Faculty in the Spotlight: Matthieu BUISINE, professor of Quantitavive Methods

This month, meet Matthieu BUISINE, professor of Quantitative Methods at IÉSEG, on the Lille campus.

With more than 700 faculty members, including 200 permanent professor-researchers, IÉSEG offers its students a high-quality learning experience based on four pillars: active learning, interdisciplinary studies, focused on skill acquisition, and personalized curricula.

Each month, “Faculty in the Spotlight” invites you to meet one of the School’s professors who presents their vision of teaching, their methods for imparting expertise and passion to students, and shares their best memories and anecdotes at IÉSEG.

Matthieu BUISINE, can you tell us about your background?

After high school, I didn’t have a very clear idea of the professional career I wanted to pursue, but I knew I wanted to study applied mathematics. I particularly enjoyed studying the interactions between variables, to model and forecast. So, I chose to pursue a degree in Econometrics at the University of Lille. Then, I went to Toulouse to pursue a Master’s in Mathematical Economics and Econometrics. After higher education, I started teaching statistics and econometrics. Later, I was contacted by a company that provided consulting services to large corporations, in order to join their team based in London. This company specialized in economic intelligence, collecting, synthesizing, and analyzing information about companies in the technical marketing domain. My job was to analyze and build forecasts to identify influential variables on product reviews, to detect influencers in a market, to understand why a particular person is sensitive to a certain product or feature of a product… and deduce how to effectively promote the product and on what medium. In essence, it was primarily a modeling job.
A few years after that, the School was looking for a lecturer in quantitative methods and contacted me to come and teach at IÉSEG. I’ve always loved teaching, so I accepted. And that was… 20 years ago!

Can you tell us about your area of expertise?

Currently, my consulting activities are more focused on the agri-food sector. The goal is to advise large SMEs in areas such as data analysis, statistical process control, quality control, or experimental designs to best apply standards. Let me give you a concrete example: if we have 10,000 milk bottles and need to check their quality, how do we proceed? How many should we open, knowing that once opened, a bottle cannot be sold, but if we don’t open it, we can’t control its quality… So, through modeling, we seek to answer questions such as: based on the acceptable risk and the quality history, how many bottles should we open? How often? In all batches? etc… to go beyond reasonable doubt. In its broad sense, my job is to model phenomena and behaviors and predict them. This involves econometrics, statistics, data analysis, or – in other words – since it’s fashionable, “machine learning”. Overall, we’re talking about quantitative methods. Another concrete example, which is completely different, to illustrate this phenomenon: if asked which color to choose for a website, between blue and red, even though I don’t work in communications, I can propose an effective method for collecting usable data and studying them by eliminating the impact of undesirable variables to advise communicators on the choice of color for their website.

What courses do you teach at IÉSEG and how has the content of your courses evolved over time?

I’ve taught courses in almost all areas of quantitative methods at IÉSEG. Whether it’s mathematics, statistics, optimization, data analysis, econometrics, and all the courses related to algorithms found especially in Big Data and artificial intelligence. The popularity of the domain I teach has greatly increased in recent years, particularly with Big Data and artificial intelligence, which use algorithms that we can often understand through quantitative methods. Courses increasingly integrate these topics by delving into them and explaining the logic of the algorithm hidden inside. The goal is not just to show how to click but to make students understand the constraints and advantages of each method.
How are you involved in the life of the School, outside of teaching?
In addition to my teaching role, I was co-responsible for the “quantitative methods” program for eight years. Now, I am the Chief Data Officer for IÉSEG. Overall, I set up processes to collect, store, manage, optimize, organize, and analyze data within the School. I work in collaboration with all departments and especially with the IT team.

What teaching methods do you use in class?

I have a very pragmatic approach. That is, I always start by showing the concrete use that can be made of the material taught, in a business context. I believe it is fundamental for students to understand why they are learning something and how it will actually serve them in their professional life. Otherwise, they may not see the relevance and have more difficulty staying motivated throughout the semester. From there, the courses are adapted to minimize the time spent calculating manually, to focus more on interpreting the results, using software or specific tools. For example, in the 3rd semester of the Bachelor program, students don’t do a single calculation by hand. Everything is managed by computers allowing them to focus on the essentials: which method to use and when? how to use it? for what purpose? how to interpret the results? what is its real impact on business decisions?
To make the most of time spent in class, I have recorded about 250 videos for different courses, each ranging from one minute to 30 minutes, so that students can watch them before coming to class. These videos complement the course and provide learning elements: further explanations on a subject, concrete examples, or practical applications. This allows students to bring their questions directly to class and focus on the core of the subject. Their understanding of the subject is thus enhanced.

How do you perceive the international dimension of the School in your daily life?

I was exposed to the international dimension in the academic world for the first time during my 5th year of studies, and then experienced the international dimension in the professional world by working for foreign companies. I have always enjoyed meeting and collaborating with people from other cultures because it means being exposed to different intellectual approaches and ways of thinking. I find that particularly enriching.

Thanks to its cultural diversity, especially within its faculty, IÉSEG facilitates and even encourages interaction with other cultures, and that’s an advantage. In my case, as I participate in a large number of market studies, openness to the world is essential to minimize analysis biases and therefore errors. For example, a French client in a hotel chain will not have the same expectations as a Japanese client. If we ask both of them to fill out a satisfaction survey without taking this international dimension into account in the analysis of the results, we will make serious interpretation errors because each culture does not express satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the same way.

What do you enjoy most in your job as a professor?

In my opinion, a professor’s work is not limited to teaching; teaching is just a means of transmitting knowledge and information. I particularly like pedagogical freedom, being able to use different approaches depending on the context and the issue addressed. For example, in master’s programs, teaching is heavily based on case studies. Whereas in the Bachelor’s cycle, the course is more “standard” as it aims to ensure that students master the fundamental basics of a subject.

How has the School evolved since your arrival 20 years ago?

There has been an extremely significant evolution in teaching, in the sense that courses 20 years ago were more like “traditional” courses, such as those given at university, in large lecture halls. Now, they are much more interactive, and the organization is completely different. We have notably moved to a semester format and adopted interdisciplinary projects so that students understand the interconnection between subjects. Another noteworthy aspect is that computer tools are now ubiquitous.

Do you have an anecdote to share?

The students have always been extremely positive with me, and I have tons of anecdotes, to be honest. One that particularly struck and amused me is that after my wedding, students secretly got organized to bring rice to cover me at the end of class!

Furthermore, students (and myself, actually) think I have a sense of humor… that leaves much to be desired. Well, some groups of students made a guest book where they wrote down all my jokes throughout the year and gave it to me at the end of it! It was both surprising and very funny. I have many good memories with my students overall.

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