My journey to becoming a scientist
Ever since I was a little girl, I loved everything that revolved around science, whether it was collecting insects in the forest, observing and playing with the wine lees in my mom’s wine barrels, or watching French science popularization shows such as “C’est pas sorcier” which is animated in a very playful way.
During my teenage years, I actually saw myself working as a nurse or midwife. However, I felt like I wanted to be more involved in the development of treatments that would help patients, and, after some decisive meetings where I got to speak with scientists, what I wanted to do became increasingly clear: I was going to study biology. My mother is a wine grower, and my father is a carpenter so I did not come from an academic background, hence they were a little worried that my studies would come to nothing when I told them about my plans. Still, they trusted me and it all worked out very well.
So right after my baccalaureate, I started at the faculty of biology, with notions of mathematics, but also of physics and chemistry. It was not until later in my master’s degree that I refined my choice and focused more on pharmacology and neurosciences. My most memorable moments were actually during my master’s thesis, where we worked late some evenings, had pizza parties in the refectory room, and always had a great atmosphere. A very fond and funny memory of mine was the time when someone threw liquid nitrogen in the pipes and we saw the gas escaping from the evacuation mouths in the corridors – We always had a great time.
People that inspired me along the way
For my thesis, under the direction of Dr. Dupuis Luc, I focused on a molecular motor called Dynein, which allows the transport of cellular elements (mitochondria, vesicles, proteins…) from the extremity of neurons to the center of the cell. Molecular motor dysfunction was thought to be involved in some neurodegenerative diseases. While I have had the pleasure of working with a lot of great people throughout my career, Dr. Luc Dupuis has definitely been a special mentor to me. I feel like I owe him everything. The right support can make such a difference – He is a very talented person, very kind-hearted, very efficient, and able to manage so many projects. He encouraged me throughout my thesis and taught me so much. And then I went on to work at Inoviem with president, Dr. Pierre Eftekhari. He has also been an important mentor who introduced me to yet another vision of science. One that is out of the ordinary proposing new perspectives on the drug development process.
While I love the field that I am working in, I think I would very much like to work on applied research as well, trying to find solutions to certain pathologies. I would also like to see further developments on the matters of safety in general. Whether it is about cosmetics or pesticides that are allowed on the market, or other products of which more thorough evaluations at different levels should be carried out before large-scale use, we need to continue our research on the matter. I would also love to explore the influence of telluric waves on our biology. In Alsace, there are several energetically charged places, like Mont Sainte Odile which is also called “the cosmo-telluric bath of Sainte Odile”. I would love to find out whether it really influences our mental health or biology.
A day in the life of an industry researcher
But back to what I do today: As I joined a bioanalytical Contract Research Organization, I am currently working on our collaborators’ research projects, where we try to help them with the development of new molecules by using a particular technique called NPOT. It’s very exciting from an application point of view because one day we work on cancer, the next day on sarcopenia, hair loss, rare diseases, or on the development of antiparasitics for animal health. The technology we use is applicable to different fields of research and different sources of tissues. The subjects of studies are various and it is very enriching from a personal point of view. My days go by quickly with none of them looking the same. One day you spend your day at the lab bench, the other you analyze proteomic data, and the next day you’re doing bioinformatics using python scripts for the analyses. It’s never boring!
The downside of working on various projects though is that I don’t always follow the projects through to the end. I only contribute to a collaborator project for a short period of time until a specific point, when it comes to the identification of the targets and deciphering the mechanism of action. Additionally, I always work with very talented scientists that have interesting points of view which sometimes make me doubt my own abilities; it can be intimidating. On the contrary, there are some really rewarding moments such as when projects are published or when others are funded to continue the development of molecules.
Being a woman in science
As a female scientist, I do consider myself lucky. My colleagues, mentors, and supervisors did not make me feel differently, neither during my studies nor at Inoviem. But I am aware that gender inequality persists at different scales and in different areas. While I was lucky, I have heard awful stories, or seen consortia abroad where few women are represented. However, I am happy to work in a branch of science, biology, in which women are relatively well-represented. I even did my post-doc under the supervision of a scientist, who had just been promoted to professor. Additionally, my company is co-directed by a woman. I know that this is not the case in fields such as physics or mathematics and I hope this will change.
From collaborating on different projects to improving my capacity for execution and my speed of analysis or to knowing that I have been useful to my company, these are just a few of the objectives I hope to achieve in the next ten years. I also hope to participate in the development of new methods for studying drug-target interactions and establish new protocols-overall, I’d like to continuously keep learning new things! From a private point of view, I would like to continue to see my daughters grow up and be happy.
On a last note
If I had the option to give advice to my younger self I would tell myself: trust yourself, be patient, and listen more to others.
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