43 : UTC’s PhDs: our key players for innovation

Dans un monde où l’innovation – en particulier technologique – occupe une place croissante, les compétences des docteurs spécialistes des sciences de l’ingénieur et notamment des docteurs ingénieurs apparaissent de plus en plus stratégiques. L’UTC entend préparer ses étudiants à cette nouvelle donne.

43 : UTC’s PhDs: our key players for innovation

His field of expertise: metallurgical analyses

Benoît Dylewski is one of the laureates of the Guy Deniélou 2017 Thesis Prize. Benoît did his thesis work at UTC-Roberval in a project theme that involved the RATP (Greater Paris Public Transport consortium); the RATP recruited Benoît Dylewski after his PhD award.

With increased train passenger capacities and, consequently, their increased loads, the issue of rail cracks by fatigue has become more acute.

How can we prevent this risk leading to a rail catastrophic break? This was the core question of Benoît Dylewski’s thesis, a major issue for rail transport companies (as well as for UTC with its numerous projects in this field and its role as founder member of the “institute for technological research” Railenium, one of the institutions created by the Government under its incentive programme “Investments for the Future”.

This thesis is part of the Railenium framework initiated by the UTC-Roberval Lab and Cerfiver and was supervised by two Roberval research scientists, Salima Bouvier and Marion Risbet. “My job related to a Cerfiver project directed by the RATP (as the industrial partner)”, explains Benoît Dylewski. “I carried out experimental analyses on rail segment samples provide by the Paris Region rail services, with the objective to characterize the microstructural, physicochemical and mechanical changes that accompany increased load factors. I then compared the experimental data with digital modelling results. This approach enabled me to improve our understanding of gradual deformation and cracking of rails – which was the main objective – but also to issue some recommendations to improve predictive maintenance and to avoid catastrophic rail failures”.

 A real added value

The three years were especially rich for Benoît Dylewski: “Over and above the expertise I gained in this specialist field, I also acquired the mastery of experimental analytical tools and methods more than when I was doing my engineering diploma studies. I also enjoyed an in-depth experience of partnership research between an academic research laboratory and an industrialist. I was able to take part in international conferences and I taught too at UTC, which allowed me to disseminate my research results. That was a real added value in respect to my engineering diploma”.

 Before presenting his thesis, in December 2016, Benoît was recruited by the Test & Metrology Lab (LEM) of the RATP consortium. The LEM Lab has three specialty sectors – mechanical engineering, electricity and physico-chemistry – and carries out a wide and varied range of tests and measurements for all the ingredients of urban transportation (rolling stock, infrastructures, equipment, stations: lab experiments to assess, for example, parts provided by suppliers to ascertain that they comply with technical specifications, or analysis of failed parts … but there are also in situ tests to certify new rolling stock or to measure air-quality in the Paris underground system. Benoît Dylewski is a QA test engineer specialist of metallic part failures who works in the mechanical engineering division of LEM. “When I began my PhD, I did not know whether I was going to look for a job in industry or prefer to be a lecturer cum research scientist. Finally, after 3 years in a lab environment, I decided the industrial world was more attractive. But I don’t exclude the possibility of returning later to academic research activities.

Rémy Foret, Executive Director of the RATP-LEM Test Laboratory, answers our questions

We saw that end-2016, the RATP-LEM lab (which employs 70 staff) recruited 3PhDs, not counting Benoît Dylewski. Is this a deliberate policy decision?

In fact, we do not have any specific desire to recruit PhDs rather than engineers, but it is not by chance that we do recruit them. They display technical aptitude and skills in terms of analysis, abstraction, and their capacity to frame questions … all of which is of interest to us as employers. We definitely need people capable of analysing complex data generated via our test protocols. Moreover, in order to preserve the legitimacy of our company, we must necessarily innovate, identify and implement new methodologies, new test protocols and equipment and this presupposes that we possess a state-of-the-art technological review, feasibility studies, development programmes. Tasks like these are akin to research activities and it is here that the skills of a PhD are very important.

What specific profiles are of special interest to you?

When we consider hiring people, we have them fill in a questionnaire to assess their scientific and technical skills, and to evaluate their managerial potential. Our scientific and technical criteria are very stringent and an engineer who has only had project management eXperience may well not fit the bill. But there again, a PhD with a ‘pure’ lab scientist profile, no special talents for management and no experience at all of the industrial world will not a priori comply either. What we prefer are the PhDs with an engineering diploma who did their thesis in a CIFRE contract or who have had some previous industrial experience.