Interview to Julie Magat, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) research engineer at the Liryc Institute.
Part of the Imaging team, she ensures the operational management of the imaging platform with two other engineers. Her job consists in developing optimized MRI acquisition protocols and their implementation for both the research projects of the Liryc teams and of external partners. She also participates in the development of new MRI techniques.
What was your career path to becoming a research engineer at the Liryc institute?
I obtained a master's degree and a doctorate in physics at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussée in Paris. Then, I chose to continue my post-doctorate in Belgium, where I stayed 4 years as a research engineer in the field of cancerology.
Finally, I joined the Liryc teams in 2013, refining my expertise in cardiac MRI with Dr Bruno Quesson, and Professors Pierre Jaïs and Hubert Cochet.
What’s the typical day for a cardiac research engineer?
Everyday is different !
The particularity of the research engineer job is to have two components: the management and coordination of the platform, and the research work. Thus, 40% of my working time is dedicated to my research project and 60% to the scientific and logistical management of the platform.
On the research side, my work consists in testing new MRI acquisition protocols, writing articles, and submitting funding applications. I also supervise the work of a doctoral student K. Haliot in his final year of thesis with Dr Quesson.
On the platform management side, I set up internal and external projects on the imaging platform (logistic and administrative management), and scientific protocols for the researchers' projects, in contact with a network of national and international experts. I work in close collaboration with D. El Hamrani and J. Naulin on the imaging platform.
Research engineers can either specialize in instrument development or in experimental development, as I do. Therefore, I support the implementation of research activities, mastering the MRI image acquisition protocols. I assess the feasibility of projects and study the conditions for their implementation.
What research project are you working on at the Liryc institute?
My research project consists in studying structural anomalies in the heart that cause electrical disorders. In other words, I analyze the cardiac structure with high-resolution MRI imaging to reveal the dysfunctions of the electrical circuit of the heart, and detect the source of these electrical disorders. I work mainly on the 9.4T MRI, an unique device allowing to scan a whole heart at very high resolution.
What qualities/skills are needed to become a research engineer?
The essential qualities for a research engineer are flexibility and adaptability because this is a job in which schedules regularly change.
The research engineer must also be good at dealing with people because he or she interacts with a lot of them: from researchers or collaborators, to industrial partners, to service technicians or maintenance staff. He or she is in contact with everyone at some point.
On a daily basis, what is your most used tools?
The tools specific to the imaging platform that I use the most are the MRI reconstruction and image processing servers.
The other tool is my phone because the human relationship represents a large part of my work.
Is it difficult to be a woman in the scientific world today?
I've never suffered from being a woman in the science world. I’ve never noticed a glass ceiling for my career and professional advancement because I was a woman.
However, I sometimes see that my words are taken less seriously than men’s.
Do you think being a woman makes a difference in your work?
I don't think that being a woman is anything special in my daily working life, at least not for my job in particular! It’s more a matter of personality.
On the other hand, I was reading articles published in scientific journals that claimed the opposite!
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 research community and therefore more research on female models.
The research community is mostly represented by men, especially in MRI physics. Perhaps, if there were more women researchers and engineers, there would be more research and advances in certain research areas that are sometimes disregarded.
For example, road safety research based on crash tests (airbags and seatbelts) has been conduce mainly by men who didn’t take into account the issue of pregnant women at the time. Maybe if there had been more women in R&D and academic research some aspects could have been anticipated to avoid so-called 'gender bias'.