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My student career : Nicolin H., Research & Innovation Engineer

19 July 2023
Nicolin HERAULT, R&D Engineer for SEGULA Technologies and recent graduate of the Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne with a major in materials and mechanics, talks to us about his career with SEGULA and the Research & Innovation department.
How did you get into SEGULA Technologies?

I arrived for my end-of-studies engineering internship in 2022. I’d just come back from a 6-month study exchange in Madrid, and recruitment for the internship was very quick.

Why did you choose to do your internship at SEGULA?

In reality, I found out about SEGULA through the internship offer, then I did some research and was motivated by the subject. It had a lot to do with the ecological transition and a complete multi-physics system, which is what I was looking for. Finally, it was the interview phase that won me over: I felt that the discussions were very friendly and I also understood that I would have a great deal of freedom to work on my assignment.

Could you describe this work placement in a few words?

It was a mechanical design internship on a domestic energy storage system, which uses compressed air to store renewable electricity (editor’s note: Nicolin is working on a domestic version of the REMORA technology). I had to work on making a prototype of the system: this included dimensioning, design and a phase of production and rapid prototyping using 3D printing. I had the opportunity to propose my own solutions, which was very rewarding.

And at the end of your placement, what motivated you to continue with SEGULA?

SEGULA offered me the chance to continue the work I’d started on my placement, and that was an important factor in my decision. Especially as it meant working on increasingly ambitious projects. The job also meant that I would be working alongside production teams, so it was an interesting balance. I still had autonomy over my subject because the R&I team is multidisciplinary, so everyone has their own speciality. And the good working atmosphere made me want to stay.

What are your current assignments?

I’m still doing dimensioning and design studies on energy storage prototypes, with some modelling and some optimisation. Once these studies have been completed, I get in touch with suppliers to manufacture the parts and then monitor the progress of the work. So it’s another new and different job. I really see the project from A to Z!

And which part do you enjoy the most?

The design phase is still what I’m most passionate about: to be able to start from scratch and find solutions to such problems, I can’t see the time passing! But the realisation phase is very rewarding, because you get to see the machine you’ve imagined take shape.

You mentioned the working atmosphere. What’s life like in the agency?

Everyone’s very serious about their work, but there are lots of social events every week, including breakfasts, birthdays, meals and afterworks. It’s a setting that I really enjoy on a day-to-day basis and, what’s more, I do very little teleworking, even if I’m given the opportunity to do so.

Has your view of the world of engineering and research changed since your training?

Engineering school prepares you very well for the world of engineering, so it’s really close to what I imagined.

As far as research is concerned, I had some contact with the purely academic research carried out by some of our teachers, without knowing much about it. On the other hand, I had very little information about applied research and development in industry, and I learnt a lot.

Can you tell us an anecdote?

I used to think, for example, that people doing a thesis were outside the world of work, that they were still students. By working with PhD students in companies, I’ve come to realise that they have a real mission on a specific project, and that it’s really intense.

But you didn’t want to do a thesis?

SEGULA offered me the chance to pursue an engineering position that interested me, and then a thesis is a commitment for at least 3 years. I also have to say that the writing phase is not my cup of tea… But now I have a lot of respect for what PhD students do!

What do you see as the next step in your career?

In the short and medium term I’m planning to continue what I’m doing at SEGULA, to really get to grips with and master all the phases in the life of a project. In the longer term I’m thinking of becoming a project manager in industry.

Any advice for future interns and engineers?

If you’re tempted by research and development, take advantage of these internship periods to try things out. If you like it, you’ll discover a field full of passionate people; if you don’t like it, you can always go back to design positions; whereas going the other way round seems more complicated. And above all, choose projects that interest you – it’s so important for motivation!

Pouvoir partir de rien pour trouver des solutions à de tels problèmes, je ne vois pas le temps passer !
Nicolin H., Ingénieur en Recherche & Innovation
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