Congratulations to the 2016-17 France-Stanford Center Fellowship Recipients

This year, 15 scholars, undergraduate and graduate students received fellowships through the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.

Founded in partnership with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the center aims to address historical and contemporary issues of significance for France and the United States from a broad range of perspectives. Each year, the center awards fellowships to Stanford undergraduates who are interested in pursuing research or an internship at a French institution, as well as to French/Stanford graduate students and scholars who seek to conduct research at Stanford or a French institution. Below is a list of this year's recipients, along with their project descriptions.

Please join us in congratulating this year's awardees! 

Undergraduate Fellowships

Nathaniel Simon, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University

This summer, I will be conducting research on plasma as an intern at École Centrale Paris. I will be working with the E2MC Lab (Energétique Moléculaire et Macroscopique, Combustion) on the use of plasma to accelerate the process of combustion. Throughout this experience, I hope to improve my skills as a researcher and understanding of plasma physics, as well as to enjoy and explore French culture and country.

Michael Gioia, Department of History, Stanford University

While the French Revolution is commonly remembered as a profoundly anti-clerical historical moment, it counted several priests among its instigators and leaders. This project will culminate in the intellectual biography of one such cleric, Abbé Claude Fauchet, a devout Catholic priest and Girondist leader. By looking backwards at the books and ideas that would have marked Fauchet’s formative years, and then tracking Fauchet’s career as a writer through archived copies of his essays, this biography hopes to explain what ideas and aspirations defined this revolutionary priest. Ultimately, this thesis hopes to meditate on the broader relationship on Church and Republic, questioning whether these two bodies exist in simple dialectic.

Lauren Benner, Department of International Relations, Stanford University

This summer, I will be researching the social impact of the terrorist attacks and rising Islamaphobia on Syrian refugees in Paris and Calais. I will expose the dismal reality of their living conditions and social status in one of the world's wealthiest nations through a piercing photographic journal of refugees. This expose is composed of two elements: a compilation of refugee portraits across Paris and the Calais "Jungle", plus an extended report that provides more context to the issue of poverty, intolerance, and social hardships of refugees in France.

Visiting Student Researcher Fellowship

Dana Thomas, Department of Geological Sciences, Stanford University

Visiting Institution: Géosciences Environment Toulouse Laboratory, The French National Center for Scientific Research 

Geoscientists and engineers use mineral and glass dissolution rates to quantify waterrock interactions and make predictions about groundwater chemistry, energy systems and environmentally contaminated sites. However, such rates are typically laboratory-derived and differ dramatically from observed rates in natural settings. To help reconcile the disparities between laboratory and field systems, we will be determining and comparing dissolution rates of a glassy rock derived from two types of experiments: (1) from batch reactor experiments, which are well-mixed systems and (2) from flow-through experiments, which constantly supply fresh water to the reacting material. Our results will be particularly useful for advancing the field of geologic CO2 sequestration, a suggested technique to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by storing CO2 in the subsurface in the form of stable carbonate minerals.

Roxane Letournel, Centrale Supélec

Visiting Department: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University

In order to contain global warming, great effort is devoted to the development of renewable energies. In the PSAAP II project, the objective is to improve the efficiency of solar thermal power facilities, by investigating a system in which the solar radiative power is harvested by particles inside a fluid, in order to generate an efficient heat exchange. To understand and develop such systems, PSAAP II aims at promoting predictive simulations of particle-laden turbulence subject to radiation. Such simulations rely on two key elements: a proper choice of the model describing the particular phase and related numerical methods, and Uncertainty Quantification (UQ). Indeed, physical and numerical parameters, as well as initial or boundary conditions may not be perfectly known and such uncertainties can have a great impact on the output of the simulations. The objective of my project is centered around the impact of uncertainties on the simulation of various models for particle-laden flows. 

Jonas Ogien, Laboratoire Charles Fabry, Institut d’Optique Graduate School

Visiting institution: E.L. Ginzton Laboratory and Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University

Current diagnosis of skin cancer mainly relies on biopsy (i.e., removing a portion of tissue); nearly 12 million biopsies are performed each year. Furthermore, over one third of skin pathologies are actually missed because the dermatologist can only detect changes to the surface of the skin, not underneath. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a promising alternative to conventional biopsy because of its potential to produce comparable images without piercing the skin. OCT can also reveal additional information that has been proven to be useful for skin cancer detection, such as the response of skin to polarized light. The objective of the proposed research project is to implement new methods for optimizing the contrast of polarized light imaging for skin cancer detection. These methods were developed at the Laboratoire Charles Fabry and will be implemented on a polarization-sensitive (PS-) OCT setup developed at Stanford. We expect this collaboration will produce the first images of PS-OCT specifically optimized for skin cancer detection, paving the way for the introduction of polarimetry in dermatology.

Silvia De Toffoli, Department of Philosophy, Stanford University

Visiting Institution: Institut d'Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques

Visual representations of various kinds are ubiquitous in pure and applied mathematics, in the natural and social sciences, as well as in many other human activities. By investigating these visualizations, many questions arise: What are they? How do they function? What are the conditions of their correct use? Why are they, at times, such effective aids to cognition? What type of knowledge can they promote? In this project, I focus on diagrams in pure mathematics, not exclusively in geometry where diagrams are common, but in different mathematical domains. Despite the extreme variety of representations in these domains, it is possible to distill fundamental properties of the nature and use of mathematical diagrams. Diagrams are not static illustrations simply recording information, but dynamic displays for advancing thought. An effective diagram, or a sequence of diagrams, sets the relevant reasoning into material, visual form. By manipulating these concrete external representations in prescribed ways, information about abstract mathematical structures can be obtained without going through a process of formal calculation. In this way cognitive abilities that no doubt evolved in order to manipulate concrete objects can be re-deployed in the abstract realm of mathematics.

Chrysi Nanou, Department of Music, Stanford University

Visiting Institution: Mechanics and Acoustics Library, The French National Center for Scientific Research

One of France’s most pre-eminent and influential composers of computer music, Jean-Claude Risset, has been a frequent visitor and collaborator with generations of Stanford faculty and students stretching back to his groundbreaking work at Bell Labs in the 1960s with Stanford emeritus professor Max Mathews. In the 1980s, Risset created the composition Duet for One Pianist, for live pianist and computer-driven piano. The algorithms Risset programmed for the work analyze the pianist’s performance in real-time and generate an accompaniment played by the Yamaha Disklavier. While the human performer’s musical score is traditionally notated, due to the complexity of the algorithms, a traditionally notated musical score for the computer-generated part never was. With the support of the France-Stanford Center, I will be making a complete and detailed set of audio and data recordings of Risset’s entire Duet for One Pianist. Working in Marseille, Risset and I will complete an analysis of the data generated by his software and finalize an archival reference score for this seminal work in the field of Computer Music.

Alexander Statman, Department of History, Stanford University

Visiting Institution: École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales 

At the end of the Enlightenment, some French savants came to criticize China because it seemed stuck in the past; others praised it for the same reason. For those who challenged the emerging view of progress, China had much to offer. Like gunpowder, printing, and the compass, all new European science might have had ancient Chinese antecedents. Had Daoist alchemists built the first hot-air balloons? Was the theory of animal magnetism prefigured by yin-yang cosmology? Scholars looked to Beijing to investigate. There, the ex-Jesuit missionary Joseph-Marie Amiot fostered a global conversation that included a French statesman, a Swiss freemason, a Chinese barber, and a Manchu prince. Together, they searched for Atlantis, discovered kung-fu, and invented Tarot card divination. In the process, they cemented the view of timeless China and paved the way for modern sinology. This dissertation shows how Europeans claimed for themselves a monopoly on progress and recast China as a land of mysterious alternatives.

Florian Condamine, Université Pierre et Marie Curie

Visiting Department: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

A plasma is what can be called the fourth state of matter. This is an electrically conductive gas. As the other states of matter, plasmas are everywhere around us. For example, lightning strikes or high temperature flames are plasmas. In the universe, stars can be designated as spheres of hot plasma. Study of these plasmas, by their light emission, is essential for the understanding of many physical phenomena taking place at the atomic scale and which can be applied to many fields (cancer treatment, nuclear physics, ...) My project focuses on the spectroscopic study of plasmas generated by the interaction between a high-power laser and the matter. When the latter is heated in a very short time with high power, a plasma is generated. The X-ray laser located at Stanford University called Linac Coherent Light Source is thus a fantastic tool due to its technical capacities. Its very high brilliance (the highest in the world) gives the opportunity to study atomic physics phenomena extremely precisely and impossible to see otherwise. My project will study some of these phenomena, which occur in a plasma of titanium, offering numerous opportunities in high-energy physics.

Béline Pasquini, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

Visiting Department: Department of Classics, Stanford University

During ancient times, major trade flows spread from the Mediterranean Sea to Northern Europe through the Rhone valley (France). These trade flows participated in the economic growth and development of the territories. Today, there are still many unknowns about their distribution and their impact. The objectives of my work are to provide a better understanding of these flows by creating distribution maps of the traded goods and to assess the impact these flows had on the development of the neighbouring territories. My research at Stanford will be carried out together with Prof. Walter Scheidel, historian of the ancient economy, and the main objective of my stay is to conduct a joint thinking on the concept of economic development and its application in Archaeology and History. This collaboration will result in working out an original index of development adapted to ancient studies.

Amélie Héliou, Ecole Polytechnique

Visiting Department: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Summary Proteins and ribonucleic acids (RNAs) play a major role in a variety of biological processes. The function of RNA highly depends on its three-dimensional conformations, which can change its activity or binding affinity to specific partners. Characterizing the dynamics of RNAs will help us understand how they interact with their partners in the cell, and perform their function. In this study, we will collect new small angle scattering (SAXS) experimental data on an RNA riboswitch. In parallel, we will extend our conformational sampling and simulation algorithms for fitting conformational ensembles to sparse data to determine conformational substates of the RNA.

Visiting Junior Scholar Fellowship

Lang Chen, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Visiting Institution: French Institution for Research in Computer Science and Automation

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has an estimated incidence of 1:68 in the United States and is among the most common and pervasive neurodevelopmental disorders. Difficulties in face processing, one central component of social behaviors, have been identified as a characteristic behavioral phenotype of ASD. Unfortunately, the cognitive and brain sources of this difficulty remain largely unclear, especially in children. Therefore, my proposed research focuses on understanding the abnormalities in the brains of children with ASD and their relationship with social deficits. Specifically, I will examine the properties of white-matter connectivity within the brain network for face processing in ASD children compared to typical developing children. Importantly, recent evidence from individuals who have face recognition deficit (i.e., developmental prosopagnosia) showed that their aberrant white-matter connectivity is associated with the difficulties in face recognition, suggesting a clear role of white matter connectivity in face processing. However, no previous studies have examined this association in ASD. Thus, I will examine the white-matter abnormality in ASD and the association with behavioral challenges in face processing as well as with social function in general, to better understand the contribution of white-matter connectivity on social deficits in ASD.

Owen Phillips, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University

Visiting Institution: Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III/French National Institute of Health and Medical Research

This project is focused on the negative effects degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and Multiple System Atrophy have on the brain’s connections. The brain’s connections are crucial to any brain function, so problems with the integrity of these “wires” can lead to serious symptoms. I will employ neuroimaging and sophisticated data analysis methods I developed to study the potentially highly vulnerable “superficial white matter” – which is a complex high plasticity area of the brain where information is transferred over short distances. This project is significant because no one has looked at the superficial white matter in Parkinson’s or Multiple System Atrophy. Hopefully, this work will lead to new insights into neurodegenerative disorders. 

Giacomo Mantovan, The Center for Studies of India and South Asia, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and the National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS)

Visiting Department: Center for South Asia, Stanford Global Studies, Stanford University

My project will focus on preparing my anthropological doctoral thesis for publication. It focuses on Sri Lankan Tamils who came to France in order to escape the long-running civil war in Sri Lanka. That war ended in 2009 with the military destruction of the main Tamil rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This work aims to understand how the memory of war is constructed in different contexts and is shaped by diverse institutions and social norms. The project will be divided in two parts. The first focuses on life histories, in particular those of the former LTTE fighters. I will analyse why they chose to engage in a nationalist organisation, how they construct their identities and how the farewell to arms and exile change their public life and their intimacy. The second part opens the analysis to the public sphere of memory: that of the Tamil nationalist associations and the French authorities. As regards the first, I will examine how they remember the deaths, how they reconstruct Tamil history, and what their political project is for the future. Concerning the second, I will focus on the production and the examination of the asylum requests.

Visit the France-Stanford Center website for more information about the center's fellowship opportunities, or read the 2015 newsletter for details about the latest research.