What former students have to say about the AIV Master...
Evan Harel (Duke, Oxford, AIV '08)
" After finishing my Master's in coursework at the University of Oxford, I was still unsure about what topic I would like to research for my thesis. I had a general idea of what I was interested in, but still was on the lookout for a program that could help identify my primary research motivations and interests, while at the same time acting as a transition stage between Masters student life and being a researcher.
There are many students just like me, some who might not even be sure they would like to pursue research, and to these people I would strongly recommend the AIV M2 program. It introduces in a class and internship setting what it is like to analyze current scientific journal articles instead of textbooks, to ponder new methods for research instead of just understanding old ones, and focuses on the dissemination of broad spectrum scientific information rather than the traditional one-way teacher to student learning.
AIV encourages students to find their scientific niche, and in doing so, share their journey with their classmates and bring as many of them along as are willing to join. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to participate in this program, and feel that every student considering a career in research should have the opportunity to take an M2 like the AIV program.
Reinhard Hoell, Bank analyst (Leipzig, AIV '06)
" It was a presentation of the legendary Prof. Meselson when I first attended an AIV session. Immediately I was thrilled, it seemed like an absolutely unique program in Paris, very individual and interdisciplinary without a lot of bureaucracy attached. With some amazing individuals (both students and teachers) it took no convincing for me to apply a few months later.
Ultimately I would say, it was the AIV where I learned what science is all about. It is about thinking, passion and most importantly painstakingly throughout research. The three stages enabled me to see the differences between a good lab and a bad one, and what to watch out for when conducting my own research.
The other students were simply amazing, it was joyful to work with them in diverse group-projects even when we did not agree with each other. In our heated discussions they and our teachers would always seek out the last thoughtful questions to make sure I and they understood what we were contemplating about and what wider implications loomed about.
Following my original career plan and despite the current on-going economic situation, I remain in London fully committed to my career in Finance, yet there is not one day where I do not apply my AIV lessons. Just like back then I need to gain insight in new areas on a daily basis, just like then I need to have constructive discussions with my colleagues on complex models and just like then I am enjoying every day of it. "
Anne Le Goff (Max Planck Institute, Ecole Polytechnique, ESPCI, Paris-Montagne Science Académie)
After obtaining a French baccalaureate and taking two years of physics and chemistry preparatory classes for the grande-école entrance examinations, I was admitted to the Ecole Polytechnique ("X"), where I majored in physics and planned to become an engineer. The courses at X were very theoretical, so when the opportunity presented itself during my second year to collaborate on a project in experimental physics, I seized it! It took only nine days at the Laboratoire d'Hydrodynamique à l'École Polytechnique (LadHyX) to convince me to reorient my studies toward fluid dynamics during the first year of the master's degree program, and I continued the study of the physics of liquids during the second year.
While working toward a doctorate at the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris (ESPCI) I became a licence-level life sciences teaching assistant at Pierre & Marie University (Paris 6). I am at present a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Kassel und Umgebung, Germany.
Soon after starting my thesis work I discovered the Association Paris-Montagne and its Science Academy. Enthused by the idea of introducing motivated young people to the practice of science, I became a cadre in the Academy's teaching staff. There I collaborated with researchers, doctoral candidates, and graduate students in various scientific fields to select gifted lycée students from all over France in the aim of providing them with a faithful overview of the world of scientific research. The encounter with these ambitious young people has been a major influence in my teaching and research work, providing meaning to both activities and allowing me to take a step back and not only describe scientific concepts, but also to explain why we do research, what we seek, and how we seek it. Interacting with other Academy cadres has taught me to work and create as a part of a group, and has led to encounters in unexpected research domains. The Science Academy network is much richer and more dynamic than what I experienced during my formal studies. I hope it will continue to develop while maintaining its enthusiasm, excellence, and diversity.
+ info : Anne Le Goff's Linkedin
David Puyraimond-Zemmour AIV '06, Ecole de l'INSERM- Liliane Bettencourt
"All human activity, including research, is a reflection of the cooperation between our left and right brains, between method and creativity. I think of the AIV master's degree program as my right brain and the study of medicine as my left. Paradoxical? How can the practice of medicine, sometimes called "medical art" be more austere than research? Perhaps it is because medicine rimes with responsibility, knowledge, disease, and death? Medicine is also life and hope. So let's look for another route: the left brain. In the 1980s, medicine underwent a paradigm shift that revolutionized clinical practice and put an definitive end to the 17th Century approach to medicine described by Moliére. Modern, "evidence-based" medicine has uses a new approach and functions independently of any current of thought. Freed from ideological dependence, medicine today proudly displays its efficiency.
So has the left brain beaten the right? Really? It seems too simple to be true. Rather, like all couples, the right brain is married to the left, and happily, the right brain will lead its partner to discover another mode of thinking: analogy. For the apprentice physician that I am, the AIV master's program and the Interdisciplinary Research Center
(CRI) are my left-brain. They have opened certain horizons for me and closed others.
Biology no longer speaks in Latin! It thinks in mathematics, socializes over the web -- and can even cook! My interest in the CRI has taken root in this intellectual dance. My right brain constantly interrogates and provokes the left, sometimes making it dizzy, which remains confident, since it knows it can free itself from its sometimes eccentric way of thinking. This dizzying ballet, sometimes at the edge of instability, has actually come to define me. It has led me to advance slowly but surely toward a medicine that is both more scientific and more human. That's what the AIV master's program gave me and what CRI continues to bring me.
+ info : David Puyraimond-Zemmour's 2008 publications
Claire Ribrault (École Normale Supérieure de Paris; AIV '05, teaching assistant AIV '09)
" Following two years of physics and chemistry preparatory classes for the grand-école entrance examinations, I was admitted to the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Paris, where I pursued the Chemistry Magister's program. After that, I went to King's College London for seven months, where I worked on prion protein biosynthesis. Following that, I was accepted into the second year of the AIV master's degree program, later beginning my thesis work at the ENS Synapse Biology Laboratory on the synapse as a molecular assembly in "dynamic equilibrium."
The originality and the richness of AIV training reside in the fact that it reaches beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge. For example, I was able to develop my critical abilities and a capacity to take a step back from my research and reflect, letting my imagination work to better utilize and deepen what I had already learned. AIV training is based on individual advancement within a collective structure, which encourages autonomy and responsibility.
Since I had been formally trained as a chemist, I learned much about the life sciences by working with other AIV students coming from widely diverse backgrounds. Working in various research laboratories enabled me to understand experimental and theoretical approaches specific to each discipline. AIV training is solidly based on active apprenticeship in a framework of high-quality interaction among students, teachers, and researchers.
Working as a teaching assistant with AIV master's degree students has provided me with a new potential for enriching my own research. Exchanges with brilliant and demanding students and contact with research in fields different from mine has also put my work into perspective. Supervising students sustains an intellectual dynamism that is essential to the pursuit of research."
Yann Le Cunff (Supelec, AIV '07, FdV '08)
"Since I was very interested in research and teaching, I entered the AIV master's degree program while in my third year of applied mathematics studies at the École Supérieure d'Électricité (Supelec) in Paris.
After the rigorous program of grande-école entrance examination preparatory classes that I completed before entering Supelec, I appreciated the amount of time reserved at AIV for discussion, which enabled me to satisfy my curiosity about other disciplines. AIV allowed me to return to the spirit of idea exchange and critical thinking that I believe characterize science at its best: when it is dynamic and innovative. AIV science clubs, lectures by high-level visiting scientists, facilities that are ideal for formal and informal discussions, etc... all enriched my spirit and fostered open-mindedness in me. That is -- and will remain -- what drives and distinguishes the AIV program from classical studies.
The exceptional AIV environment and access to the Interdisciplinary Research Center (CRI) even prepared me for the very process of drafting my FdV doctoral thesis proposal. I thank all the people who designed and implemented the AIV program, and sincerely hope that the doors that were opened for me will also be open for future students who want to share their knowledge and curiosity."
Melanie Strauss (AIV '08)
" An interne in medicine, I will specialize in neurology. In order to also be trained as a research physician, I have also registered in the AIV master's degree program. I decided on the AIV master's program because it is the only one that offers an interdisciplinary approach to scientific research. Being in contact with other AIV students from various backgrounds, all as motivated as I, has strengthened my understanding of my own subject. Traineeships in AIV-associated laboratories have allowed me to solidify the multidisciplinary approach on the ground level.
AIV also made it possible for me to meet high-level scientists from whom I could gather knowledge, enthusiasm - and, most of all, whose questioning spirit I was able to experience. This was very important during lectures I attended in the context of the In Vitro Artificial Intelligence (IVAI) club, which I joined.
What most pleases me at AIV is the degree of freedom that we enjoy, which is essential for us in acquiring knowledge and for our scientific creativity."
Camille Delebecque (AgroParisTech, AIV '08, FdV '09)
"The best way to have a good idea is to have several," affirmed Linus Pauling, the double Nobel Prize-winner. It is a vision I have always shared, and immediately encountered during an AIV workshop in Peking.
After finishing two years of advanced mathematics and biology preparatory classes for the French grande-école entrance examination, I was admitted to the AgroParisTech engineering school. I later looked for an interdisciplinary graduate program that featured the openness I always sought. The AIV master's program convinced me.
In a changing, multi-centered world in crisis, I am convinced that the best tool for future generations of scientists and leaders, including mine, is their capacity to evolve, to adapt, and to be creative. The AIV master's degree program provides the open environment and precious interdisciplinary tools needed for this personal and professional development.
Halfway through my AIV master's, I had the opportunity to work in three different kinds of laboratories, including two at Harvard, one in innovation management and the other studying biofuels. Few graduate training programs in France offer students the possibility to carry out such projects. I am happy to be in the right program."
Belonia Gabalda (AIV '07, FdV '08)
After earning a master's degree in cognitive science, I wanted to continue interdisciplinary training while deepening my knowledge of cognitive psychology. I also wanted training that was more research-oriented, particularly featuring laboratory internships and discussion-type courses rather than formal lectures. I found all that in the AIV master's program, which not only provided me the freedom to work on what interested me and to broaden my knowledge, but also offered solid training in various facets of research work in a framework promoted fruitful interaction with other students and with researchers.
Christopher Amourda (AIV '08)
"I signed up for the AIV master's program while a university biochemistry student working on proteomics in 2008. Since entering AIV, I have been able to complement my knowledge, notably acquiring notions of imagery, neurobiology, and modeling.
The AIV master's program offers students the possibility to intellectually develop as they desire. The choice of laboratory traineeships is left to each student. Students in the same AIV master's class to a considerable extent determine what is covered during the academic year. Thus in a given area, the ignorance of some is overcome by the expertise of others. The curiosity of each - including the teaching staff - thus transfers knowledge to everyone else.
After six months in the AIV master's program I could see that the system had borne fruit. Before each weekly exercise session, questions and answers appeared on the computer-based forum. Having experienced the first exercises, I can say that participation is so great that it is difficult to fulfill everybody's expectations. The Friday session therefore more specifically addresses questions raised on the forum, as well as bringing up new ones. It goes without saying that one learns an enormous amount.
Since September 2009, I have begun to diversify my knowledge, both by undertaking academic exercises and laboratory traineeships, and have learned to present my results to people from backgrounds different from mine. But in my eyes, the most important thing is that my thoughts, as well as those of my classmates, are taken as seriously as those of the teaching staff. I have thus learned to take initiative and accept responsibility concerning what I find useful in the AIV program. I wouldn't want anything to change what has made me into a student with a high exchange value."
Mathieu Galvez (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris; AIV '07)
Post-baccalaureate (lycée) physics and chemistry preparatory classes for grande-école entrance examinations (Metz, France, 2002-2004); licence and first-year master's program at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) of Paris (2004-2006); NASA expedition to Bolivia; six-month terrain hydrology expedition (2007) to Laos with the French Institute for Development Research (IRD); second-year AIV master's program at ENS de Paris; PhD underway in geomicrobiology at Paris-Curie University.
Following the beautiful years during which I increased my knowledge of geophysics and the phenomena that affect it, during a traineeship in the US, I turned to the study of the steps that led to the emergence of life on Earth. Reflections on those distant times, which often led me to the frontiers of science and philosophy, I discovered the extraordinary complexity of living cells. Wanting to position myself at the frontier between disciplines, I encountered that new fascination, which convinced me to find a life science master's program that encouraged initiative and dialogue, one that would allow students to learn how to think about the science we learn in all its diversity and from all its approaches.
The AIV master's has several advantages that make it a unique experience: The students come from different backgrounds, the program's innovative pedagogical approach incites them to interact, and they are regularly confronted by the language of the "other." Being an AIV student is sometimes like learning another language, for which both success and failure are useful training. Laboratory traineeships, while of short duration, fulfill their roles of discovery and open-mindedness, and were for me the first steps in writing the thesis on which I am now working.
At AIV, the privilege of early participation in the various CNRS (French national research institutes) branches is for me a beautiful innovation and the best advantage of this training for research by research.
More than the courses and quarterly examinations, the real interaction that we can establish with our supervisors is the most precious baggage we can use to launch our careers in the aim of approaching science in all its diversity."
Laurent Arnoult (École Normale Supérieure de Paris; AIV '07)
After the very formal academic education I received at the ENS during the third year of the licence and first year Biology Master, my curiosity led me to approach new scientific questions from novel angles, to enrich myself by being in contact with students from other backgrounds, and to improve my competence in the laboratory. The enthusiastic description by a student from a previous second year AIV master's program seemed to correspond to my expectations.
The AIV master's was for me a flexible educational structure in which I was effectively free to reflect and decide on and to manipulate, new objects and concepts in such areas as the philosophy of science, computer science, and biophysics, while at the same time listening to the counsel of the teaching staff.
I also benefitted from the innovative teaching approach employed in the AIV master's program, which features multidisciplinary working groups and alternates between creative exploration and critical analysis. For example, my visit to Peking University organized in the context of the AIV master's program left a great impression on me, and upon returning, I felt I had a acquired a better capacity to listen to others, which will no doubt make me a better researcher. For those who are curious of spirit, I recommend the thrilling AIV discussions among students, which give rise to novel ideas that come from nobody knows where, except perhaps the group itself as a collective entity.
Randy Laine (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris; AIV '08)
After studying mathematics and physics at the ENS and obtaining a humanities master's degree in the USA during a leave of absence, I entered the second-year AIV master's program in order to more deeply study the life sciences and to interact on a regular basis with other motivated students coming from very different backgrounds.
At AIV I appreciated the possibility of taking laboratory traineeships throughout the academic year, as well as the importance placed on oral presentations. Finally, during an AIV biology course for mathematicians that was held while I was at the ENS, I had already noticed how important the scientific progress of AIV students was to its teaching staff.
Two trimesters of training at AIV have already passed in an encouraging atmosphere that was devoted to learning how to reflect in an autonomous manner, but also how to work in a group."