Academics are always open to new experiences. New experiences are interesting and valuable and help you to grow.
Today, I had the pleasure of taking part in a dissertation defense since I am on a habilitation dissertation committee of Dr. Patrick Maille. Dr. Maille is an Associate Professor at Telecom Bretagne (part of Institut Mines-Telecom) in France and last year was a Visiting Scholar at the University of California Berkeley, working with Dr. Jean Walrand, whose work I am very much a fan of.
I agreed to be on Patrick's committee after I received an invitation from him last March since Patrick's work is very complementary to our NSF project research, both to our most recent ChoiceNet project and our new EAGER project.
Moreover, he is the co-author, with Dr. Bruno Tuffin, of the book: Telecommunication Network Economics, published by Cambridge University Press, which I have read and reread.
A habilitation is even "higher" than a PhD. According to Wikipedia, a habilitation is "the highest academic qualification a scholar can achieve by his or her own pursuit in many countries in Europe, Central Asia, Egypt and the Caucasus." And it is usually earned after attaining a research doctorate.
This was a new experience for me since, although I have chaired 18 doctoral dissertations, and have served on committees as an external examiner for dissertations in Canada, Norway, and Sweden, this was my first habilitation experience.
In addition to reading the habilitation dissertation, I read quite a few papers of Dr. Maille's, and examined his professional dossier of accomplishments. I also had to complete a report on his publications provided to me one month before the defense date, which was today.
I was invited to the defense in Rennes, France, but, given all of my travel commitments this month, which I blogged about in a previous post, I asked whether I could teleconference in. Tough to turn down a trip to France during this beautiful time of year especially since another member of the committee, Dr. Eitan Altman, had been my host in Paris at the NetGCoop conference 4 years ago when I gave a keynote talk on supply chains. But, as I have written on this blog, this October is an extremely busy month for me.
Dr. Maille had received permission from his university to have me teleconference in for the defense. Yesterday, we checked out the technology, a new software I had never used before, and Skype. The new software worked yesterday but not this morning, so good old reliable Skype was used and it worked great! I had been sent the presentation slides this morning. Last year, I Skyped in for Niklas Arvidsson's doctoral dissertation defense at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Niklas received an international dissertation prize a few months ago for his thesis, which is terrific.
The habilitation this morning, for me, and the afternoon for my French colleagues, began with an introduction of the committee, followed by about a 45 minute presentation by the candidate. Then it was time for comments from the committee members, and questions from the committee, followed by more discussions. Overall, the defense took about 2 hours and then the committee members in France (with me, in the meantime, getting a virtual tour of the premises) ambled with the computer with Skype to another room where we together prepared a report in French. I am fluent in several languages but French is not one of them so this part was quite interesting. Luckily, some of my comments after Dr. Maille's presentation had been typed up so there was some translating and enhancing done and the report was completed. It was a very enjoyable part of a very pleasant habilitation experience!
The candidate successfully passed his habilitation so a BIG congratulations to Dr. Patrick Maille. He can now apply for a Full Professorship and can supervise doctoral students independently.
I toasted with a glass of champagne virtually!