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PhD Programme of Advanced Research in Interdisciplinary Science at ESPCI Paris

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - UPtoPARIS (PhD Programme of Advanced Research in Interdisciplinary Science at ESPCI Paris)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2020-01-01 al 2022-12-31

Loyal to its tradition in education and training on an interdisciplinary level between physics, chemistry and biology, ESPCI proposes a brand new international doctoral programme: UPtoPARIS. PhD fellows have the opportunity to explore an excellent environment comprising an elite engineer school, 11 joint research units and an incubator on campus hosting 14 technology-driven start-ups – a recipe for a cutting-edge doctoral training in the heart of Paris.
UPtoPARIS is designed to propose a combination of research activities and innovative and competitive supervising, mentoring and career planning. With PhD projects strongly connected to the transferability of basic science, the programme aims to shape new profiles of forward-looking young researchers by giving them knowledge and skills directly linked to the needs of the European and international industry and market. The intersectorial exposure, provided by secondments, workshops and specific guidance, will help young researchers to gain a precious experience in terms of technological development.
The doctoral programme is organised in 3 calls for applications, each of them resulting in the recruitment of 10 PhD students. The selection process starts with an internal call for PhD proposals and the selected projects are then widely published on different networks. After the calls for applications, an eligibility check is performed and the selection process carries on with an evaluation phase, based on a remote international peer review. The process ends with the organisation of interviews with the highest-ranked candidates. The 30 high-profile doctoral candidates also reinforce the internationally renowned profile of the ESPCI and the region, by increasing the number of foreign PhD students and, consequently, the quality and the diversity of the scientific exchange.
UPtoPARIS offers a unique environment to highly selected PhD students expected to produce top-level scientific research ready to be translated into technical and societal innovations. This is achieved by promoting interdisciplinary basic research, by connecting it with industry through the wide intersectorial network of ESPCI’s partners. In addition to a research experience per se, we offer students an international training and a dedicated Career development training programme. UPtoPARIS aims at educating a generation of PhDs with a modern vision of research, beyond frontiers between disciplines and between basic research and innovation, and ready to address technological and societal challenges with innovative approaches.
Centred on innovation and built around interdisciplinary and intersectorial principles, UPtoPARIS is designed as a pilot programme to attract top-level young researchers and provide them with a high-quality doctoral supervision and training. With this improvement of the standard of doctoral education, the project aims at increasing ESPCI’s international visibility and create leverage for all the school’s doctoral programmes by spreading EU Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training.
In 2018, the UPtoPARIS Management team began the project with the recruitment of the first 10 fellows. The year ended with the organisation of the 2nd call’s interviews and the selection of 10 new fellows, while the 3rd and final call for PhD projects was launched in order to collect and publish the positions available for applications.
The 2nd call laureates arrived early 2019, while the Team managed the opening of the 3rd call for applications. The last 10 fellows arrived late 2019.
The programme successfully attracted excellent young researchers through a multi-step selection process complying with the HRS4R principles, namely an open, transparent, fair and merit-based selection procedure. ESPCI submitted its endorsement letter last year for the HRS4R award and has now defined its action plan, which will be soon implemented in the school.
Regarding training and future employability, the Management team endeavored to give the best opportunities by offering a comprehensive doctoral education through a training programme composed of research and tailor-made soft skills courses. The project topics were carefully defined in order to address the requirements of the European/international business environment, to encourage career opportunities particularly outside the academic sector. Over a third of the UPtoPARIS fellows will undertake a secondment to an academic or industrial partner in France or abroad; the Management team will follow these projects and encourage the other PhD fellows and their supervisors to plan a secondment during the thesis.
By the end of 2019, 30 PhD fellows were recruited and started their thesis among ESPCI's 11 research units. They also started following their Career Development Training Programme (CDTP).
Following the arrival of all fellows on campus, the UPtoPARIS Management team set up an action plan for 2020, for trainings and events. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the two consecutive lockdowns in France, the planned events and trainings had to be adapted to the ongoing situation, which introduced new types of risk management in the project. Despite some delays in the schedule and other logistical issues, the team managed to organize all the activities as initially planned and even to integrate new ones in its action plan.
In July 2020, ESPCI’s Europe Department took a new responsibility regarding doctoral follow-up, namely the management of the administrative procedures of all ESPCI PhD students via ADUM. Originally, the UPtoPARIS PhD students were informed of the ADUM enrollment procedure upon their arrival in the school. Now, the Management team has access to the platform to carry out the procedures and is also able to manage other aspects, such as the follow-up of trainings or the organization of the thesis defense.
The most important deviation in the programme is the thesis extensions of several fellows, whose research was impacted by delays caused by the two lockdowns. Many PhD supervisors requested a thesis extension for their fellow; the Management team consequently identified the impact of the pandemic as a risk in the project.
We expect the UPtoPARIS fellows to undertake their research in the best conditions and to finally defend their thesis and obtain their PhD diploma. We also expect them to be sufficiently trained thanks to our CDTP in order to tackle the challenges of the international job market and to increase their employability.
One major impact of the programme is the improvement of good practices at ESPCI, in hosting foreign researchers and the promotion of the 3i dimension (international, interdisciplinary, intersectorial projects). ESPCI was able to improve its management of thesis defenses and implemented the 'HR Strategy for Researchers' (HRS4R) guidelines in recruitment procedures. The UPtoPARIS programme will also spearhead the efforts of the ESPCI-PARIS-PSL to fully implement the HRS4R principles in the scientific community within 5 years and to ensure actions which guarantee a fair, transparent, merit-based selection and recruitment process.
The outreach activity “My PhD in 1 minute” consisted in one 1-minute video per fellow explaining their thesis as well as their hobbies and career perspectives.
27 publications were released, two more articles are still underway in being published.
18 fellows successfully defended their thesis, with 3 more due to defend in 2023.
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