An Eventful Week


Last week was life-changing, to say the least. I was interviewed for two maître de conférences1 positions, one in Université Paris Diderot, the other in Université Paris-Sud. And… I got ranked first for both jobs! So by all accounts I should have a permanent position next September. The difficult question I have to answer soon is which one. As they correspond to rather different profiles and expectations, this is not an easy choice.

I am of course extremely happy and I feel extremely lucky. This would not have been possible without the support of many people, foremost my former advisor Benoit Fresse, who gave me a lot of advice on how to navigate the French academic maze. My current supervisor, Thomas Willwacher, has also been a great support, and I thank him too.

This week I am in Vancouver, where I participated in the wonderful workshop Graph Complexes, Configuration Spaces and Manifold Calculus. (The change of scenery also helped me get some perspective on the MCF positions.) Next week I’m in Regina to talk with Don Stanley and Paul-Arnaud Songhafouo Tsopméné, then after that I go to the Fields Institute in Toronto to give a talk as a junior speaker at the Séminaire de mathématiques supérieures 2018. By then I will know in which Parisian university I will work!

PS: I have a new paper, Curved Koszul Duality for Algebras over Unital Operads. Take a look!

1: In France, there are two kinds of faculty positions: maître de conférences (junior, abbreviated as MCF) and professeur des universités (senior, PR). Very roughly speaking, MCF positions would correspond to an “assistant/associate professor” position in the US or a “lecturer” position in the UK, for example. The French ministry of higher education provides a correspondence table to compare French positions with positions in other countries – the left column is maître de conférences, the right column is professeur. It is rather more common to hire younger people for permanent positions in France, which explains how I got one before turning 40. From what I understand, getting a professeur position is possible after about 5–10 years, the intermediate step being the habilitation à diriger des recherches (HDR), a diploma necessary to supervise doctoral students and qualifying for PR positions. Perhaps one more piece of info: becoming PR position is not a promotion, it is a new position altogether, and many people stay MCF their whole lives. To get the position, it is necessary to participate in the same kind of competition as the one for becoming MCF, and – at least in math – it is impossible to get a professor position in the university where you already work. But one step at a time!
There is no concept of “tenure” in France. Instead, faculty members are civil servants, and as such enjoy the main and perhaps only privilege of civil servants: the administration needs a very good reason to fire you. However, the first year as a maître de conférences is a “probation” year (stage in French), at the end of which it is possible to lose the position. So it is a very fast tenure-track, in a sense, the differences being that 1. I have never heard of anyone not getting the “tenure” at the end, and 2. the administration needs a good reason to let you go at this end of this probation; “you are not good enough” is not one. However, it is possible for the “probation” to be extended one year, and I have heard of this happening. It is not a “done deal”.