Find her on social media!
Instagram and Twitter: @DrDesigual
|2010 – 2013||Grenoble Alpes University, Grenoble, France|
PhD in Structural Biology
|2008 – 2010||University of Sciences and Technologies, Lille, France|
Master’s degree in Proteomics
|2007 – 2008||University of Sciences and Technologies, Lille, France|
Bachelor’s degree in Genomics and Proteomics
|2006 – 2007||University of Sciences and Technologies, Lille, France |
Second-year DUT Biological Engineering
Current job title: Senior Research Analyst
What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue?
I have always wanted to be a Doctor. I did the first year of Med School in France and I failed. While looking for what to do next, I was given the opportunity to do a DUT in Biological Engineering in one year. It is basically a Diploma to become a Technician in medical Analysis or in a research lab. At the end of the year, I spent three months in a Biochemistry lab studying Toxoplasmosis. I fell in love with research, decided to make that my career path, and to get my Bachelor and Master Degree. I had interest in Genomics but I later on switched to Structural Biology/Biochemistry. In my new position, I switched again to Epilepsy Drug development. That last transition permits me to see an application of my work and makes me feel more useful.
Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career.
I have been lucky to be around amazing school mates, to have wonderful PIs and supervisors who motivated me, and inspired me. One person who has influenced me a lot, is Dr Nick Chim. I met him in New York during a one-week course for structural biology/data collection at Brookhaven National Synchrotron. We got along quickly, he was enthusiastic, motivated, a hard worker and clearly happy with the work he was doing. I ended up joining the Celia Goulding lab’s at UCI where Nick was the lab manager. He was an amazing scientist, with a lot of experience and advice, a great support for Celia, and an awesome mentor. So I decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be Nick.
Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it?
I didn’t have a good relationship with my PhD Supervisor. He left me by myself with little guidance. Six months before my defense, he told me that I didn’t grow or improve as a scientist during my PhD, that I was a failure, that brilliant scientists had trouble to succeed so I might as well drop science at that point. As a personal project, my husband wanted to have a work experience in an English speaking country, so I decided to apply for Postdoc positions in the US anyway. I got lucky to get a position with an amazing mentor and team who built back my confidence and helped me to grow as a scientist.
Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.
Well, I started Med School, and when I failed. I got lucky to get into the DUT which gave me a chance to discover the research world.
Then I wanted to specialize in Genetics and applied into a school to combine a bachelor degree in Genomics and Proteomics. I failed all the Genomics classes, I was working hard but it was not making sense to me while I was passing Proteomics classes without studying. I decided that my brain was better suited to understand the protein world and I switched. I took an opportunity during my Master degree to do an internship in a structural biology lab, and I fell in love with the field, to the extent that I did my PhD and my two Postdocs in Structural Biology.
Finally as a Postdoc, I got involved in the Postdoc Association. I discovered a passion for leadership, communication, teamwork, helping the young scientists to explore career options… Once I became the chair, I realized that I was no longer attached to bench work but more to project management, and I decided to look for a position combining Leadership, Communication and Science. So far I am really happy with that transition!
Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work.
I love to travel and explore and meet new people. So I am originally from France, but I did a 5 months internship in Scotland, a 6 months internship in New Zealand, my PhD project was a collaboration with Denmark and I spent 2 months in Copenhagen, I did my first Postdoc at UCI and my second postdoc at the University of Utah. I love how I combined my love for traveling with going to high level of Research laboratories all around the world. That really shaped my training and experience, but also my personality.
Is there some advice you could you share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.
Be curious and explore. You will surprise yourself! The path you want you might not be the best one for you, you can only discover what is perfect for you by being curious, seizing opportunities, talking to people of diverse backgrounds, diverse jobs even if you think you are not interested. It can either confirm you are not interested or pick your curiosity. Don’t see rejection as a failure but as an opportunity to try something you wouldn’t have otherwise. Be optimistic, it will work out! And don’t limit yourself to do experiments in the lab to get papers, your network, your connections, the skills you get from volunteering with other tasks will help you define yourself, build your reputation and land your dream job.