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
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
[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.
| At the beginning, it is so complex that you understand nothing.
|| 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.
|| 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.
|| 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
| From time to time, a very very significant and awesome
(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!
|| 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!
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
: 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
, 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.