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Engineer and PhD – the advantages of a dual profile

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A roundtable on the engineer-PhD profile in businesses was held on September 3rd. It was an opportunity for seven alumni from various business sectors to present their academic careers and their professional experience to third-year students.

A dual profile whose main advantages were emphasized by Olivier Besson, head of doctoral training at ISAE-SUPAERO, pointing out that you can start following a research path during your engineering studies.

The PhD is the only diploma with international recognition. It recognizes the scientific competencies acquired, of course, including the ability to propose innovative solutions, but also skills in terms of autonomy and responsibility – look at the European reference system for qualifications, for example.

A PhD is training for excellence in and through research and an exciting professional experience in an environment of powerful scientific innovation.

"Look at a thesis as expert training in an innovative field" - Christelle Cumer – ONERA Research Engineer– ISAE-SUPAERO 1995

A question that often comes up is, why undertake a doctorate after an ISAE-SUPAERO engineering degree?

It widens the field of possibilities and leads to interesting careers in high-level positions. A PhD opens up more opportunities after the engineering program.

"The subject of my end-of-studies project in aerospace and the context in which my thesis was going to be carried out really motivated me to pursue a PhD." Vivien Enjolras, Head of the Digital & Signal Processing Department Thales Alenia Space - ISAE-SUPAERO 2003

Committing yourself to doctoral studies is an opportunity to delve into a research subject in depth over three years with total independence.

“You’ll have three years to push back the limits of our knowledge and to find innovative solutions to the new problems posed by the various players in a professional environment because you will be both a student and an employee,” Olivier Besson pointed out.

One of the first skills acquired is learning to manage a project over three years. You have to learn how to manage a budget because, to carry out experiments, you will have to plan schedules and their implementation costs. Learning to work in a team is a must and gives you a concrete grasp, beyond your thesis, of all your future research projects in the laboratory or in companies.

A PhD also lets you explore new paths, to look at a problem in many ways, whether in a research laboratory or in a company. Writing a thesis entails acquiring the ability to leap into the unknown, to explore hypotheses and to look for solutions.

"Writing a thesis entails a leap into the unknown, developing an ability to explore, to determine your path on your own. These skills are very useful in a start-up where you have to look into new areas in order to grow." Yann AMEHO – Engineer in Guidance, Navigation and Control at Delair-Tech – ISAE-SUPAERO 2010

A PhD opens opportunities in many business sectors, both public and private (37% for PhDs in 2015, with a national average of 48% for PhDs in engineering sciences, nearly 90% for ISAE-SUPAERO PhDs), and there is a strong political will in France today to increase this last figure. Systems have been set up to encourage employment for PhDs. The public authorities have shown a strong desire to have post-graduates focus their careers on the private sector.

Frédérique Vidal, Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation spoke in these terms at the closing meeting of the National PhD Day last March 27th.

"For a company, recruiting a PhD is a winning bet on innovation. A PhD is a new way of looking at things – an international vision of a field of expertise that is infinitely valuable in a globalized economy; an ability to question what exists, which is constantly put to the test while preparing a thesis, a talent for detachment essential to providing support for the cultural transformation of businesses in a world undergoing radical change."

"A thesis is an opportunity to develop our ability to never give up and to see a project through to the end – that was very helpful to me when setting up my own company" - Jérôme Limido, CEO IMPETUS Afea - Chief Technology Officer on Scientific and Technological Issues-ISAE-ENSMA 2004

Research is also competition transformed into emulation. A motivation to try to move forward a little faster than the others and to face the unending, demanding scrutiny of the scientific community.

“A post-grad has to prove that what he produces is new. Scientific recognition will add value to his thesis work.” Olivier Besson – Head of Doctoral Programs

ISAE-SUPAERO’s policy is to reach 20% post-graduates vs 13% today. To meet this objective, a PhD can also be prepared by following a research path proposed by the head of engineering training starting in their second year.

DFI Program

Starting in their 2nd year, engineering students can follow a program tailored to possible doctoral studies. This program consists in alternating between courses and a research project at an ISAE-SUPAERO laboratory over 2 years, with the possibility of spending time at a partner laboratory abroad.

After the selection phase, students join the research departments at ISAE-SUPAERO and are involved in work developed with industrial and academic partners. The program – adapted to the research subject – is pursued in close connection with the School’s scientific policy enabling students to prepare for a possible continuation with doctoral studies. Six students have enrolled in this new program for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Doctoral training at ISAE-SUPAERO

ISAE-SUPAERO offers doctoral training oriented toward aeronautical and spatial questions at 6 doctoral schools.

Doctoral training at ISAE-SUPAERO: scientific excellence oriented toward aeronautical and spatial questions.

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