Call it what you will — fate, divine intervention or just plain good luck — but Fathi Ghorbel couldn’t help but think he’d hit the jackpot when he read the job description for Schlumberger Paris’ Visiting Chair in Mechatronics and Robotics.
The company, the world’s largest oilfield services firm, was looking for an academic scholar to spearhead a drive to establish its Paris R&D facility as a center of excellence for robotics research. Everything Ghorbel had done — his research and teaching experience, his prior support from Schlumberger, his industrial experience, his fluent French — seemed tailor-made for the job.
It’s a testament to Rice that Ghorbel, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and bioengineering, didn’t apply right away and almost passed up the opportunity altogether.
“I have things here that I don’t want to miss, and a year is a long time to be away,” Ghorbel said.
Upon the advice of his family, he did apply, and Schlumberger last month honored him as the first recipient of the new chair. Ghorbel begins a one-year stint in Paris in July. He said one of the most attractive things about the Schlumberger position is that it’s like no other job he’s seen.
Shaping future appointments
“They are doing something very innovative,” Ghorbel said. “It’s not been tried before, not just at Schlumberger but anywhere in the world, and part of my job is to shape this position and establish what’s expected of anyone who holds the chair in the future.”
One unique factor is that the visiting chair is with a company rather than an academic institution. Though industry based, it also involves joint appointments at five of France’s “Grandes