Interview with Joël Courtois, the Director of the school, on the position occupied by research in student training.
Consistently ranked among the best engineering schools in computer science, EPITA makes a point of honor to make research one of the fundamental components of its teaching. It offers a real training in research through research, integrating students within teams of teachers and researchers. Applied research is also present in the laboratories of the school to meet the needs in research and development of companies.
Why research is important for an engineering school?
Research is an intrinsic part of an engineering school. In fact we can not imagine a high-level training without a real overlap of research and teaching activities. This link is designed to allow students to carry out their studies by being immersed in the spirit of “research and innovation.” Moreover, the participation of teachers in the activities of research laboratories ensures the constant updating of knowledge transmitted to students. Note also that if the original purpose of an engineering school is to prepare its students for business functions of all types, it is important to offer the opportunity to those who want to complete their studies with a doctorate or a PhD.
What is the role of research in EPITA?
Through the faculty members of the school, research is central in the teachings of common core and some specializations of the last year at EPITA. Indeed, almost all of the scientific and technical teachings of EPITA are provided by the lecturers of the school, which ensures both the relevance of education and availability of permanent teachers with students. Three laboratories coexist within EPITA: The Research and Development Laboratory of EPITA (LRDE), The Innovation Institute for Corporate IT (3IE) and The System Laboratory at EPITA (LSE).
Training in research through research?
If the will of many schools is to train research through research, it is clear that in many cases laboratories operate in parallel without impacting the education of students. We wanted, within EPITA, to make a real nest for students who are interested in teaching and research activities. To this end, the most motivated students have the opportunity to join research laboratories in the second half of the first year, during the first year of engineering. They enjoy the same working conditions as teachers and researchers and thus are truly immersed in research.
The students most interested in the fundamentals go up to the publication of articles in international conferences, even before the end of their studies, and many will continue with doctoral studies. For those who are more attracted to aspects of innovation, experience in research laboratories of the school will prepare them to join the research laboratories of companies and even create their own innovative structure.
How to give a taste of research to students?
To stimulate the interest of high school students to research and innovation, they are offered a seminar on the subject from the preparatory stage. For one week, faculty and industry present their business and R&D activities. Students must then make a small innovative group project proposal. This is then reviewed by a committee of experts.
Successful projects may become the subjects of study for students following their education and lead to some of them towards the creation of a company. To date, more than 300 companies were created by former students of EPITA, and every year many thesis are supported by alumni of the school.
The laboratories of EPITA:
– The Research and Development Laboratory of EPITA (LRDE) focuses on basic research around image processing and modeling. This laboratory carries out many presentations each year at international conferences and participates in national level competitions.
– The System Laboratory at EPITA (LSE) is working on both aspects of research and development in the specific area of computer security. This laboratory has recently signed an agreement with the Central Office for Fighting Against Crime Related to Information and Communication Technology (OCLCTIC) to build a platform in collaboration with the intelligence services of the State.
– The Innovation Institute for Corporate IT (3IE), is a structure to validate research at EPITA, specializing in innovative developments for SMEs as well as large industrial groups. It is accredited by the French Innovation Center as a center for transfer of skills. Every year, many companies rely on this laboratory for their project development. Today, many contracts are being carried out around the development of mobile applications.