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Polytechnique strengthens its international development in Brazil

As a result of École Polytechnique's collaborations with the most prestigious scientific and technological Brazilian institutions, several Brazilian students join l'X every year, and more and more students from l'X also choose to spend some time in Brazil.

Reinforced partnerships in Brazil: double degree program agreement signed with the ITA

Ten to twenty Brazilian students are admitted every year in the Ingénieur Polytechnicien Program of École Polytechnique, and about five join the Master’s programs, coming from the most prestigious institutions in their country. L’X has current partnerships with São Paulo University,  the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA) in Rio de Janeiro and University de Campinas. In December 2014, École Polytechnique also signed a double degree program agreement with the Technological Institute of Aeronautics, known as ITA.

This double degree agreement allows students from ITA to pass the international admission exam to access École Polytechnique. They study two years and a half in France before completing their research internship and their year abroad at ITA. Thus, the selected students get both an Engineering diploma from the Technological Institute of Aeronautics in Brazil and from École Polytechnique in France. This agreement also encourages Polytechnique students to go to ITA to do their research internship and their year abroad. Additionally, faculty exchange shall play a major role in the interaction between the two institutes.

Professor Carlos Américo Pacheco, Rector of ITA, interviewed for L’X on air, tells us more about the exchanges with l’X and the value of an international experience in Brazil.

Martin Leguil’s experience: a PhD under the supervision of Artur Ávila, Fields Medal Winner

For their internships or their year abroad, more and more students from l'X also choose to spend some time in Brazil, where there are plenty of opportunities, in research as well as in industry. For example, every year, a few students from the Ingénieur Polytechnicien Program do their research internship at the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA), considered to be the foremost research and educational institution of Brazil in the area of mathematics. Martin Leguil (X2009) went further: after achieving his research internship at IMPA with Harold Rosenberg, he is now doing a PhD at Université Paris Diderot under the supervision of Artur Ávila, Fields Medal Winner based at IMPA half of the year and in France the rest of the time.

"IMPA is a great place to study for mathematicians. The researchers there have a strong geometrical approach, which is very complementary to what we learn at l'X. There aren't a lot of students, so it is easy to make connections." Martin did not speak a word of Portuguese before coming to Brazil. "IMPA is very open to international students and scientists. During my internship, there were several researchers from CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research). I took a Portuguese course at IMPA and since then, I've learnt the basic vocabulary!" Indeed, CNRS has an international unit based in IMPA.

After his internship, Martin completed a Master's program on fundamental mathematics and dynamical systems at Université Pierre et Marie Curie. For his PhD, Martin then decided to work on partially hyperbolic diffeomorphisms, a topic on which IMPA is very strong. For instance, Jacob Palis, a famous mathematician who directed IMPA from 1993 until 2003, made important contributions to hyperbolic dynamics, whose study was intiated by his advisor Stephen Smale from UC Berkeley. It is rumored that the latter found one of his most celebrated theorems on the beaches of Copacabana! This alone might convince any mathematician to work on that topic, but Harold Rosenberg also helped Martin get in touch with Artur Ávila, Fields Medal Winner, who accepted to supervise his PhD.

Martin comments: "Working with Artur Ávila is a very enriching experience. I speak with him once or twice a month, and his questions are usually so hard to tackle that I have plenty to do in between our conversations!" Since Artur Ávila spends half of the year at IMPA, from November to March, it also gives Martin a reason to go back to Rio de Janeiro during the Winter months. No doubt will he find time to look for inspiration in Copacabana!