PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI) are launching a formal academic affiliation. The new collaborative program will immerse graduate students in a different scientific culture as they travel from their home institution to complete three semesters of their graduate work at the host institution. Both institutions will be recognized on students’ diplomas.
An advanced degree in mathematics introduces the student to an entirely new language, new worlds, and new ways of thinking. Beginning in the 2007-08 academic year, doctoral candidates in mathematics and applied mathematics at Brown and Paris VI will also explore different cities and academic cultures as part of their degrees.
The two institutions have close ties going back more than 30 years. Several Brown professors have maintained active relationships with researchers at Paris VI and vice-versa. Graduate students regularly cross the Atlantic to work on projects or study abroad. By formalizing the program and extending the expected stay to three semesters, the two universities anticipate greater opportunities for graduate students to make lasting connections and fully experience contrasting scientific cultures.
“The aim,” says Sheila Bonde, dean of the Graduate School at Brown University, “is to create a research community that is in constant contact and expand the way our students think about their disciplines.”
Students participating in the program will experience teachers and advisers from both institutions and be challenged to incorporate a broader range of perspectives in their work. Even students who do not participate in the program will learn from their colleagues who have.
“Research is conducted rather differently in France and in the United States, and the background of the students in both universities is also quite different,” says Yvon Maday, chair of the Laboratoire Jacques Louis Lions, one of the main departments in applied mathematics in Paris VI University, and a visiting professor at Brown’s Division of Applied Mathematics. “This program will allow the participating students to enlarge their first experience in research, which often leads to collaborations that continue long after the thesis defense.”
Additionally, says Maday, Paris VI University is one of the main participants in the newly launched Fondation Sciences Mathématiques de Paris, which coordinates most of the research efforts of the mathematical community in the center of Paris and includes about a thousand mathematicians, representing perhaps the largest palette of skills in the field.
The importance of experiencing other cultures is taken for granted in the humanities and social sciences, but physical and biological sciences have fewer formal programs to encourage such exchanges.
“Math is a collaborative science,” says Jill Pipher, chair of the Department of Mathematics at Brown. “It builds on ideas; it builds on foundations and on things created by others. This collaboration increases the number of researchers our students can access.”
“We complement each other very well,” says Jan Hesthaven, professor of applied mathematics at Brown and a regular visitor at Paris VI. “I think we can build on each others’ strengths and lift one another.”
Brown students will apply to participate in the program after their first year of study. Paris VI students will be eligible to apply after completing their master’s degrees. Each student will have a primary adviser in the home institution and a co-adviser from the host institution. Students will graduate from their home institution, but diplomas will also recognize the Brown/Paris VI program in mathematics or applied mathematics.