- Hello Mariana, so what brought you to Singapore?
I moved to Singapore four years ago to develop a partnership between a group of eight French higher education institutions and NUS. At the time, the partnership was through the Sorbonne Paris Cité consortium but with the merger of three universities within the group, we are moving to a partnership between the Université de Paris, Sciences Po, Inalco and NUS.
- Could you tell us a bit more about your role?
I like to describe my role as a “business developer for Higher Education and Research”. I help universities I work for, i.e Université de Paris, Sciences Po and Inalco with their internationalisation strategy and its implementation.
I facilitate the connections between researchers, faculty and senior management in France and Singapore to start new research, academic projects and institutional partnerships. I have contributed to establish more than 50 bilateral research and teaching collaborations, providing guidance to principal investigators (PIs) to get the kickstart grant of their research in Singapore and to access additional funding if the collaboration is successful.
I also organised two international conferences on “Science, Policy & Society” to showcase the scope of the French-Singaporean partnership. One was in Singapore in 2017 and another in Paris during the 2018 Year of Innovation launched by the French and Singaporean governments. My work help the French community to tighten their bonds in the city-state and vice-versa. We have established bilateral institutional partnerships in different fields (medicine, public health, arts & social sciences, learning sciences…). I also support my colleagues in France with outreach activities in the region.
As an example, last week, we had the visit of Jean-François Huchet, President of the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (Inalco) and I took part in the organisation of the first alumni gathering in Singapore. We also signed and MOU between Inalco and NUS Faculty of Art and Social Sciences.
Lastly, I am also the correspondent for Sciences Po and NUS for the two double degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. I play a major role in the recruitment of Singaporean and Southeast Asian students for Sciences Po. As such, I participate in several university fairs in the region, I visit international and elite local schools to find the most talented candidates. I often participate in events organised by MOE, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government offices in different countries of the region over the course of the year.
- Could you give us some examples of the projects that have been developed through this partnership ?
There is a wide range of projects and disciplines. To give you a few examples, some are related to chemistry and energy storage ; others to medicine in cancer research, cardiology, paediatrics, etc. In fact, the partnership has been particularly successful in the field of medicine between the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and and the Faculty of Medecine of the Université de Paris. We have signed an agreement for student mobility, researchers and faculty for working together in different projects. The two schools have been organising a joint symposium and we are even developing a paediatric project using Virtual Reality. A French IT company is helping us create virtual experiences that will be used for learning purposes in medicine or dentistry. The app will help the students to experience a medical appointment through a child’s eyes and allowed them to have a better understanding of the potential interactions they will have while working with young patients. This successful project is currently followed by other researchers using VR.
- What would you say to a researcher coming to Singapore?
First and foremost, join the French lab community!! (laugh). Generally speaking, I would say that Singapore is not as accessible as you might think when you first come here! It looks easy since it is highly developed and international but if you really want to get adjusted, you need to learn how to work with Singaporeans. My advice would be: put your energy into things that have potential for growing, that are relevant to Singapore and spend time to understand the context. Singaporeans are very pragmatic and result-oriented. They expect positive outcomes quickly and the partnership needs to make sense for them. It is very important to set the goals, being responsive and efficient but you also need to be people oriented in order to build trust and create a long lasting relationships.
- Do you have any recommendation or wish for the future of the FrenchLab?
I would love to see more events related to the social sciences because so far, the French Lab has mainly been hard science focused. For instance, a presentation on learning sciences is a great subject for a future After Lab!
- Great Mariana, thank you very much for the interview and see you soon at the visit of SCARCE laboratory next week!
Thank you Henriette and Marc-Antoine!
Credits : Department for Culture, Education and Science, Embassy of France in Singapore and Henriette Cornet