Scientific processes : When #DigitAg postgraduates teach undergraduates

One of the main goals of the #DigitAg Graduate School is to create and develop links between its postgraduates and its master’s courses. This is the opportunity for five postgraduates to contribute to the curricula of engineering students. Between May and June, they will participate in classes and tutorials proposed by the teaching fellows at Montpellier SupAgro. Explanations.

The link between postgraduates and undergraduates

What can engineering students studying in the Junior Research Lab (JRL) or a Scientific processes teaching module unit learn from Maxime Ryckewaert (physics / spectrometry / high throughput-phenotyping), Narjiss Araba (economics / finance), Jean-Eudes Yawogan Gbodjo (IT / deep learning), Sarah Valentin (IT / epidemiology / biostatistics) and Girault Gnanguenon Guesse (mathematics / biostatistics)?

In their daily work, these postgraduates use data-processing tools, such as imaging for high-throughput phenotyping for Maxime, R / RStudio® for statistics (Narjiss), data manipulation (Jean-Eudes), data visualisation (Girault), or programming (Sarah). Their participation has been integrated into these courses. As young researchers, they also communicate in English, the language used in the JRL.

What do teachers and students think of this?

In the case of the “high-throughput phenotyping” scientific approach, the research subject was adapted slightly to accommodate Maxime and to benefit from his knowledge. Vincent Ranwez stresses that “the SupAgro teaching fellows do not necessarily have expertise in high-throughput phenotyping¹. This is why we regularly call on postgraduates throughout the year. It’s good that we can depend on other people. Maxime also brings a fresh outlook and his enthusiasm, and this can especially inspire students to go on to postgraduate studies later”. Jacques David continues: “Maxime is very involved, very motivated, and everything he has done with students to show them the new technologies has been greatly appreciated”. When asked, the students say the same thing: “It’s interesting to have another point of view, to have someone who’s not yet a full lecturer. Maxime is a bit closer to us, and he can take the time to explain things to us”, says Claire, one of the engineering students in the Scientific approaches teaching unit.

¹ Phenotyping corresponds to the observable characteristics of a plant, such as its resistance to disease, to drought, etc.

Why are the benefits for postgraduates?

Maxime says these interventions improve his teaching skills and increase his experience in order to potentially use them in a lecturer position in the future. They also enable him to apply his knowledge in the fields of spectroscopy and hyperspectral imaging, as well as the associated analysis methods.

Narjiss teaches students about the basics of R software functioning: “This intervention will enable me to develop and build a class myself for the first time, giving me freedom to teach my way. Moreover, it’s good practice because the students are all international and teaching is in English. This will test my ability to give a class in English”.

Jean-Eudes: “A first teaching experience can already be quite intimidating, but is even more so when you have to talk in a different language. The JRL is a great opportunity for me to get my first teaching experience and will undoubtedly help me in the future with my plans to teach”.

Training courses open to all #DigitAg postgraduates

Beyond these interventions, all #DigitAg postgraduates, less familiar with these tools, are invited to follow these courses in English. Provisional schedule: 14/05 9:00-12:00 code sharing and version control; 21/05 9:00-12:00 R basics and R markdown; 28/05 9:00-12:00 Data viz with ggplot2; 04/06 9:00-12:00 Data wrangling with tidyr and dplyr; 05/06 9:00-12:00 Basics of programming

Contacts:  Graduate School: vincent.ranwez [AT]; Junior Research Lab: jacques.david [AT]


Focus on a scientific approach: snail herbivory and rapeseed bitterness

In this workshop proposed by Jacques David and Vincent Ranwez, two teaching fellows in the AGAP Joint Research Unit at Montpellier SupAgro, the students chose to work on the topic of bitterness in cultivated plants. The experiment was conducted with different varieties of rapeseed. Several rapeseed seedlings were planted in pots, according to their glucosinolate content, a molecule believed to be responsible for bitterness.

The primary goal of this experiment was to study herbivory in snails, which are plant pests. The second was to determine whether the glucosinolate content of a plant actually affects it bitterness and repels snails. If this is the case, the goal would be to increase the glucosinolate in these plants to ensure they are sufficiently repellent to snails, but remain edible for humans. To answer all of these questions, we can call on hyperspectral imaging and thus Maxime. With the results of these experiments, students will write an article. We are looking forward to reading it!


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Find out more

Scientific approaches teaching unit (page 30)

The goal of this unit is to actively bring students together to answer a scientific question in conditions close to the reality of their future jobs. They will thus be involved in the production of data and will need to process raw information in order to formalise and use it. The purpose of expanding into the modelling approach is to train students in system analysis and representation as well as to encourage them to look critically at the capacities (areas of validity) and results of modelling tools. The unit adopts an experimental approach (design of experiment, data acquisition and processing, statistical analysis, presentation of results, bibliography, drafting of document) and a modelling approach (design of model, programming, critical analysis of results).

Junior Research Lab (JRL)

The JRL is dedicated to learning about research. It bridges the gap between lectures and research, and is an opportunity for students to exchange with students from other disciplines or countries and to prepare a long-term personal research project. The JRL is open to French and international students wishing to develop a personal plan or to conduct a first research project.