An interview with Jérôme Vergne, UFAZ Invited Professor of Principles of Geophysical Imaging


Could you shortly describe your academic background?

I am currently working at École et Observatoire des Sciences de la Terre (EOST) of the University of Strasbourg as an Associate Professor. I got my engineering diploma in geophysics but at the same the time I wanted to continue doing some Research work, so I decided to go for Master Degree since I did not at the time want to work for private companies.

Later, I did my Ph.D. on Seismology in Strasbourg, mainly because it is an interesting field of earth science and geophysics and I had highly skilled and diplomed teachers in this field.

I did two Post-Doctoral programs, including one in the United States, before I got my first position as an Associate Professor in the famous Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. I eventually ended up by going back to Strasbourg and this time no more as a student, but as a teacher.

Which teaching techniques do you use at UFAZ?

This year, for the first time, I am teaching a course entitled “Principles of Geophysical Imaging” at UFAZ which involves a wide range of topics. I want UFAZ students to have some notions about what geophysical image is and try to think about its reliabilities. I deliver lectures by portraying a lot of examples and try to make students understand the concepts and apply those concepts in the exercises which rely on coding. I ask them to code materials they have learned using Python (programming language) so that they can feel the meaning of the lecture I am delivering through coding. Hence, it is not just a regular exercise on paper; it is much more a numerical approach and that is actually what they will do in the future. They will have to solve problems and my course here is to teach them how to solve those problems by working on computers. They need to have some information on how to convert these theoretical problems into numerical ones.  We are practicing together during the class.

What are your impressions and feedbacks about UFAZ students? How do they differ from the students of the University of Strasbourg?

Before I came here, I discussed with other teachers from the University of Strasbourg who have already conducted some lectures here and they told me that I will feel that UFAZ students are quite different from the students we have in Unistra. I have to admit that they were completely right. I share most of their opinion that here the students challenge more the teachers than in Strasbourg. They ask a lot of questions, sometimes directly related to what I say, sometimes a bit further away. And I have to admit I love that. This interaction is really important to clear up what they have in their mind and the objective of my course here is that they ask the question to themselves. If they ask the question to me that means they have questions to themselves and for that, I am really content. That's completely different from French universities, where most of the students in your class completely believe what you say. Here students try to challenge you and I want them to continue like that - continue to challenge, continue to ask questions! That is the type of students I expect in my class.

What are the current trends and career options for UFAZ students after graduation?

Obviously, the field of geoscience is full of opportunities. Sometimes when we refer to this specialty, we think only of the oil and gas industry. That is one opportunity in terms of career, but that is not the only one in which UFAZ students can find interesting jobs! Especially, since there are plenty of new types of energy, good geoscientists are nowadays in demand.

And also I really wish some of them at one point will continue on academic Research, since they will have all the background to become really good scientists upon their graduation.

What do you wish and advice to UFAZ students?

To put it short, stay the way you are! Do not hesitate to ask questions, stay involved in the university life, keep those strong links I was able to see this week between students and teachers here. Also, benefit from the multicultural aspect of the university - Azerbaijani and French (Alsatian also, from Alsace!) cultures will provide you with different ways to learn science and look at the world.

Try to learn to think by yourself, to question yourself, question everything that you produce - that is important - that is Science!

 Interview realized by UFAZ PR department on May 5, 2019.