activity we may be partaking in or just the lack of said activity. In other words, we get bored when we are left alone with ourselves and our thoughts, when whatever we are doing at that point in time is not stimulating enough to make us use our brains. When we think about it from this perspective, we notice that it means that our natural state of being is a state of boredom, and we get out of it whenever we start doing something stimulating enough. So does that mean that living in itself is boring ? Just « being » is not enough for our brains ?

Life is boring:

Animals get bored too, they need a certain amount of stimulus to stay healthy, but the amount and kind of stimulus they need if what makes us different. We are always looking for new ways to stimulate ourselves. Unlike a dog,for example, just going out to walk once every day is far from being enough for us. We could say that life is boring by default to force us to be creative with ourselves. On top of that, the part of the brain that controls boredom is the frontal cortex, the same part that helps with self-control and self-regulation. So in a way, boredom is a way for us to control our lack of activity. This begs the question, if we have a part of the brain specifically designated to force us to do more, does that mean that not doing anything is dangerous?

Our addiction to excitement :

A lack of activity is dangerous for us both mentally and physically, physically in the sense that the body is gonna be less developed and more prone to get sick, and mentally through different mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Our brains have thaasophobia, the fear of getting bored, if exposed to a total lack of activity, our brains can go as far as finding stimulation out of self-mutilation or from hallucinations.  Another negative effect of too much boredom is addiction, a lack of stimuli can trick our brains into getting addicted to harmful substances/activities to get some excitement out of it.           Why do we get bored even when partaking in activities then ? Well the chart down below explains to a certain extent, an activity is considered boring if our skill level in said activity is high enough to be able to execute it without using any considerable amount of energy.

Flow model from the book « Finding                           F low », 1997 by Csikszentmihalyi, M.

Boredom is anything but boring :

In the wheel of emotions shown down below, we can see that boredom is a subcategory of disgust,  an emotion that keeps us away from harmful things, it protects us the same way boredom protects us from monotony and sameness, it allows us to go out of our way to try new things. Boredom is a state of mind in which you are left alone to think about how to be more productive, It’sa feeling that keeps us going forward and It’swhat made us become what we are today as a species.

Robert Plutchik’s « Wheel of emotions »

[Instant Photo] Mai 2020 2/2

Un ciel étoilé © Victor CUAU
Un ciel étoilé © Victor CUAU

Un jour, peut être qu’on s’allongera dans l’herbe, pour regarder les étoiles et refaire le monde ensemble toute la nuit.

Photos et texte par Victor CUAU


– Tu regarderas, la nuit, les étoiles. C’est trop petit chez moi pour que je te montre où se trouve la mienne. C’est mieux comme ça. Mon étoile, ça sera pour toi une des étoiles. Alors, toutes les étoiles, tu aimeras les regarder… Elles seront toutes tes amies. Et puis je vais te faire un cadeau… Il rit encore.
– Ah! Petit bonhomme, petit bonhomme j’aime entendre ce rire!
– Justement ce sera mon cadeau… Ce sera comme pour l’eau…
– Que veux-tu dire?
– Les gens ont des étoiles qui ne sont pas les mêmes. Pour les uns, qui voyagent, les étoiles sont des guides. Pour d’autres elles ne sont rien que de petites lumières. Pour d’autres, qui sont savants, elles sont des problèmes. Pour mon businessman elles étaient de l’or. Mais toutes ces étoiles-là se taisent. Toi, tu auras des étoiles comme personne n’en a…
– Que veux-tu dire?
– Quand tu regarderas le ciel, la nuit, puisque j’habiterai dans l’une d’elles, puisque je rirai dans l’une d’elles, alors ce sera pour toi comme si riaient toutes les étoiles. Tu auras, toi, des étoiles qui savent rire!

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince (1943)