Interview to Amel Karoui, PhD student in applied mathematics, in the modeling team at the Liryc institute.
Behind her computer terminal, Amel has both theoretical and practical missions related to solving the reverse problem in electrocardiography, to better understand the mechanisms of the heart.
What is your position at the Liryc Institute?
I am a PhD student in applied mathematics to cardiology with the Carmen team. The Carmen team has the particularity of being attached to two Liryc institutions, via the modeling team and Inria. I started my thesis "Numerical Methods for Reverse Problem Solving in Electrocardiography" at the Liryc Institute on October 2, 2017.
Which project are you working on at the Liryc institute?
I'm working on reverse problem solving in electrocardiography. A reverse problem is a situation in which one tries to determine the causes of a phenomenon from experimental observations of its effects. More specifically, a part of my job is to reconstruct the cardiac mechanisms from measurements of electrical potential on the surface of the torso.
What is your background before joining the Liryc institute?
Back in 2017, I obtained my engineering degree in optimization and scientific computation at the National Engineering School of Tunis in Tunisia and then completed my thesis by joining the Carmen team.
Choosing the cardiology field was an opportunity and a choice at the same time. In fact, before starting my thesis, I did my final year internship on the same subject within the same team and that's when applied mathematics to cardiology began to fascinate me.
What’s your typical day?
As a PhD student, I don't really have a typical day.
There are times during the thesis where you have to focus on bibliographies, others where you have to write papers, and in between lI focus on the most important phase of a researcher's work: developing, testing new approaches, analyzing and interpreting the results obtained.
As part of my thesis, I develop numerical methods for the reverse problem's solution in electrocardiography, so I have the chance to oscillate between the theoretical side of the problem which consists in mathematical modeling and the practical side by developing computer tools to solve the problem.
I also had the opportunity to give lectures at the University of Bordeaux as part of an assignment complementary to my doctoral contract. Then, once a week, I have to prepare my course and present it to the students.
What qualities/skills are needed for your position?
In my opinion, to succeed in your thesis, you should have an analytical mind and some curiosity to be able to move forward in your research.
Another very important quality: determination!
During the course of a thesis, there are moments of "deadlock" where you don't know what to do or in which direction to conduct your research; and there are other moments of intense stress due to deadlines or other reasons. Therefore, determination can save the day.
On a daily basis, what is your most used tool?
My computer terminal! It's the computer's black window that allows me to do anything: code, navigate between different directories, launch different tools and software...
Is it difficult to be a woman in the scientific world today?
In my personal experience, being a woman has never been a problem throughout my career, although it's only starting. Nevertheless, I have sometimes heard a few different and surprising stories about other women's experiences.
Do you think being a woman makes a difference in your work?
In my opinion, being a woman shouldn't interfere with career development in the field of scientific research.
How do you see the place of women in the research field in 20 years?
In 20 years' time, I hope there will be more women in the scientific research field, especially in mathematics and computer science. Indeed, these are two areas where women are the least represented. I imagine, because of a lot of prejudices about women's intellect.
In my opinion, change must be achieved from an early age by encouraging girls to study mathematics and computer science.
 Inria = National Research Institute for Digital Science and Technology. Its mission is to accelerate research and technological innovation in and through digital technology.