Paul Hauseux was always interested in science, but only recently settled on the researcher path. Before that, his career ambitions stretched from working in sports or music to teaching science. Some years and a PhD later, the French national has come to Luxembourg for his computational engineering Postdoc in the team of ERC grantee Stéphane Bordas at the University of Luxembourg.
“I had the opportunity to do a PhD at University of Lille and this experience with research convinced me to continue in this direction”, Paul says about how he ended up becoming a researcher, adding:
“I like to continuously learn and I have a lot of scientific curiosity. Research gives me freedom and independence and it also enables me to travel, particularly to conferences. In most cases, researchers work in universities and a part of their work is teaching, an aspect I also appreciate.”
After completing his PhD in France, which was funded by the French national radioactive waste management agency (ANDRA), Paul was looking for a place to do a Postdoc. He stumbled across an open position in his field at the Institute of Computational Engineering at the University of Luxembourg, and in January 2016 he came to Luxembourg.
Modelling the effects of uncertainty
Paul works with Prof Stéphane Bordas in the Engineering Science research unit at the University and is a member of the Legato team, which aims to build intuitive and interactive platforms for computational mechanics problems. Paul specifically works on “stochastic finite element methods” – but what exactly is that?
Various fields such as mechanics, geophysics, dynamical systems, statistical physics and mathematical finance rely on modelling what effect uncertainty could have on the output of a system. When it is impossible to analytically solve a problem, numerical methods – such as the ‘finite element method’ are used to develop a model that approximates a solution.
Paul says: ”When parameters involved in the model have a certain degree of uncertainty, stochastic methods, e.g. the stochastic finite element method, are used to take into account this uncertainty. Uncertainties can be modelled by both random variables and random fields in my research.”
So what exactly does life look as a computational engineering researcher? It comes to no surprise that daily activities involve spending a lot of time on the machine you are working to improve:
“I spend practically all my day working on a computer. I split my time between implementing new numerical methods and reading scientific papers. Discussions with my colleagues and my advisor are also necessary to make progress and guide my research in the right direction. It is important to be aware of new advances in my field.
“When I obtain interesting results then it is time to write a paper and to attend conferences and/or seminars to show and share my work with other researchers. It also gives me the opportunity to learn, to meet new people and start collaborations. The researcher who is 100% alone and locked in his office is almost non-existent!”
In terms of career goals, Paul would like to have his own research programme and improve the scientific knowledge in his domain. “I would also be glad if my methods can be used by the industry, because there is still a big gap between scientific publications and what it is really made in the industrial sector. On top of that, writing a book before the end of my career is also an objective”, Paul says.
Luxembourg research has “significant potential”
“I originally thought that I would stay for a short experience, but I quickly realised working conditions here are excellent”, Paul says, adding that he was able to extend his initial contact, also pointing out that Luxembourg has some significant potential to become a research destination:
“The creation of the Centre of Excellence in Scientific Computing will enable connections between the different communities. In Luxembourg and with the new campus in Belval, a large diversity of disciplines is present in the same location. All disciplines have everything to gain, to share and bring together important resources concerning computational sciences, because they all use common bases.
“This centre will also help to build partnerships with companies. Finally, most people who come to Luxembourg want to stay because Luxembourg is also a pleasant place to live.”
About Spotlight on Young Researchers
Spotlight on Young Researchers is an FNR initiative to highlight early career researchers across the world who have a connection to Luxembourg. This article is the 13th in a series of around 25 articles, which will be published on a weekly basis. You can see more articles below as and when they are published.