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From the HEP master to CNRS: Story of a flawless itinerary

Thomas Strebler, a former master's student, is about to join CNRS as a staff researcher, less than one year after the end of his PhD thesis. Polytechnicien (X2010), he joined the Master in 2012 in parallel with the 3rd year of the "cycle polytechnicien", then went to the ETH for his M2. He returned to École polytechnique to prepare his doctoral thesis in particle physics, within the group of Laboratory Leprince Ringuet (the high energy physics laboratory of École Polytechnique) working on the CMS experiment based at CERN. After a few months of postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College London, he brilliantly passed the competition to become a Chargé de recherche at CNRS.

Thomas has agreed to answer our questions:

Why did you choose the HEP Master?

When I was a student in "classes préparatoires" (NB: two-year intensive preparation to the French elite-school entrance competitions), I was already interested in research. When I entered Polytechnique, I learned about the specialization courses I could choose in the 3rd and 4th year. The coursed offered by the HEP master, which had just been created, caught my attention. My choice was confirmed during my first two years at Polytechnique, and I naturally applied to join the master.

What did you like about the master?

First of all, the principle of combining experimental and theoretical teaching at the same level, both at Polytechnique and at ETH - a teaching that is perfectly adapted to research: from the beginning of my thesis, I was able to apply techniques learned in the master.
Then, to be confronted with different teaching methods, and to be in contact with students with very different backgrounds.
And finally, the place given to research internships, both in M1 and M2: they allowed me to have a first contact with research, which was crucial for the good start of my thesis.

... and what did you dislike?

The teaching methods of some teachers did not always satisfy me... but going through two different systems gave me the opportunity to review the topics covered from a complementary angle, and to have no gap in my knowledge at the end of the master's.

All in all, would you recommend the HEP Master to future students?

Of course! There are other masters of quality, but the specificity of the HEP master to give as much importance to experimental training as theoretical is in my opinion a major asset for a future high-energy physicist.

What is the next step in your career?

I am about to join a new laboratory, a new group and a new experiment. I am going to take over the task of rebuilding a detector of the ATLAS experiment, a task which will span over several years and give me the freedom to orient my research topics in the longer term. I am also looking forward to being able to train students independently!