The questionnaire answered by the Women of Tech is a variant of the Proust questionnaire, named not because Marcel Proust got lost in the Paris metro, but in memory of Emilie du Chatelet, a woman of letters, mathematician and physicist, renowned for her translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica and the dissemination of Leibniz's physics work. She was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Bologna Institute. Emilie du Chatelet led a free and fulfilled life during the era of the Enlightenment and published a speech on happiness.
Why a career in tech?
I have always loved asking questions to understand how everything around me works, be it the tramway, volcanoes, or paracetamol. So, science in all its forms has interested me for a long time, as a way of answering all the "why's" you might have, whether you are a child or an adult!
Your professional experience?
I did all my studies, including my classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles, in my home region in the north of France. After the national entrance exams, I was admitted to the Ecole polytechnique, where I was able to continue studying the sciences I had studied in preparatory classes (physics, engineering, maths) and rediscover biology. Thanks to the internships I did during my studies, I was able to work alongside all the different actors in the health sector: hospital staff, associations, researchers, manufacturers, etc. Finally, I was able to work in a position where I was in the middle of these professions and try to develop new drugs using all this expertise.
Your first experience with technology?
My first work experience was with a start-up developing a new sequencer (a device used to read DNA or RNA sequences), to unravel all the mysteries still to be understood about the genome. It was quite incredible to work on the prototype, which made these tiny invisible strands perfectly understandable on a computer screen.
What do you do today, and why?
Today I am project manager at Meletios Therapeutics, and with my colleagues we are searching for new drugs to prevent all the problems that viruses cause us. I am trying to develop the best strategy and the most appropriate experiments to demonstrate the effectiveness of our drugs. From a human point of view, it is very motivating to do our best to combat these diseases, and from a technical one it is very interesting to try and understand the mechanism of the diseases and our drugs.
Your strengths in this role?
My interest in research, which allows me to explore relentlessly all the questions that may arise along the way. I like to dig into all these questions, synthesise my findings to discuss them with my colleagues and try to push the debate forward. I am also interested in a bit of everything, from bioinformatics to statistics, and of course cell biology. As we are still a small team, it is always useful to have several strings to your bow.
Past challenges, failures and disappointments?
When I was at school, I wanted to learn how to take care of all animals and become a vet. On the first day of my high school internship, when a dog's stomach had to be cut open (for a simple operation), I collapsed and spent the rest of the day at the emergency department getting stitches... That was the end of my dream of becoming a vet, but the start of a new path to progress in care... without seeing blood!
Best moments, successes you’re proud of?
I think that many researchers will agree with me: every successful experiment is a small success in itself! If, in addition, the results provide keys to understanding all the complex problems we're trying to tackle, then that is even more satisfying!
People who helped, influenced -or made your life difficult?
Fortunately, I can't remember anyone trying to discourage me. I would not say that I was particularly supported by any one person, but rather by everyone around me (family, friends, teachers and colleagues) who tried their best to encourage me and teach me lots of things along the way, personally, academically and professionally.
Your hopes and future challenges?
I cannot even begin to count the future challenges related to climate change! In my current job, I am trying to anticipate the illnesses that may come with global warming and globalisation, but I'd also be interested in working to mitigate the climate change itself or trying to feed everyone properly in the less clement weather conditions to come.
What do you do when you don’t work?
I don't have many constraints, so I like to improvise! I like to break the routine, go and see my friends, go for a walk, go to the cinema or cook a nice meal... and why not take Italian lessons?
Your heroes -from History or fiction?
I don't have any particular heroines or heroes in mind, I am much more inspired by ordinary people who manage to drive their projects (both life and career) forwards with passion. You don't need a Nobel Prize and an exemplary life devoted entirely to science to have my admiration!
A saying or proverb you like in particular?
When things (inevitably) turn out to be more complicated than expected, I like to keep telling myself to try and keep it simple.
A book to take with you on a desert island?
Today's newspaper will probably do to light a fire, there's no time to read if you have to survive!
A message to young female professionals?
Try not to ask yourself too many questions: if you are interested in science, there will always be opportunities to do what you like, we are far from being able to explain everything around us!