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"And all of this started with Erasmus..."

Clarisse Faria-Fortecoëf

(Pour consulter cet article en français, cliquez ici)

After a Bachelor's degree in Spain, a Master and a PhD in France, a postdoc in the United States, Neus Sabater, Doctor in Applied Mathematics, decided to settle in the Hexagone and work in a French private company. A logical and almost obvious career path.

This is during the last year of her Mathematics degree at the University of Barcelona that Neus had the opportunity to leave Spain for France, for one year (2005-2006), in the framework of the Erasmus program. With her Spanish graduation, she was then able to get a fellowship and to enroll in the second year of the MVA (Mathematics, Vision, Learning) Master at the ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure) of Cachan.

"If I could do this M2 and stay in France, it is because I did Erasmus." After theoretical mathematics, Neus had the opportunity to work applied mathematics and do a traineeship at the Paris Descartes University in the medical imaging field.
After this traineeship, she did her thesis at the ENS of Cachan on satellite imagery and worked with the CNES (Centre National d’Études Spatiales).

At the funding level, Neus got a scholarship for three years, the duration of her PhD (2006, 2009). In addition to this income, she had the opportunity to ensure a "Tutoring" (64 hours per year) intended for Bachelor's degree students in Mathematics and Computer Science.

After her thesis' defense in December 2009, she left Paris region for Los Angeles in the framework of a postdoc at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) which houses among others, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the NASA.
Again, Neus won a fellowship, a prize awarded by the NASA. "I continued on satellite imagery with application to geophysics and in collaboration with geologists. It was a great experience at personal and professional levels. An experience I recommend to all. Work with other teams, people, it's very rewarding".

If Neus had the opportunity to stay and work in the United States, she however, chose to return to Europe. And France was and is the country according to her, which allows her to pursue her career in research.

She has been working thus for three years as Researcher at the Research and Innovation Department and particularly, in the image and video processing laboratory, of Technicolor, a company of the private sector which preferably recruits PhDs. "My PhD and postdoc experiences were sought and valued by my company. This is quite rare in France". This is one of the reasons why, Neus accepted their proposal. At the same time, as she says, it is difficult to see how it would be possible to do research without going through a PhD. Among her activities, she also supervises trainees, PhD students under CIFRE (Conventions Industrielles de Formation par la Recherche - industrial agreements on training through research) contract, as well as postdocs.

Although there are significant differences between the private and the public sector, Neus nevertheless has kept the contact, the link with the second one: supervision of PhD students, writing and publication of scientific papers, regular participation in conferences. "If you want to work in research, you can not turn your backs to the academic world". That said, as she points out, this is also true in the other way.

Listening to you, one has the feeling that everything was done naturally, that you have not had to face particular difficulties, obstacles…

"Yes, indeed, I have not had to make difficult decisions. I didn't experience critical moments. In terms of funding, I didn't have any problems. Maybe my research field, imaging, was in itself an asset to find financial supports. I am aware of how lucky I am, I feel privileged".

And what are your short or long-term prospects?

"In the company I work, I have opportunities for career development at the scientific level, which is what interests me. I give myself some time. What I'm doing now, suits me perfectly. And I often travel in Europe but also to the United States".

A few words in conclusion?

"I have moved a lot. One should not be afraid by mobility. This is specially important in the research field. It's interesting, rewarding and above all it opens a lot of doors. And all of this started with Erasmus. Without Erasmus, I would probably not have left Spain".

Furthermore, if France has offered the opportunity to Neus Sabater to live her first mobility experience, Spain, her country, was for Romuald Berty with whom we had an interview a few months ago, the opportunity during his co-supervised thesis between both countries, to participate in the starting of a language school near Barcelona.
Does the success of a mobility experience would depend on each individual project or on possibilities offered by a particular country? Both certainly, but in all cases the professional and personal project seems crucial.

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  • To facilitate the transition of PhDs (whatever their field and seniority) from academia to the private sector;
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