The “Frontières de l’Innovation en Recherche et Éducation” (FIRE) PhD program, established in 2006, is part of the “Programme Bettencourt” created and funded by the Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation to help creative and talented students develop their PhD in an environment as enriching as those of the best graduate programs in the world. The disciplines covered by the doctoral school are broad and include biological and physical sciences, engineering and technology, medical and health sciences, education and social sciences, information and digital sciences.

Discover more about our PhD students' research work on the Thesis projects section!

A wide range of research aims are associated to the FIRE doctoral school due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program. They can be broadly categorized into two main tracks:

Frontiers in Life Sciences - FdV

"Frontières du Vivant" (FdV) PhD projects involve biological and physical sciences, engineering and technology, medical and health sciences. They can also incorporate approaches and/or questions from other disciplines, including social sciences and humanities, however the focus of the work is on advancement of knowledge in life sciences.

Frontiers in Learning and Digital Sciences - FAN

“Frontières de l’Apprendre et du Numérique” (FAN) PhD projects often sit at the interface of digital technology, education and social sciences, however this is not strictly mandatory. For example, past projects have also involved learning with games, teaching through research, information and communication technologies, participatory sciences, art and design as a means to communicate science, etc.

FIRE courses are also open to students from other doctoral programs.

Priority is given to FIRE students when spots are limited.

Year 1 courses
Creating Interdisciplinary Research Projects (CIRP)

The Creating Interdisciplinary Research Projects (CIRP) workshop intends to assemble free spirited students and researchers from broad scientific backgrounds to conceive creative research projects. This workshop provides the primary basis for collegiality and communication through dialogue and brainstorming on open questions in interdisciplinary research project. It is set in Domaine de Chalès (2h away from Paris) and is a joint activity between 1st year FIRE students and AIRE M2 students.

Aims of the workshop:

  • To be able to focus on an important scientific question and to define the means to approach it from different disciplines
  • To be able to zoom out (have a broader view) and zoom in (be precise and define the key experiments)
  • To think and express your ideas more clearly.
  • To gain confidence in your ideas.
  • To be able to discuss, reject or accept ideas.
  • To learn to take constructive scientific criticisms.
  • To learn how to write a research proposal.
  • To discuss scientific questions thoroughly.
  • To learn to interact with people from different backgrounds.
Interdisciplinary Thursdays (IT)

The Interdisciplinary Thursday seminars provide an overview on a wide scope of interdisciplinary research in life sciences and education. They promote discussions and scientific exchange among the fellows and senior scientists and develop an interdisciplinary scientific community.

Each session consists of 3 short talks (~15 minutes) by first year FIRE students introducing their research question and experimental/theoretical strategy followed by a discussion. Drinks and snacks will be provided.

The IT seminars take place in the Learning Center Extension (ground floor) at CRI building (8 rue Charles V 75004 Paris), from 18:00-19:30.

Critical Assesment and publication of Research Articles (CARA)

This course is intended to train students to improve the critical reading of interdisciplinary research papers and to introduce them to the different aspects of the peer review process.

Students will be exercised on their ability to capture rapidly the content of a paper, including conceptual framework and technical aspects. Several aspects of the methodology to perform this task efficiently as well as retaining the content of papers will be discussed with the instructors. Emphasis will be put on analyzing methodological aspects and the writing of method sections, with illustrations and comparisons between different articles. Examples of seminal work involving methodological breakthrough will be presented and discussed. FInally, scientific misconduct leading to ethical issues will be exemplified and analyzed.

The course will also exercise and lead students through all critical steps of the peer review process, the tasks of Editors and board, the writing of appropriate reviews and will include some aspects of paper submission (ex: the writing of a cover letter). Examples will be given of crosstalk between reviewers and authors with the support of available transparent reviewing process provided by particular journals.

Teachers: Benoît Sorre and Saskia van der Vies,,

4-days courses, two sessions will be organized in March (since the 2019/2020 course was cancelled due to COVID-19). Registrations will open soon.

General public speaking

This 3-day workshop is designed to help young scientific researchers develop their communication skills and strategies, with a focus on presentations before small and large groups. Success in public speaking involves a personal investment in understanding the bases of different acts of communication, the elements to be mastered, and the types of strategies to be employed.

Teacher: Ray Horn,

Enroll here

Engaging presentations for the scientific and general audiences

You will have to give a scientific presentation? Don't panic. There are many things you can do to prepare a talk you will be proud of (or, at the very least, one you won’t be ashamed of), but most of them take time to master. So how about you start working on your presentation before you actually need to give one? This course will help you find the best way to communicate your science... to anyone and everyone.

Teacher: Eugenia Covernton,

Enroll here

How to dialogue with different audiences

You would like to do some science communication but you don’t know where to start? You always wanted to share your research to different audiences but you’re not sure how to proceed? This workshop is made for you! In 2 days we will be covering what kind of science communication exists and the basis of science communication, for any type of audience. You’ll learn about Twitter and most importantly, you’ll train to present your research to different types of audiences: general public but also journalists, funders, policy makers, etc.

Teacher: Elodie Chabrol,

Enroll here

Year 2 courses
Scientific writing

Has your writing been infected by the Scientific Writing Style virus? Has it lost clarity, conciseness, interest, fluidity? Has it lost readers, become so abstract or unclear that even experts struggle with it? Come and learn how to see the signs of infection. Diagnose what makes your writing ineffective. And become a better writer, one that readers find imminently readable, one that readers enjoy and learn from.

Teacher: Jean-Luc Lebrun,

For November session: Enroll here

For April session:Enroll here

Thematic workshops

The thematic workshops give FIRE and AIRE LiSc M2 students an opportunity conceive and organize a workshop to showcase their research and interests in an interdisciplinary and open setting. The workshops aim to create a setting for discussion and exchange amongst PhD students, Masters students, and the scientific community at large.

FIRE PhD students and AIRE LiSc M2 students work together to create the thematic workshops week at the CRI. The students decide on themes then register to the thematic club corresponding to the main theme of their PhD research or M2 internship. The students have the opportunity to organize each component of the thematic workshop, including format, guest speakers, scheduling, advertising, etc. A budget is available to the clubs for invitations of external scientists to participate in the workshop and interact with the students.

M2 students are expected to present and defend their research internship before a panel of M2 teachers. The FIRE students must also present their PhD research in the format of their choosing. All presentations should be aimed for a general, scientific audience and should be connected to the theme of the day. They should include an introduction to the basic scientific concepts that define the project, an overview of the latest scientific knowledge in this area, and a clear description of the scientific questions that the project is going to address and how these fit into the wider picture of understanding biological systems.

During the mandatory intro session, details of the workshop organization will be presented and collectively decided by the group. Students will select the themes and join the workshop they wish to attend.

Year 3 courses
Best DOC: Well-being, health, and work for the doctorate

The Best DOC workshops offer students a space to discuss the challenging and stressful aspects of the PhD and to provide support to their peers who are also facing similar issues. Students will gain more control over their negative emotions and improve their resilience in the PhD program.

Doing a PhD is a stimulating, but also a challenging and stressful experience, as pointed out in the growing body of literature on doctoral education. Many stress factors affect PhD students: elaboration of a research project, integration in a research lab and into various networks, relationships with the supervisor(s) and with peers, growing competition, quest for funding, the doctoral writing, solitude, lack of self-confidence, precariousness, uncertain future, etc.

It is perfectly normal to face obstacles during the “doctoral journey” and there seems to be an increasing awareness among academics of the need for a specific support during this long adventure. Various institutional initiatives flourish around the world and intervention programmes at schools and universities have shown their efficiency. The SPARK Resilience program, which aims to help people gain more control over their negative emotions and improve their resilience skills, has been adapted to address the specific needs of doctoral students in this series of workshops.

During the small group discussion sessions students will collaborate to improve engagement at work, self-motivation, personal growth and well-being; as well as develop techniques to reduce anxiety, unpleasant/negative emotions and depression.

Teacher: Pascale Haag,

Dates of the course will be scheduled soon, registrations will open right after.

Initiating and managing scientific collaborations

Why register? Because The US Office of Research Integrity wrote about collaborations: “We are struck by how many disputes could have been avoided if only the collaborators had taken a few precautionary steps at the outset”. This course, which includes numerous practical applications, will ensure that you acquire the right reflexes to start and manage your scientific collaborations.

Teacher: David Karlin,

Enroll here

Responsibility in research and entrepreneurship

How can science collaborate with society to solve our most pressing social and environmental challenges? How can valorization of research no longer be only focused on economic return but also on social and environmental returns? Can a scientist engage as a citizen through research? This new vision of research and entrepreneurship is rooted in specific philosophical principles, requires new skills, tools and values, and is emerging in local, national and international levels through different lenses.

Teacher: Melanie Marcel,

Enroll here

Technical courses
Cell modeling

In this course students will learn about and implement a physiological model of a cell then propose their own improvements and additions inspired by their research interests. A large amount of work has been devoted to the mathematical and computational modeling of specific cellular processes. As accurate as these models may be, their isolation from the physiological cellular context hampers the study of the role they can play in global cellular behaviors. A cell model is an aggregate of mathematical representations of cellular subprocesses (e.g. translation, protein maturation, etc.). Of course, such sub models need to be validated against experimental data. Eventually, we expect the aggregate model to explain high level behaviors of a cell like the growth rate. During this hands-on workshop, such a model will be realized.

Teacher: Guillaume Terradot,

Enroll here

Introduction to Machine Learning

As biology is becoming more and more quantitative, today’s scientists end up with a huge amount of numbers to describe their experiments / their empirical observations. Traditional approaches, based on p-values and hypothesis testing, are very often pushed beyond their capabilities in these cases. In this 3 days workshop, we will cover the basics of machine learning (ML), namely how to extract information from datasets that could not be analyzed with the naked eye or manually. The aim is to share both the underlying mathematics (in a gentle way !) as well as provide a practical use of the methods, through dedicated softwares.

Students are more than welcome to come with their own datasets and/or share the ML methods they could have been already using. In that sense, the proposed schedule is only an outline and many of its parts could be covered by one or more willing participant. In the same spirit, if a specific method is of interest for a good number of people, it can be added in the program.

Teacher: Yann Le Cunff,

Enroll here

Introduction to optical imaging and image analysis

Seeing is believing. Optical imaging is becoming a major asset for exploring the functioning of living organisms. This course introduces optical microscopy from the basics to complicated specialized microscopes. The course makes a direct link between the optical microscope and the information contained within the acquired images. Furthermore, the principles in image manipulation and analysis will be demonstrated on real microscopy images.

Teacher: Bassam Hajj,

Enroll here

Naturalist and scientific illustration

In this course, you will discover natural history illustration. First learn how to draw with the pencil to take the right proportions and place the right shades to create the volumes. Then you will learn to make a black and white scientific line illustration, and a realistic watercolour insect and botanical painting.

Teacher: Julien Norwood, Discover his work.

Enroll here

Transversal courses
Adapt your PhD project to open science and data science principles

With this class, you will understand the principles of open science and data science. You will be able to adapt it on your current PhD research projects and adopt collaborative practices and tools for the management of it. The aim is also to help you to discover "the backstage of research system" and develop critical thinking skills on your digital research practices.

Teacher: Célya Gruson-Daniel, [] (

Enroll here

Beyond scientific thinking

What are the specificities of the scientific approach to investigate the world? And of the artistic ones? How both differ or, on the contrary, look alike? More important, how both approaches could combine? That is, how the practice of the arts can enrich scientific research?

Teacher: Aurélien Peilloux,

Enroll here

Effective reading in English

The workshop is designed for non-native speakers of English who wish to improve their skills in reading English-language texts, to develop their personal potential in terms of both quantity (speed, volume read) and quality, and to better manage their academic workload.

Teacher: Ray Horn,

Enroll here

Finding a job outside of academia

Why register? Because after the course you'll be much better prepared and much more serene about your job search - in other words your comfort zone will have greatly expanded! Students often say that after the course, they no longer feel anxious about the next step and about jobs outside of academia.

Read some testimonials of PhD students here.

Teacher: David Karlin,

Enroll here

Frantastique: online courses

Each morning you’ll receive an e-mail with an assortment of written content and audio recordings. Each lesson takes ten minutes to complete and includes a story with dialogues, questions, ‘mini-lessons’ and revisions.

After clicking the ‘send’ button, you’ll receive your e-mail corrections with your score of the day, explanations on why you got each question right or wrong, transcripts of the audio recordings, the vocabulary you wanted to learn more about, etc.

The next lessons will be customized according to your previous answers, your expectations and your needs.

Enroll here

Gymglish: online course

Each morning you’ll receive an e-mail with an assortment of written content and audio recordings. Each lesson takes ten minutes to complete and includes a story with dialogues, questions, ‘mini-lessons’ and revisions.

After clicking the ‘send’ button, you’ll receive your e-mail corrections with your score of the day, explanations on why you got each question right or wrong, transcripts of the audio recordings, the vocabulary you wanted to learn more about, etc.

The next lessons will be customized according to your previous answers, your expectations and your needs.

Enroll here

A crash course on the philosophy of science

“Chance favours the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur, Lecture, University of Lille (7 December 1854)

What is the philosophy of science? How does it relate to research, in theory and practice? What is it good for? Why should I care? Will my research profit from knowing about it, or is it (as Richard Feynman quipped) as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds?

This course will make you a better researcher by making you a better philosopher!

Join us for five half-days of collective exploration into the nature of reality, perspectival knowledge, and the process of open inquiry.

Teacher: Johannes Jaeger,

Enroll here

Sense about science: Stand Up For Your Research

Stand Up For Your Research! Are the public really post-truth and anti-expert? Has personality won out over evidence? Is the only good news fake news? What can you do to get your voice heard? If you want to find out how to communicate your research and have impact on the pubic, come along to the Sense About Science: Standing Up For Research workshop.

This course will covers the basics of why it is important to engage the public with research before teaching you all the tips and tricks you need to get started. We'll look at how to manage working with the media, social media, how to understand audiences and how to figure out the best approach to take for your engagement work.

Teacher: Leah Fitzsimmons,,

Enroll here

Time Management and organisation: How to be efficient in your PhD

The goal of this course is to equip the students with relevant and actionable tool to increase their efficiency in the context of research. We will cover a wide range of topics, including priority setting, organisation, how to conduct an efficient state of the art, how to develop and stick to habits, how to overcome the mid-PhD depression or how to enhance its research capabilities with networking and collaborations.

Teacher: Aurélien Baelde

Enroll here

Practical details

Language: English unless all the participants are French speakers.

Location: Courses are held at the Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires (CRI), 10 rue Charles V, 75004 Paris. An identity document is required to enter the building.

If you have any questions, please send an email to the scientific coordinator, Camille Gaulon, at