Louis to Receive Diplomas from U of A and Ecole Centrale Paris
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Lydie Louis, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas, expected to spend three months in France studying nanostructures at Ecole Centrale Paris, a premier school focused on science and technology.
She ended up spending two years in the City of Light, earning enough credits to allow her to graduate this spring with a dual doctorate in microelectronics and photonics from both the University of Arkansas and Ecole Centrale Paris.
Louis is the first student in the interdisciplinary microelectronics-photonics graduate program to earn a dual doctorate. She started her graduate studies in Fayetteville in 2004 and earned a master’s degree in microelectronics-photonics in 2006. She studied at Ecole Centrale Paris from 2008 to 2009 and part of 2010.
Louis, who would like to pursue a research position at a national laboratory or in private industry, said she imagines her feeling of relief when she receives her diplomas.
“I will be very, very happy because it took a very long time,” she said with a smile.
Faculty at both institutions developed a joint curriculum for Louis, said physicist Laurent Bellaiche, her faculty adviser at the U of A. The National Science Foundation supported the collaboration through grants, and Ecole Centrale Paris also provided a stipend, Bellaiche said.
Ecole Centrale Paris is comparable in reputation to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bellaiche said.
“Lydie has been working on nanostructures, either modeling them — the work mostly done here — or by growing them and characterizing them, which was done in France,” Bellaiche said. “I think that it was very important for her to learn both simulations and experiments in nanoscience, a topic that is of particular interest.”
Louis works with ferroelectric materials at the nanometer scale. Ferroelectric materials are used in medical ultrasound to examine fetuses and internal organs, in military sonar for underwater navigation and detection, and in cell phones. These materials have a spontaneous charge separation that allows them to generate an electric field when their shape is changed — thus mechanical energy becomes electrical energy.
“In my experimental work, I synthesize one-dimensional nanowires or nanotubes,” she said. “I grow a ferroelectric inside these nanostructures, building the material and shaping it.”
In Ecole Centrale Paris’ doctoral program, Louis worked in the laboratory and collaborated on other theoretical studies. She completed her course work and doctoral candidacy exams at the University of Arkansas, and she had to report to advisers and faculty committees at each campus. Her advisers at Ecole Centrale Paris include Brahim Dkhil and Gregory Geneste.
Louis was born to Haitian parents and grew up in the tiny island of Guadeloupe, part of the French Antilles. French is her native language, which made her a good candidate to study in Paris, she said.
“I knew I wouldn’t need much language preparation to start my studies there,” she said. “It was a great opportunity.”
When she immigrated to the United States in 1997, she spoke no English. But she was very good in science. While in high school in Guadeloupe she passed Advanced Placement tests in both calculus and physics. Louis earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the City College of New York in 2004.
In her last year at the city college, she became a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar, an NSF-funded program that assists universities and colleges in increasing and diversifying the number of students successfully completing high quality degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
In the spring of 2004, she attended the Stokes Alliance national conference in New Orleans, where the University of Arkansas was sponsoring some of the poster competitions. While at the awards dinner, she happened to sit next to Ken Vickers, director of the microelectronics-photonics program at the U of A.
“While I was speaking to him, they called my name because I had won the poster competition in engineering,” Louis said. “He was frankly amazed that we had randomly chosen seats next to each other, as he told me that because I had won first place I would be coming to the University of Arkansas for a visit, all charges paid. I visited and really liked it.”
Louis holds memberships in Eta Kappa Nu, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society; the Institute of Electrical and Electric Engineers; and the National Society of Black Engineers.
Lydie Louis, doctoral student
Microelectronics-photonics graduate program
Laurent Bellaiche, professor, physics
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
Ken Vickers, director
Microelectronics-photonics graduate program
Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
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