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a bit about myself...

 

My name is Sybil Derrible. I was born and raised in the archipelago of St Pierre and Miquelon. St Pierre and Miquelon (Google Map) is a French owned territory, located about 13km off the south coast of Newfoundland, Canada. It has a gigantic population of roughly 6,000 people. Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is a wonderful and beautiful place that is surely worth visiting. It has the strange combination of looking like a typical fishermen's village from the coast of Atlantic Canada, whilst having a strong embedded French culture. It is actually part of Europe (we have the euro!), although you could argue I am physically North-American. Please, visit the links page to learn more about St Pierre and Miquelon.

At 18 years old, in 2001, I passed my Scientific French Baccalaureate and went to France to pursue my education. I attended the Lycée Joffre in Montpellier, to do a prépa maths (the French system is a little odd, you can read more about it here). However, after a few months, I had the opportunity to learn more about British universities. Having a British grandmother (from Newfoundland before it was Canadian), I had always been attracted to the English language. This is a boat I did not want to miss. I therefore applied and was accepted at Imperial College London, to do a "Masters of Engineering with a Year Abroad” in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

At my arrival in the UK, I was stunned. I resided at Southwell Hall (university dorm); there were so many people from so many different places. You should remember now that I am from St Pierre and Miquelon, and this was a significant 'leap' for me. Imperial College London is certainly a great university, located in the heart of London in South Kensington. I liked the lectures; I liked the Professors. It was tough but I expected no less. I have to admit that I have spent long hours in the computer room and the library. Nevertheless, my experience was life-changing.

I further spent my final year abroad, as an Erasmus student at the Ecole Centrale of Lyon in France. I enrolled in the Innovation Management section of the Department of Industrial Engineering. I truly enjoyed my time in Lyon, especially considering this is where I met my wife Marie-Agathe. Nonetheless, I found myself spending time almost entirely with the other international students, and I knew I had to move on. Subsequently, as part of the school requirements, we all had to do a four-to-five month internship, which I did at the Information Technology consulting firm Accenture in Paris. Although I liked the professional world, I was drawn back to grad life. I therefore started to apply for Ph.D. positions and was accepted at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Prof. Chris Kennedy (who is now Department Chair at the University of Victoria).

In September 2006, I landed in Canada. Toronto is certainly one of the most multi-cultural cities in the World, and it feels like it. The University is located downtown. It dates back to 1828 and the buildings are wonderful. I often say that Toronto is a city that grows on oneself; I lived there for five years and I admit it was hard to leave. My introduction to the research world was exceptional and I could not have hoped for a better experience. I completed the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in July 2010 and started a post-doc almost immediately with the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto.

In the fall 2010, I also applied for a prestigeous Post-Doctoral Fellowship (PDF) with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and was awarded it in the spring of 2011. At the same time, I became acquainted with MIT professors involved at SMART. The location of tenure for my fellowship therefore became obvious very rapidly. Marie-Agathe and I arrived in Singapore in early August and we were delighted to be there. Living in Singapore for a year was a fantastic opportunity. Not only did I enjoy a great work environment, I got to travel all around South-East Asia, including in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and even Hong Kong! Marie and I were sad to leave but eager to start a new adventure.

In August 2012, I moved to Chicago, where I became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Materials Engineering (CME) and a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy (IESP) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I started my own research group, the Complex and Sustainabile Urban Networks (CSUN) Lab, and our mission of CSUN is to advance scientific knowledge and create software for the design of smart, sustainable, and resilient cities. The life is an Assistant Professor is thrilling, busy, and it can be overwhelming (if this sounds like you, here are some advice). In 2016, I was notably awarded a NSF CAREER award for my project "Understanding the Fundamental Principles Driving Household Energy and Resource Consumption for Smart, Sustainable, and Resilient Communities". Personally, Marie-Agathe and I got married and we still try to go back to Asia about once a year (we had to chance to add several countries to our list!). In 2017, I was then promoted to Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and thanks to my work that has increasingly involved elements of computer science, I also received a courtesy appointment in the Department of Computer Science.

In summer 2019, I then started a sabbatical (after seven years of intense, unrelenting work) that brought me to Vietnam for six months. To most people, “sabbatical” equals vacation, but this is not how it works in academia. A sabbatical is a time when a faculty does not have to teach and can focus on research. During my sabbatical, I was a visiting professor at the University of Transport Technology (UTT) in Hanoi and had a terrific time. I worked hard, both by myself and with my colleagues at UTT, and also learned a lot about the Vietnamese culture. During this sabbatical, I also spent a few weeks in Ho Chi Minh City and traveled to Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, and China. Overall, it was a fantastic time that resulted in several publications and funding proposals, and more importantly lasting friendships, and I feel privileged to have lived it.

In fall 2019, my textbook Urban Engineering for Sustainability finally came out. After six years of hard work and 656 pages, I was thrilled to have my work published. It was published by MIT Press. I poured so much time and effort in this book. Now, I can only hope that some readers will find it useful. To learn more about the book, visit this page.

Then, in winter 2020, I spent several months in France, also as part of my sabbatical. I established ties with several universities during my time, but I was careful to take the time and focus on my next book (details will come in due time). Winter 2020 is also when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and I spent the lockdown trapped in a small apartment in Paris with my wife—we ended up having a lovely, relaxing time despite the horror going on at the time.

As the sabbatical is over, in summer 2020, it is time to return to Chicago. I am excited to get and start new projects. I feel refreshed and I have tons of idea. Let us see where life will bring me this time.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter: @SybilDerrible