Congratulations to my PhD student Victoire Denoyel of ESSEC Business School in Paris, France (co-advised with Laurent Alfandari) for successfully defending her dissertation a few days ago! Her dissertation is entitled "Towards an efficient embedding of logit choice models into 0-1 selection problems". Our first paper was recently published online in EJOR, the European Journal of Operational Research.
I hadn't attended a French PhD defense since that of Nabila Remli in 2011 on robustness in linear programming, and I have to say that I like the French system a lot. It is a lot more formalized than the American way, and as a result I feel that the PhD candidate gets more out of it. For instance, France uses a formal system of reviewers and examiners in the jury. The reviewers must receive the dissertation about 8 weeks early to submit a written evaluation before the PhD defense, and after the presentation, reviewers and examiners ask questions to the PhD candidate in the "debate" part of the defense. The questions can be quite specific and in-depth. In Victoire's case, her presentation was about one hour long and the debate lasted close to two hours. I was very impressed by the quality of the questions, and in Victoire's poise in answering all of them with flying colors. We have also had great suggestions from the jury to finalize our other two papers, for which I am very grateful. Victoire's committee consisted of Professors Ivana Ljubic (jury president) of ESSEC, Knut Haase from Hamburg University, Cecile Murat of Paris Dauphine University, Andre de Palma from ENS Cachan and Nathalie Picard from the University of Cergy, in addition to Laurent Alfandari and myself. Many thanks to the jury members!
I started working with Victoire in 2013 and it's great to see her complete this stage of her career. From a personal standpoint, she is the first French PhD student I have advised and I've greatly enjoyed our research discussions. I tend to prefer working with students who think on the spot about the ideas I suggest and won't hesitate telling me if they don't understand or disagree, because it helps weed out the bad ideas faster and make the viable ones stronger. While I haven't worked with many such PhD students (certainly there are cultural norms at play: we French people like to debate more than most, and in certain foreign countries it is viewed as disrespectful to debate ideas with one's professor), Victoire showed outstanding independent research skills from the start, great follow-through, and superior ability to derive actionable insights for decision makers. She is going to make a great professor. She is currently a lecturer in Operations Management at Brooklyn College and will be on the job market for a tenure track position this fall.