Warning: We have often been asked what is our job, what work are doing as research work? Despite all of our efforts to remain vague and incomprehensible, our parents, our friends invariably responded to our explanations: "yes, yes..."; while sighing more or less, more intrigued than ever. Therefore we resigned ourselves to tell the astonished world, not our work, but what is the life of a PhD student. It would seem that we suceeded, if we trust the first reactions.

[English / Français / home sweet home ]

Little Nicholas, PhD Student

The PhD Advisor
To begin a thesis, it is necessary to have a boss. A boss is a very very strong man who gives me problems and who helps me solve them. This is my boss, photographed by Christian Mercatier-Bresson. petitnicolasDirecteur

At the beginning, it is so complex that you understand nothing. formulemath
tournerenrond You spend hours and hours searching without finding anything. In these moments, my dad and my mom are awkwardly anxious and when my mom asks whether it was a good idea to let the Litte one (the Little one, that's me) do a thesis, my dad opens the mouth without speaking, he agitates his arms, then goes and reads his newspaper in the sitting room.

Sometimes, it is super, because I discover tricks for which my boss had asked. Certainly, that can happen at any hour, and my parents are not always delighted. eureka
parentsdubitatifs They wonder why I don't go completely insane, but my mom knows that my dad doesn't like it when she says so.
Me, I find it rather normal, to be happy. Moreover, when my boss proves a new theorem, he is super proud and his buddies (who are also very very strong guys) are super happy with him. But my parents, they don't know this. colleguesapplaudissant
directeurquigronde Sometimes too, it's not so great, because I'm mistaken. And when I'm mistaken, my boss doesn't laugh, definitely not. "Look me in the eyes, Nicholas", he says, not happy at all. "You call this work, perhaps?" he asks. Then, it looks like a question but it is not a good idea to answer, because if I do, he gets totally red.

From time to time, a very very significant and awesome strong Mister (but nevertheless not as strong as my boss) comes to speak to us about super complicated things. It's called a seminar, and during a seminar, one doesn't laugh either. When the Mister finishes speaking, my boss asks lots of very complicated questions to him, and he can't always answer. And that's unfair, because my boss, he doesn't get scolded! seminaire
The Defence
ceremonie If I finish, there will be a big ceremony with lots of people very very strong (proof: there even will be some other bosses, imagine!) and there will be a very old, very very important Mister, who will tell me, that is very well, my Little one, the paths of Research are gloriously open to me and that I am my parents' pride and the honor of the country, and all that type of chatter. And after this sweet talk, there will be a huge snacktime with all my pals. Great!
And when he reads all of this in the newspaper, my dad will be very proud and my mom will be so happy she will give me pudding twice, my favorite dessert. It is really super, a thesis, at the end! fille_ecoutant_petitnicolas
petitnicolasgloire What's more, the girls are highly impressed when they learn you're a PhD in mathematics and you have proved lots of complicated theorems, and on, and on. Even the mom of Marie-Edwige, is always smiling to me now, whereas she thought I was a very turbulent little boy.

Drawings: J.J. Sempé, Formulae: Y. Bugeaud - M. Mignotte - F. Normandin,
Text: G. Taviot, Formating: G. Taviot, A. Maes - Translation: C. Banderier & Sulankes
Note: This parody is based on "Le petit Nicolas" ("Little Nicholas"), a character created by Sempé (a french humorous drawer) and Goscinny (the famous scenarist of the comics "Astérix"). They wrote together short and very funny novels, relating adventures of their character (official website, wikipedia article).
If you appreciate it, I suggest you buy the original very funny stories: great & cheap & "chouette=neaaaat" books! A wonderful compilation of until now unpublished stories (650 pages!) appeared in 2005, followed by a volume 2 (384 pages) in 2006.