Skip to main content

Doctoral Students to Complete Research in France Through Chateaubriand Fellowship

By: Marisa Ramiccio | June 25, 2024

The Olympics might be the biggest event to take place in France this year, but for two UCF Knights, a more exciting experience awaits them in The Hexagon. Doctoral students Pugazh Sivasankar and Zubin Choudhury have been selected for the Chateaubriand Fellowship, a research program that aims to strengthen the research collaborations between the U.S. and France.

Sivasankar and Choudhury will travel to France to complete a research project for four to nine months under the mentorship of French scientists. The fellowship will cover travel expenses and their stay in France.

“I feel joyful and at the same time more responsible towards my research as the Embassy of France is entrusting me with this fellowship,” Sivasankar says. “I feel a sense of gratitude for the support offered by UCF and its faculty members.”

student in front of engineering building

An Immersive Experience

Sivasankar will explore his interest in aerospace engineering under the tutelage of Nassim Razaaly, the head of the aerodynamics program at the École Nationale Supérieure de Mécanique et d’Aérotechnique near Poitiers. The research will tie into his dissertation, which focuses on the uncertainty of the states of objects in orbit around Earth, which can be used for debris tracking or estimating the probability of collisions.

He says he hopes that the fellowship will shape his academic pursuits, build his professional network and immerse him in the French culture.

“Exploring the French culture in terms of food, music, art and language refreshes me and enables me to befriend the locals by understanding their perspective,” Sivasankar says. “Having spent nearly six years in Europe before starting my Ph.D. at UCF has introduced me to a few professional contacts from France.”

Sivasankar earned his master’s degree from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. While attending a research program in Sweden, he bumped into a Knight who told him about the newly formed aerospace engineering doctoral program. He immediately applied and the rest is history. He says he appreciates the support of the faculty, and as an autistic student, the sense of empowerment received from UCF Student Accessibility Services.

As he enters his final year at UCF, Sivasankar hopes the fellowship will give him the experience he needs to land a job at Lockheed Martin.

“Much of my doctoral research has been sponsored by Lockheed Martin, so I hope to work for them after graduation,” Sivasankar says. “Having an international research experience and exposure sponsored by the Embassy of France will increase my value as a prospective employee.”

students in front of engineering building

Making Research a Reality

Choudhary, a computer science student, wasn’t sure if he’d be selected for the Chateaubriand Fellowship. But with a strong application and a little patience, what he thought was a long shot panned out. Now he has the chance to complete research with the team at the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology in Rennes – a team he’s been following for a while.

“I’m excited to learn and collaborate with some of the brightest and most established VR researchers worldwide,” Choudhary says. “Together, I believe we can produce valuable and impactful research for society.”

Choudhary’s project will focus on the perceptual and cognitive impact of both virtual reality and augmented reality. He’ll explore how users interact with a fictional environment that feels real.

“These interactions can range from grabbing objects to teleporting into new worlds,” he says. “Virtual reality’s uniqueness lies in its ability to create imaginary scenarios — like flying on Mars or swimming in Atlantis. My research will delve into how different interaction techniques affect users’ perception and cognition.”