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International Affairs

Faculty mobility between l'X and Columbia University

L'X and Columbia University are linked through the Alliance program, which facilitates the creation of academic synergies and encourages faculty mobility. Interviews with two professors currently in mobility between École Polytechnique and Columbia University.

From April to May, École Polytechnique hosts Lorenzo Polvani, Professor at Columbia University, while Yvan Bonnassieux, Professor at l’X, is staying in Columbia, New York City. Interviews with both of them.

Lorenzo Polvani, Professor of Applied Mathematics and of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, came to École Polytechnique through the Alliance Program. He is staying in France for six weeks in order to meet several scientists and especially researchers from the LMD (Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique – CNRS, UPMC, ENS, École Polytechnique). He was able to do the interview in English as well as in French, which he speaks fluently.

What did you know about l’X and France until now?

École Polytechnique has an excellent reputation in Columbia University, where it is regarded as one of the best scientific institutions in Europe. In fact, Guillaume Bal, a Professor of applied mathematics who works two doors away from me, graduated from l’X (X90). In my department, we certainly welcome applications from École Polytechnique students!

As for my interactions with École Polytechnique until now, I had already given a talk at the LMD a few years back but since then, it is my first time in France for a professional purpose. However, I was already familiar with the French culture since I went to high school in Paris.

Why did you choose to come to France for a few weeks?

In the Paris region, there is a huge concentration of research institutions and there are many labs to visit. This is a great opportunity for me to meet several scientists at the same time. Of course, I am going to meet researchers from the LMD, but I will also visit labs such as LATMOS (CNRS, UVSQ, UPMC, Institut Pierre Simon Laplace) or LOCEAN (UPMC, CNRS, IRD, MNHN) which work closely with the LMD. So far, my scientific colleagues in France have been very generous with their time and very welcoming!

The aim for me is also to see to what extent I can initiate some collaborations with scientists based in France. Having completed a joint program for my PhD with both Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the MIT, I strongly believe in long-term scientific exchanges, but it takes time to build bridges between labs and institutions. After my stay in France, it will probably be easier for me to send some of my PhD students for a few months in the labs I visited and I hope to welcome students from those labs in return.

You gave a conference at École Polytechnique on April 13 about the ozone hole and climate change. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

In the 70’s, an ozone hole has been forming in the Southern pole, due to chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs used for spray cans and refrigerators. Since the Montreal protocol which took effect in 1989, the use of CFCs has been highly regulated and today, we know that the ozone depleting substances are decreasing, so the ozone hole is projected to close. However, for a long time, nobody had really appreciated the impact that the ozone hole has had on climate, and we have now shown that it has had consequences on the surface wind, precipitation, and even the ocean circulation. My conference described some of those effects, and also presented the role that the projected closing of the ozone hole will play in future climate change, with its impacts expected to cancel several of the impacts of increasing greenhouse gas emissions during the next half-century.

© J. Barande, École Polytechnique

Yvan Bonnassieux, Professor of Physics specialized in Electrical Engineering at École Polytechnique, left through the Alliance Program for a 3 month stay at Columbia University at the beginning of April 2015. There, he is working closely with John Kymissis, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Columbia Laboratory from The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. He gave us this interview a few days before leaving for New York City.

What was your connection with Columbia University until now?

One of our PhD and Post-Doctoral students, Chang Hyun Kim, spent a few months working at Columbia where he stayed under the Alliance Doctoral Mobility Program 2012-2013. His research visit dealt with the experimental investigation of the theoretical models he had developed at École Polytechnique. This project initiated an active collaboration between Columbia Laboratory for Unconventional Electronics and the Laboratory of Physics of Thin Films and Interfaces (LPICM - CNRS, École Polytechnique) where I work. Thanks to the Alliance Program, I also spent one week at Columbia University three years ago. Therefore, I already had a few connections there, especially with John Kymissis with whom I have previously collaborated for some publications.

What will you be doing during your stay at Columbia University and what will this research visit bring you?

First, I will be doing some teaching as well as some research on organic electronic devices such as photovoltaics, sensors or transistors. More precisely, I am going to give a 15-hour course on “Behavioral and physical modeling of organic electronic devices” to the PhD students, and I will be meeting several scientists from Columbia Laboratory for Unconventional Electronics. It means that I will have to make myself understood in English, and that is already going to be an interesting challenge for me!

Second, I also want to contribute in further improving student mobility between l’X and Columbia University, both in and out. With Université Paris-Saclay Master’s program ‘Technological Innovation & Entrepreneurship’ of which I am in charge, École Polytechnique students are able to spend 6 months at University of California, Berkeley, and this experience really broadens their horizons. I believe that we can build similar programs with Columbia University, especially on topics such as the smart city or energetic efficiency, on which both our institutions have developed a specific expertise. In fact, those reciprocal exchanges have already started: l’X has hosted for a week on campus fifteen students from Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE) in March. The students discovered the French entrepreneurial ecosystem by meeting innovative start-up creators from l’X, visiting laboratories and incubators, and participating in pitches’ sessions. In return, École Polytechnique students should go to Columbia University to discover the entrepreneurial ecosystem in New York City in autumn.