Training through research with Idil

Since the start of the 2022 academic year, nearly 80 students have had the opportunity to train through research, thanks to the graduate program Idil. On the menu: courses taught in English, immersion in laboratories and various teaching units that enable a multidisciplinary approach to teaching, in response to current societal challenges. Find out more with Agnès-Fichard Carroll and Mathieu Sicard, co-sponsors of this program.

Idil courses were launched at the start of the 2022 academic year.

Mathieu Sicard: The ambition of the Idil program is to train students from different disciplines through laboratory learning. Students are immersed in the laboratory for six months of the year, courses are taught in English and the programs focus on developing interdisciplinarity. Idil also aims to increase the number of international students coming to the University of Montpellier by making its courses more attractive.

Agnès Fichard-Carroll: The challenge was to build a project where interdisciplinarity was very much in evidence, while at the same time remaining anchored in a given field: students graduate in a given field, but will have followed a personalized path in which openness to other disciplines and their concepts is a major element.

Now that Idil is back in session for the second time, can you tell us how many students are enrolled in the graduate program?

MS: In the Masters program, around 80 students are involved in the Idil program in M1 and M2, in 10 different courses and as many different disciplines. As far as the engineering course is concerned, more than 20 students are involved. The objective was to have 30% international students, who had not previously studied in France, which is a condition for receiving an Idil scholarship: the contract has been fulfilled, thanks in particular to Idil's presence at international trade fairs. Today, we have American, Japanese and Brazilian students writing to us for information on the program and how to apply.

Do you have a typical Idil student profile?

MS: On the whole, we're looking for students who are genuinely motivated by learning through laboratory research, and who are highly adaptable, which is essential for an international, interdisciplinary course. For example, they need to be able to manage what is pooled between the different courses by getting information from the Idil team, which supports them. Students need to be flexible in organizing their timetables, as incompatibilities are bound to arise. It's impossible to coordinate the schedules of 10 courses in 5 different departments.

AFC: I'd like to add that, while students need to be curious and flexible, the program's inter-component dimension has also necessitated a major investment on the part of both teaching and administrative teams: it was necessary to work not only on the teaching program, but also on the procedures specific to each UEI. We'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate them on the work they've accomplished: the difficulties have been ironed out, and of course this has had a positive impact on the progress of the students.

How are students supported in their studies?

AFC: We already have a four-strong IDIL team - a project manager, two educational engineers and an administrative manager - who do a remarkable job of supporting students, as well as central and component teams.

MS: In addition to the Idil team, students are supported by two people with research experience: a tutor and a mentor. The pedagogical tutor is present in M1 only, and is more a teacher-researcher who is there to guide the student in his choice of teaching units, in addition to his immersion in the laboratory. He or she also assists students with their M1 personal project, a bibliographical and methodological project that prepares them for their laboratory immersion.

What role does the mentor play?

MS: The mentor, who is involved in M1 and M2, is a researcher or teacher-researcher in the research component of his or her work, who will supervise the student in his or her laboratory, as in a conventional internship but in a more in-depth form. Not only in terms of duration, because in M1 Idil students spend 6 months in the laboratory, but also in terms of commitment, because this internship is not just a research internship, but also an immersion in the understanding of the laboratory: Idil students attend meetings and seminars, to also understand the life of a researcher. And beyond that, the mentor is also committed to deepening the student's general knowledge of his or her discipline, thanks in particular to readings accompanied by articles and privileged moments of discussion. In this way, the mentor complements the student's general knowledge of his or her field in the laboratory. Moreover, the mentor's activity is recognized to the tune of 20 hours TD equivalent, not to supervise the internship but to teach at the very heart of his or her laboratory.

Do students keep the same mentor in M1 and M2?

MS: It's entirely possible, since students can potentially stay in the same lab for M1 and M2, and why not go on to do a thesis, since Idil doctoral contracts are available.

AFC: Indeed, a student could stay in the same laboratory for a total of five years. As the IDIL program is based on research, it was also logical that it should include doctoral contracts of the same interdisciplinary nature.

How do student-mentor pairs work?

MS: At the beginning of the year, during the interdisciplinary summer school, the mentors present their research projects and the students can choose. This marks the beginning of the program, and every evening during the summer school, there are interdisciplinary lectures, for example on "management and ecology", "science policy and political science"... These lectures are given in English, mainly by Montpellier researchers, but also by invited international researchers. It's a very interesting time, when people from different backgrounds mix and ask questions with different visions, origins and skills. There's also a "team building" day where Idil students take part in activities to facilitate integration. The summer school culminates in a gala at the Jardin des Plantes.

Does this summer school allow students to better identify themselves and "feel" Idil?

MS: Yes, it's important, because during the year they're mostly with students from their own disciplines! To help them feel part of the Idil graduate program, there's also a year-round event called the "Idil house cup". Idil students from different courses are mixed together in different houses and take part in challenges, such as collecting as much garbage as possible on the beaches, or visiting the Moco, which is also a way of introducing them to cultural elements. The IDIL team also organizes events at least once a month to bring them together.