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DAMIEN NOUVEL - Ph.D. in Information Science

What is your professional / educational background and what is your Ph.D. Topic?
This might come as a surprise, but my original studies were more professional in mathematics and computer science. I had the opportunity to do a year abroad in Québec, at the University of Laval, and there I began doing more research which corresponded to a Master's degree in research (mathematics and information science applied to social sciences). I decided to work in industry, essentially in start-ups and then in Information Technology. For four years, I developed Web sites (front-end and back-end), or applications before returning to research. Next, the opportunity arose for me to do my Ph.D. in what seemed to be good conditions, both personally and professionally.

How has the Ph.D. process been for you?

Good! My professional experience has allowed me to see these years as a personal project of a short duration, starting with elaborating a precise research project. As well, the research team that I was a part of was very welcoming and helped me a lot, giving me a good atmosphere in which to work. The most difficult moments were when the amount of work was overwhelming, sometimes stressful, combined with teaching demands. The most important moments were the chance to present my research and to explain not only the general, but also the specific nature of the work.

What have you learned from this experience?
I think I now have an expertise in this particular field (automatic natural language processing) that I can use professionally. It is also a chance to put to the test one's motivation, organizational skills and to take the initiative. Contrary to other experiences, in whatever context, there is always in the Ph.D. a lot of freedom requiring a person to make decisions. When you finally succeed, the recognition from colleagues and friends is a great reward.

What advice would you give to a student who was considering a Ph.D.?

In the first place, do not wait to invest in and take ownership of the research subject: this can be long but it is the motor driving all of the work during the dissertation. Next, be calm, even when the pressure mounts. We have an obligation of effort, not necessarily results (at least not immediately). In the end, consider the Ph.D. as a professional activity through which, after having acquired knowledge, that knowledge must be extended (research) and shared (teaching, conferences, etc.).

What are you doing now?

I have a contract as a research engineer at INRIA (National Institution for Information Technology and Automation Research), financed by a project from the National Research Agency (EdyLex – Dynamic enrichment of lexical sets). I consider this as a transition, with further opportunities in either academia or industry. Finishing the Ph.D. required time, in order to make the transition and to make good decisions for the future. Even if nothing is certain, I am confident about my future, which will probably be somewhere between theoretical research and application development.