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The path followed by this newly-graduated doctoral student, described by his Physics teacher, Suzanne Faye.

Last November, Moussa Diaby, a CIFRE doctoral student, brilliantly defended his thesis at École Polytechnique. He had worked with PSA PEUGEOT CITROEN on the formation of deposits in the grooves of diesel engine pistons. Moussa's success is explained by years of research and high-quality training. We look back over his experiences with one of his preparatory class physics teachers, Suzanne Faye.

Moussa had an exemplary career here, said physics teacher Suzanne Faye straight out when she talked about her former preparatory class student. Moussa Diaby, a young graduate doctoral student from École Polytechnique, now works for PSA PEUGEOT CITROEN, where he did his thesis research. But the path to success was not without its obstacles for Moussa. In 1999, the young secondary school pupil left his home country, the Ivory Coast, with an excellence scholarship awarded by the Ivory Coast government. When he reached France, his living conditions turned out to be very difficult; the political troubles in his country were creating a number of delays in the payment of scholarship money and his accommodation conditions were difficult (he was living in hostels at the time and had to keep changing regularly).

And yet, Moussa remained kind and enthusiastic, said Suzanne Faye, He came to do his preparatory class in a modest lycée, the Lycée Jacques Decour in Anvers, between Barbès and Butte Montmartre, in the 9th district of Paris. He soon fitted in to the class with the students from the district. He joined Spéciales PC*, a preparatory class that had just been set up to give students from the district easier access to the competitive exam for the grandes écoles. A practical room dedicated to optics had been specially designed for these students. It was here that Moussa took part in the first attempt to guide a telescope via the Internet, a project supported by the American Berkeley University and developed by the Hands-On-Universe group.

A brilliant student
Moussa very quickly reached the top of the class and achieved brilliant results. With a little group of African friends, he managed to get a real momentum going in the class: a sort of intelligent osmosis», added his teacher. After his year in maths spé, Moussa took the competitive exam for the grandes écoles. He was offered a place at ENS Chimie Lille, and didn't feel like doing another year's preparation to try again for more prestigious schools. Suzanne Faye said, Moussa had the intelligence to choose a place that was made for him and to climb the ladder rung by rung.

Moussa put a great deal into his four years in Lille. He had hardly started his studies when he knew which direction he wanted to take: industry. After his second year, he obtained his tutors' agreement to do a gap year at ARECELOR MITTAL, in partnership with École Centrale Paris, where he did a research and development internship on optimising the removal of carbon build-up in the coke ovens at the ARCELOR DUNKERQUE coke works. This experience confirmed his intentions and he went on to work for an applied thesis. At École Polytechnique, where he did his Doctorate in the Reactional Mechanisms Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Michel Sablier and in partnership with PSA PEUGEOT CITROEN, he worked on the formation of deposits in the grooves of diesel engine pistons. He was congratulated on this scholarly study by his teachers at Lille, Centrale and Polytechnique.

Strength and enjoyment of life

Suzanne Faye was there when Moussa defended his thesis at École Polytechnique on 24 November 2009. Proud of her former student, with whom she had formed a close relationship, she was delighted with his success: His strength lies in his determination in the face of adversity: he has always been full of hope, even when life has become difficult. He has given of his best without ever losing his enjoyment of life.  

Moussa's family, who the teacher knows too, attended the viva. Assembled for the occasion, his family and friends listened carefully - and even filmed - the young researcher during his presentation. Moussa was never thrown off his stride by the jury's questions, kept smiling and was able to convince his audience of the results of his work. Suzanne is not surprised by his success: Moussa has always tried to find a solution to problems and has shown evidence of scientific creativity. And this optimistic, determined character won over the engineers at PSA PEUGEOT CITROEN: At the end of his thesis, this young father of two little daughters has just signed an employment contract with PSA.