What is it like to be a MSc&T student? – Oussama in STEEM


Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Oussama and I am 21 years old. I am from Casablanca (Morocco) but I grew up in Qatar. After getting a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree from the University of Bordeaux in the south of France, I am now specializing in Renewable Energy by following the STEEM Master program at École Polytechnique. I am currently in the second year.

Why did you choose to study at École Polytechnique?

Since my final high school years, I remember being very interested in sustainability and environmental issues. Growing up in Qatar, a country heavily dependent on fossil fuels and considered second worldwide in exporting natural gas, I always asked myself: how can I contribute to change this energy model to a more sustainable one?

So, during my bachelor studies, I undertook multiple internships that rendered me familiar with renewable energies, especially solar energy. Without noticing it, I found myself developing a passion for solar energy and I wanted to have a more in-depth understanding of the physics behind the different technologies used in the field. Therefore, after my bachelor I started searching for a Master program that could provide me this strong scientific background in renewable energies, as well as a knowledge of the economic, social and geopolitical issues linked to their development. Not only I found a program that corresponds 100% to my ambitions in STEEM, but it is given by one of the most prestigious schools of France: École Polytechnique. So, I am very happy that I took the decision to come here.

In your opinion, what are the main assets of the STEEM program?

I’d stay the multiple opportunities the program opens up. When I signed up for this program, I initially was attracted to the industry-oriented aspect. I wanted to benefit from both technical know-how and management courses to become a project manager ready to take on big projects in an energy firm. But after a year and a half, I am now leaning more towards research. In fact, unlike other MSc&T programs, the STEEM one has the advantage of offering a variety of different courses and students can choose the ones matching their interests, therefore shaping their future careers.

Another important asset of the program is the link with industrial partners. For example, I recall the Grenoble trip we had in M1 (first year of Master’s degree). A very nice one-week trip where all the STEEM students travelled to Grenoble, where we visited different companies and laboratories, met researchers and top managers who shared with us their experience. There is also an industry week each year where multiple companies come to l’X and present their work. It is a good opportunity for us to have contacts in these companies, and actually I remember that some of my friends found an internship through these contacts in M1!

Could you please tell us more about your promotion and classmates?

My classmates, which now I consider my friends, come from all around the world. We were 28 in the first year, and 7 students joined us in the second year. We got along quite quickly. I think it is mainly because of the location of the campus, which is a bit far from Paris. This pushed us to stay together and create a bond. I remember the multiple events we’ve organized on campus, the different sports we practiced like tennis and football, and the long hours we spent in groups in the library. All of this contributed to making this experience an unforgettable one.

Do you have any favourite subject(s)?

As I am mostly interested in solar energy, I really enjoyed learning the concepts of the solar photovoltaic devices in the “Physics and Engineering of PV devices” course. Furthermore, I got the chance to apply the knowledge I learned in the “Laboratory course for Photovoltaics” module where I fabricated my first ever solar cell (a perovskite solar cell). Even though it was probably the worst cell one can ever make as it had an efficiency of 0.35%, I really consider this course my favourite as I learned a lot.

Where did you do your internship last year? What about this year?

Building on what I have said before, the laboratory course I took in the second semester of my M1 actually prepared me for my internship. I worked at IPVF as a solar R&D intern, on the degradation aspect of perovskite solar cells. This year, I am looking for another opportunity in the solar research field.

What would you like to do after your Master’s degree?

After my Master’s degree, I am planning on pursuing a PhD in the solar field. During my Master studies, I have had the chance to talk with my professors, with researchers during my internship, and top managers on different occasions, and I have understood that research is a vital aid for business success. It is a tool for building knowledge, a mean to understand various issues and increase public awareness, a mean to find, gauge, and seize opportunities. On the short term, I would like to be a part of the solar research community and advance the science in this field.

Any advice for future applicants of the STEEM program?

Once you get accepted, I will tell you what my favourite professor at École Polytechnique told me during my first day in the school: École Polytechnique gives you a card. A prestigious card that will open up many doors. Now the choice is up to you, you have to use this card to your advantage! Once you are here, do not miss any opportunity! Visit the research labs in the school, there is more than 20 of them. Talk with the researchers and benefit from their experience, they are always happy to share their knowledge. Visit the Drahi-X-Novation center and talk with the students that are working on their start-ups. Discuss your ideas with your professors. Visit the companies in Plateau de Saclay and introduce yourself as an École Polytechnique student. Ask for meetings with the engineers and learn more about their jobs. Go back to the campus and play all sorts of sport with your classmates. Discover the different places in the school... in short, live the experience to the maximum!