What is your position at Liryc/INRIA ?
I am an associate professor at Bordeaux University and I am part of the Liryc Modeling team and of the Inria Carmen team.
When did you join Liryc?
In 2017, after a change of career field, I had been working for 10 years at the Institute of Mathematics, focusing on simulations for fluid mechanics. It is a rather old but very rich subject, with many scientific challenges yet to be met. But at that time I wanted to make a fresh start, and since my master's degree I had wanted to work on applications related to biology or medicine. After discussions with Yves Coudière who is the leader of the Carmen team, I decided to move on to mathematics applied to cardiology.
What projects are you working on?
At the moment, I am working on three main subjects: two related to inverse problems, that is to say where we try to reconstruct data (electrical potentials, conductivities) from observations: the resolution of the electrocardiographic inverse problem and electrical impedance tomography. I am working besides that on a subject that has nothing to do with Liryc: simulation in fluid mechanics for coastal flows. Overall, I aim to design mathematical methods to solve these problems on a computer as accurately as possible. For each of these subjects, I work with one or two colleagues who have areas of expertise different from mine (signal processing, more theoretical mathematics, etc.), and most of the time with thesis students or postdocs.
What was your background to become a researcher at Liryc?
I went to a general engineering school in Paris, with a specialization in mathematics for modeling, and at the same time a master degree in numerical analysis. Then a PhD in applied mathematics at the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique, between Essonne and Grenoble, defended in 2006, then a postdoctoral fellowship in Paris. I applied for assistant professor positions and I was recruited in Bordeaux in September 2007.
What's your typical day?
There really is no typical day: every day, every week is different, depending on the courses schedule and the priorities of the moment. My days are filled with the following occupations:
I try to preserve energy and freshness for research and teaching, which are the fundamentals of my job, and what I prefer. For example, spending too much time processing my emails affects my concentration in research: some days I prefer to forget my mailbox :). I did this work initially for research, and I never get tired of it at all. What I prefer are the working meetings to sort out a new research question, the open ended discussions that take us forward little by little, without having been able to predict in advance the outcome of the discussions. Also, the more time passes, the more I appreciate the time spent teaching to students. Interactions with them are very enriching on a human level and also give ideas for research. I also like to see the students "grow" each year, and become autonomous scientists (as teachers we sometimes tend to complain, but overall, I think we do not train our students so badly !).
In your opinion, what qualities / skills are needed for your job?
First of all, I would say you have to be curious and persistent. A good dose of imagination can also be useful, as well as thoroughness so as not to forget the little unforeseen-but-yet-very-important-things. In everyday work, I find that good organizational skills and concentration are very useful, but they can be learned as you go.
What is the tool that you use the most on a daily basis?
My computer, followed closely by my pen.
Do you think it is difficult to be a woman in the scientific world today?
It's a complicated question :) I think it's more difficult to be a woman from the point of view of the career evolution, as it is in a lot of professional sectors, with perhaps the nuance that as research is an extremely competitive environment, the slightest difference can have a very strong impact on a career.
At the Mathematics Institute of Bordeaux, there are currently 48 full professors, including only one woman. Among assistant professors/associate professors/researchers, the proportion of women is a little higher, even if much lower than that of men. The higher up in hierarchy you go the fewer women you see. Personally, I love my job and I feel very well in my laboratory, among my female or (most of the time) male colleagues. On a day-to-day basis, I don't often feel that being a woman is a problem, because I have the freedom to choose my collaborators. I think that I have a very exciting job, with a lot of freedom, flexible hours, and quite well paid: that makes a lot of advantages, whether you are a man or a woman. However, I regularly observe behaviors that are either sexist (jokes, misogynistic remarks) or that express unconscious biases, for example about the allocation of speaking time in meetings between men and women. I always feel touched when I hear a reflection on the capabilities of women, or hear male colleagues discussing the physique of their female colleagues rather than the science that they do. In these cases, even if I know that my presence is legitimate, I do not feel very welcome in my professional environment.
How do you see the place of women in research in 20 years?
I hope that the situation will have changed and that we will see more women at all levels of responsibility (and more generally more diverse profiles, not all from the same areas). But I am not sure what will happen. There is a long work to be done to identify and change the mechanisms at work, which are often unconscious and do not depend only on us. Until then, I hope to encourage many young women to do science, and continue to do research that I enjoy!