Alum Romain Fleury Accepts EPFL Faculty Position

Friday, December 16, 2016

WNCG Alumnus Romain Fleury recently accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne.

Prof. Fleury received his PhD from WNCG, where he was advised by Prof. Andrea Alù. Before moving to Switzerland, Prof. Fleury spent time as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Langevin Institute at the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles (ESPCI) in Paris, France.

Beginning in January 2017, Prof. Fleury will join the EPFL faculty, where he will establish a new lab within the Institute of Electrical Engineering named the Laboratory of Wave Engineering. He is currently searching for talented graduate students and an exceptional postdoctoral candidate.

Prof. Fleury sat down with WNCG to share his recent success, offer career advice to current students and reminisce about his time at WNCG.

Q: What type of research will you engage in during your new faculty position?

A: The Laboratory of Wave Engineering will focus on research in the multidisciplinary field of wave engineering. We will explore powerful general concepts to discover new wave phenomena that can be applied to many different physical platforms supporting wave propagation, including in photonics, soft matter physics and acoustic systems.

Q. What led you to choose an academic career path instead of a corporate / industry one?

A: I have always been extremely curious about science, always asking myself new questions and willing to learn new things. I could not see myself doing anything else but scientific research, in an environment where I can fully express my curiosity and explore my ideas.

I believe an academic career allows me to be more independent in my work than industry, while still having a chance to be part of new technological innovations. I also love that academia provides me with the opportunity to teach and share my excitement about scientific research with students.

Q: What do you look forward to most about your academic career? What do you foresee being the biggest challenge?

A: I look forward to realizing my vision of a multidisciplinary lab that is capable of conducting top-level theoretical and experimental research with impact in various fields of technology like optical science, acoustics and telecommunications.

One of the biggest challenges is that this vision requires the development of advanced experimental and theoretical skills in many disciplines, in which we compete with specialized research groups. But I strongly believe this risk is compensated by the fact that a multidisciplinary group can develop a deeper understanding of wave phenomena and see connections between different fields that specialized groups cannot see.

Q: How did your time at WNCG help prepare you for this new role?

A: I learned so much from my advisor in terms of good work methods for doing research, collaborating with talented postdocs and communicating and writing strong papers, that I feel like every day of my time at WNCG prepared me for my new role. I also taught a few classes as a Teaching Assistant and was able to freely attend a few conferences held in Austin.

Q: What was your most memorable moment during your time with WNCG?

A: My most memorable moment was when I brought home a best student paper award at an international conference, just after defending my work during the final in front of the award committee. It was extremely satisfying to see my work recognized by top researchers in my field, and I was proud to bring home the award for WNCG and UT Austin.

Q: What advice from your life and career can you give to current students with similar academic aspirations?

A: My general advice in life, which also turns out to be very relevant in research, is don’t ever give up! In terms of academic career, I recommend current students pick their advisor and research topic wisely. Not all topics are equal when it comes to applying to academic positions, and strong support from the advisor is also important.

In addition, the main focus of any PhD student interested in an academic career should always be to demonstrate research excellence and independence. This comes through hard work, good publications, recognition from peers such as presentations and awards, and good reference letters.