Outgoing: Camille's co-directed thesis in Tokyo

Camille Geffroy is a PhD student at the LCPO in Bordeaux and is currently carrying out a co-directed thesis. She spent 3 months this spring at the RCAST (Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology) at the University of Tokyo, and will return in 2017 for another stay of 4 to 6 months.

What is the topic of your studies?

My PhD project focuses on the development of original systems for perovskite solar cells including new semiconducting polymers. Working in collaboration with the RCAST, one of the top research centers in photovoltaic technologies, has really boosted my project. During my initial stay in Tokyo, I learnt a great deal about perovskite solar cells and now, back in Bordeaux, I am able to make high efficiency solar cells at the LCPO (Laboratoire de Chimie des Polymères Organique – Chemistry of Organic Polymers Laboratory). 

Previous to this PhD project, I carried out a research internship within the domain of hybrid solar cells at LCPO and ISM (Institut des Sciences Moléculaires – Institute of Molecular Science). Both laboratories are renowned for their expertise in solar cells and also offer partnership opportunities with industries which is interesting for the development of possible applications. It was therefore a logical decision to continue my doctoral studies with these institutions.

Why carry out a co-directed PhD?

As a graduate, I carried out an internship in the photovoltaic field in the Netherlands. It was a very enjoyable experience as well as being beneficial for my research subject. I thus needed no further convincing to choose a co-directed PhD. It’s a great way to work on a hot research topic, taking advantage of the skills and knowledge offered by excellent laboratories in different domains, while simultaneously making the most of a professional experience abroad. The added-value includes improving my English, my communication skills and discovering a new culture. Such an experience can be a real advantage when searching for a job.

How is your co-directed PhD organized?

I spent 3 months in Tokyo, from the end of February to the end of May 2016. I plan to go back late 2017 for a period between 4 and 6 months, depending on the progress and requirements of my project. Both Tokyo and Bordeaux represent advantages for certain aspects of my studies; at RCAST, the specific equipment allows me to analyze the physical and electronic properties of my devices whereas at LCPO the focus is more on the chemical aspects and the materials design.

During my stay in Japan, monthly web meetings with the Bordeaux team were organized. The workload was dense with many experiments scheduled over short periods of time and intense collaboration between the French and Japanese sides was essential. Back in France, our meetings with Japan are less regular but I know that I can count on my Japanese supervisors if I have specific questions or issues.

What are the main differences between research in France and Japan?

The research itself is quite similar. Concerning the organization of the lab, I noticed that in Japan, they are quite task-specific with designated employees for each task whereas in France we are more multitask, sharing responsibilities between coworkers (device maintenance, consumable, chemicals and waste management…). In Tokyo, the lab was open 24h a day, so it wasn’t rare to find a colleague having a nap on his/her desk!

What have you learned from this international experience?

In addition to the scientific benefits explained previously, I have really appreciated discovering Tokyo and Japan. It’s been a complete discovery as I wasn’t at all familiar with the Japanese culture beforehand. My English has improved and I’ve even started learning Japanese! In addition to the warm welcome, I’ve met researchers in similar fields and have thus enlarged my network. Discussions with these researchers about their professional lives have proved particularly useful and interesting as they’ve enlightened me on which direction I want my young researcher career to go in the future.

Life in Tokyo is unique; I am looking forward to my second stay next year!

Updated on 08/11/2017