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Three post-docs including two abroad and then?

Clarisse Faria-Fortecoëf


Yoann Le Bars, PhD in physical oceanography, has first experimented the mobility at the national level throughout his studies, from Paris to Nancy via Toulouse where he completed his doctorate (2006 to 2010). At Paul Sabatier University, his research focused on the "Modeling of barotrope ocean dynamics in the Amazonian estuary and plateau". within the LEGOS (Laboratoire d’Études en Géophysique et Océanographie), under joint supervision with the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and the CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales).
"Then going abroad, it was a little bit natural, given the work done in connection with the CNES and the growing international request in the ocean modeling field".

The American experience and the first postdoc ...

6 months before his thesis defense, during a conference, Yoann Le Bars will accept a postdoc proposal at the Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center (NASA), University of Southern Mississippi - US Navy.

From August 2010 to March 2011, Yoann will work here on the development of a Virginia coast model.

7 months, this is a little short for a postdoc?

"Initially, I thought leaving for two years. However, in October 2010 took place midterm elections, which established a new majority, elected particularly on a budget cuts program. The budget line financing my postdoc was part of these cuts. The postdoc duration was thus reduced to 1 year, with no real opportunity to continue then". A period according to Yoann, which did not allow to perform an interesting and constructive work.

Furthermore, he had also to deal with other problems specific to this mobility. "I didn't think there was a so big difference with France. There was also a big difference with the academic world, I was not at the University and not enough productive in publication terms. And although I had very good relationships with my colleagues, it was not obvious to me to live in the southern of the United States".

What did you do then? Did you have a new project in mind?

"Actually, I came back to France with nothing. In particular, I was not qualified for the lecturer function and I had not enough publications".
However, Yoann learned some lessons from this first international experience which will be useful to him later: "what means a cultural shock and therefore, the necessity to carefully prepare one's departure; the need to build relationships and to keep contacts".

A few words about your return in France and the prospect of a second postdoc?

"On my return to Île-de-France, I applied for a one year postdoctorate (June 2011 - June 2012) within the Laboratoire d’hydraulique Saint-Venant, Chatou, École des Ponts Paristech - CETMEF - EDF R & D". The opportunity for Yoann to get a first experience in the public sector / private sector.

"But, even if I wished to stay longer, it was not possible. A problematic issue is that there was no real publication culture and one year was too short for that".

Then, you had the opportunity to go to Belgium in the framework of a third postdoc. A few words about this experience?

"Since the beginning of my thesis, I have regularly participated in the International Workshop on Multi-scale (Un)-structured mesh numerical Modeling for coastal, shelf and global ocean dynamics, which takes place every year in a different country (Europe, USA, etc.)" (*). In this context, I have met some members of the Institute of mechanics, materials, and civil engineering, Catholic University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium). From June 2013 to June 2015, I will join this Institute's laboratory in the framework of a collaboration between France and Belgium and between public (the Catholic University of Louvain) and private (companies Total and CLS). My activity consisted here in the realization of a 3D model of the Congo estuary and the neighboring ocean. On one side, there was the research problem or issue, namely the improvement of the modeling of river-ocean continuum and, on the other side, Total was interested in the Congo River. Also, I had the opportunity to teach and there was there a real publication culture. And the cultural shock between France and Belgium had nothing to do with the one I lived in the United States".

Among the problems encountered on his return from Belgium, from July to October 2015, Yoann had no more social security coverage. "Even when there are agreements between countries, there are always complications, one must know it and prepare mobility accordingly. I also learned that to get unemployment insurance rights, you have to work at least one day as an employee in France after the return. This led me to work for four days in December at my town's Maison de la petite enfance, while I applied to the external CNRS competition".

(*) If you are interested in this event, please see the website of the last workshop, held in Portland (Oregon).

You came back to France in July 2015, so what are currently your prospects?

"I'm looking for a job and I don't exclude the private sector. International mobility, but also national, is a good experience. However, when you move from one country to another one, that means a life change (permanent adaptation and so on). Although I do not exclude the possibility to live and work in a foreign country, my project is to continue my career in France and especially in Île-de-France. In the public sector, I'm looking for a lecturer job or research fellow. After, the private sector, why not? Currently, I'm trying among others to reactivate my public network".

How do you valorize your mobility experience?

"I worked in the US, in other different contexts, I'm bilingual".

However, according to Yoann, the eventual handicap of his career path and in the case of an application for a job in the private sector: the change of location and organization every two years, as this can sometimes be interpreted as a stability lack.
"And then there was always a conflict between the university and engineering schools in France, a PhD from the academic world can be perceived with suspicion in the business environment. At the same time, my master "Applied Mathematics, Mathematical mention of modeling, mathematics and computer science speciality," jointly proposed by the Pierre and Marie Curie University, the Ecole Normale Supérieure, the Ecole Polytechnique and the École des Ponts of Paris, can make the difference and I do not hesitate to valorize it. I could also go back to the United States. But do I really want it? ".

And if you have to do it again?

"The causality principle implies that you can not redo the past! Anyway, there are many positive things from my mobility experience. However, I made a lot of mistakes. If you decide to leave, that means you have to have a real project. I went to complete my resume, I went to come back. You must not only prepare your departure, but also your return, keep your contacts and network. Furthermore, move as much as I did whatsoever from one city to another one, from one country to another one, has impacts on social life. After, it is true that mobility and private sector perspective, are not really integrated in doctoral education and this would really be a more ".

If you wish to contact Yoann Le Bars and / or learn more about his background and experience (scientific work, CV, etc.), please see his blog: "A Vue From Here".
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