Could you please introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Louis-Maël and I graduated from the Bachelor of Science in 2020 (together with my twin brother ;-). I have great personal interests in Classical music, Ornithology and Theology so feel free to reach out if you are interested in any of those! Professionally I’m passionate about International Development but I think we will have a chance to discuss this in greater detail.
Why did you choose the Bachelor of Science of Ecole Polytechnique?
When the Bachelor was created in 2017 I was immediately convinced that this would be an exciting program to be part of! Truth is I haven’t seen many undergraduate programs that offer such a variety of experiences in only three years: a strong general science background, a double major, a semester abroad and a research thesis not to mention the diverse campus life and the proximity to top professors. All of this made the Bachelor of Science a very convincing choice. The opportunity to study in English within a French environment also personally attracted me.
What program are you currently studying and in what institution?
I am currently working at J-PAL Europe (Paris School of Economics) as a research associate for Esther Duflo. Prior to that I graduated from the MSc in Economics for Development from Oxford University.
What made you choose this university/program?
When I did my semester abroad at the University of Berkeley, I discovered Development Economics and got immediately convinced! Being at the heart of global challenges, trying to solve human priorities and reach development goals, all of this made a lot of sense to me. I had the feeling to discover a field that was both intellectually stimulating – these problems require thinking! – and humanly very appealing. A professor at Berkeley, Edward Miguel, suggested Oxford’s MSc to me and this is how I got on track.
Working at J-PAL Europe resulted from several personal and professional motivations. One though is that I wanted to get close to inspiring people rather than targeting the dream job position. Esther Duflo was definitely a very inspiring figure for me in her fight against poverty and her work on Development always grounded in rigorous thinking.
What skills/knowledge gained during the Bachelor of Science have you been using in your current program?
Being confident with technical skills is probably the greatest asset the Bachelor of Science taught me. It is not necessarily a matter of knowing everything right away but rather not being afraid of “ugly maths”, of having to deal with new coding languages or being exposed to technical stuff in general. The Bachelor gave me tools of rigor in understanding and looking for new knowledge. Besides that, I believe that my years at l’X have taught me how to handle tight deadlines and a big amount of work along with stress management, which are things that I value well beyond the program itself.
When you entered the Bachelor of Science, did you already know what you wanted to do after the program?
Absolutely not! I knew I wanted to pursue the Maths & Economics double major but beyond that I wasn’t settled on any particular career path. The semester abroad was a great opportunity to discover new fields in Economics and indeed this is where I was won over by Development Economics. I think this is a real advantage of studying so many things at the Bachelor of Science for students who are still in the process of figuring out what they want to do.
What memories do you have of your time spent at l'X and in the Bachelor program?
I have many unforgettable memories from my time at l’X. When a program is that intense the friendships you build are particularly strong and stay for many many years. If I had to highlight a few things I would start by mentioning the week in Mont-Louis at the CNEC (National Center of Commando Training). This was a unique experience of intense team building, physical challenges, tips for survival all of that embedded in a gorgeous mountainous environment. This was truly amazing! I have great memories from my time at the Orchestra as well (I played the cello there) and the many concerts we gave during my time at l’X. The running team with our mythical “Coach Fred” was also a weekly memory-factory with many highlights.
What are your ambitions for the future?
When I think about my career, I always want to remember that I haven’t decided where to be born and what education my parents could afford. I take this as an immense privilege but also as a great responsibility: this is not for myself only. I therefore want to be at a place where my work will positively impact many people’s lives. Development Economics appears right now as a great way to do this, though I am open to other ways as well. After J-PAL I am considering to have an experience at the World Bank or in smaller structures like social ventures or economic consultancies in the Development sector. But always remembering: things taste better when you share them with others.
Any piece of advice to current Bachelor students when deciding about the pursuit of their studies?
Do not be afraid to apply to prestigious universities! Again, the Bachelor of Science offers in three years a very strong academic foundation that makes you a good candidate for master or PhD programs in many big universities.
I would also generally advice to stay open-minded: if you know about science in general or good coding practices this will always be a plus as an economist.