Rania Hussain

Rania Hussain

Doctoral candidate and entrepreneur at heart

I participated in the European path of the Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Project Management diploma. We all worked on real projects, with real-world solutions. It was very encompassing.

Rania Shahbaz, a doctoral student at the SMAER doctoral school, which sits at the interface of medical and electronic engineering, will defend her thesis on June 29. She has developed an innovative project for a microwave sensor that explores carotid arteries, which is of interest to SATT Lutech. She has completed the European pathway of the Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Project Management program, which opened in 2022-2023.

Rania, what’s your academic background?
Rania Hussain: I have an undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences, followed by a master's degree in vascular ultrasound from Imperial College, London. I then worked as an ultrasound operator for 3 years in hospitals in my home country, Saudi Arabia, before coming to France to start my thesis, funded by a grant from my country, in November 2019.

Tell us about your PhD topic.
R.H.: My thesis deals with the design of a miniaturized microwave biosensor for the functional exploration of atheromatous biological tissues. My PhD is being carried out between the Pitié Salpétrière (vascular surgery department) and the Paris Electrical and Electronic Engineering Laboratory. My two thesis supervisors are Hamid Kokabi for GEEPS and Fabien Koskas, the former head of the vascular surgery department at Pitié Salpétrière, assisted by three other supervisors: Jean-Michel Davaine (surgeon at La Pitié), Frédérique Deshours (MCF), Professor Georges Alquie (professor emeritus at GEEPS).

Why did you choose to study at Sorbonne University?
R.H.: Firstly, for its reputation. Secondly, I came from a rather unique background. There aren't many ultrasound experts in France, unlike in the English-speaking world. I looked everywhere and finally met Professor Fabien Koskas, my co-director, who suggested this project after an initial meeting. I'm very proud to be at La Pitié, to have joined Sorbonne University and to be supervised by one of France's leading vascular surgeons.

You've now completed the European pathway of the Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Project Management diploma. How did it go?
R.H.: The courses were delivered digitally. In the classroom, we had one week of bootcamp at the beginning of the year and two days at the end of the course for the pitch. In addition to classes and workshops, we had to work on a project proposed by a company (there were 4 different projects: SUEZ, Carrefour Italy, CHEMOVATOR/BASF and Warsaw City Hall). I worked for 6 months on the Warsaw project, which was looking for help to improve its water infrastructure (floods, drought). Each project had a tutor, and ours was a professor of business management at Warsaw University, who was a great listener. At the end we pitched the panel for 20 minutes in front of a jury to present our entire startup business model.

What will you take away from this experience?
R.H.: It's a great experience, very interesting and very intense: you have to work at least 10 hours a week. For the European route, we were the pilot project, since 2022-2023 was the first year of this pathway. There were around thirty participants from all over Europe. I learned a lot about startup creation, because I was starting from scratch, but also a lot about climate change. We had professors from all over the world giving courses in a wide variety of disciplines: social entrepreneurship, investment, marketing and marketing psychology.

We all worked on real projects, looking for workable, real-world solutions. It was very encompassing. We're going to keep in touch with the companies that proposed the projects to us. For example, in July, I'm off to Warsaw with the other students in the project group, to discover the city, the people at the town hall and the professors involved. One day, I dream of seeing one of the solutions proposed by my group implemented by Warsaw City Hall.

Why did you choose to take this course in particular?
R.H.: When I started my thesis, I wanted to be a researcher or a lecturer. During the course of my thesis, I realized that this wasn't for me. So I began to take an interest in the world of start-ups, to see myself working in a company, or even owning my own business. When the SATT started to take an interest in my subject, I didn't understand anything because I'd never done business management or studied in this field. I said to myself, this diploma is going to be the answer. The program gives you a lot of confidence, a strong foundation and a lot of support. Eventually, I'd like to create my own startup. For the moment, on June 1, I'm starting a contract as an ultrasound application engineer with an American company, HOLOGIC, which looks after women's health worldwide. I'll be based in Paris. This step will reinforce my experience of the world of private enterprise.

What advice could you give to doctoral students tempted by the DU experience?
R.H.: Have the courage to do something else outside of your thesis subject. Get out of your comfort zone; it can be very rewarding. Don't be afraid. On the other hand, avoid taking this diploma in your third year, as it is very demanding.

The Entrepreneurial and Intrapreneurial Project Management  univrsity diploma created by Sorbonne University in 2020. The program is open to holders of a Bac+5 degree, doctoral students and young PhDs. It takes place over one academic year (November-June) and is divided into two tracks:
•    The "classic" (local) pathway, taught in person and in French
•    The "Eurpoean" pathway, taught as distanced learning and in English - open to students from 4EU+ member universities (Milan, Heidelberg, Warsaw)

This DU provides the opportunity to acquire the fundamentals of entrepreneurship (master class designed as the best of the 80-hour Celsa Entreprendre Specialized Master's program), the methodology of innovation project management, and hands-on experience with a real-life innovation case supported by Sorbonne University partner companies, on which multidisciplinary teams of 6 to 10 students are working. The companies are involved in an innovative project, often involving a technological, environmental or societal challenge.

Important dates

•    Applications open from May 30 to June 30
Apply on the E-Candidat platform of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and submit all supporting documents
•    Program starts November 6, 2023
Project management (6 months): group work
•    June 2024 : Presentation by each project team to a panel of judges (including the partner company)