"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother"

After the International finals of the “My thesis in 180 seconds” competition held in Montreal on September 25th, DiscovHER caught up with Noémie Mermet, a PhD student at the Université d’Auvergne in France, and winner of the grand prize! She tells us about how she became interested in science, the difficulties of speaking about her research to the general public, and the biggest challenge of being a woman in science.

What made you want to participate in the My Thesis in 180 seconds competition?


For the challenge. As part of my thesis, I am used to talking about my subject and using very precise terminology or the names of proteins and molecules that are unpronounceable. When I explain my work to my family and friends, my first reflex is to call my work “Involvement of 5HT2A receptors in the modulation of interneurons PKCgamma amid allodynia”, which, essentially, loses my audience immediately. The objective was to learn to popularize and disseminate information for the general public, and the main difficulty was not entering into detail and only exposing a very small part of my work.


Why did you pursue a career in science?


Even when I was little, I loved animals and nature. I started studying the brain a few years later, when I was in high school, after having worked with patients with multiple sclerosis at the institute where my mother worked as a nurse. I got very attached to these patients and I wanted to understand how the brain could get sick.


What do you think about the fact that men are more likely to enter a scientific field than women?


This obviously depends on the field. There are a lot of women in biology. The lab where I am working on my thesis is made up of 75% women. I don’t see anything that makes me think that science is only for men. As women, we bring something different to the table, a different perspective , which is a plus!


Currently, the only reason that limits women’s access to scientific careers is the difficulty of balancing their research and private life. During your thesis and your post-doc, it is unimaginable to think about having a child. You therefore have to make a choice. However, the scale is starting to become more balanced and I encourage all young women to engage in the sciences. It is absolutely doable and there is no risk in diving in.

L’Oréal–UNESCO
For Women in Science

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