What is your current profession/job? What did you study at Yale? When did you graduate?
Since August 2016, I have been the manager of the Yale Quantum Institute, an umbrella organization that regroups 18 laboratories working in the field of quantum information. I create programming for the institute to promote research and teaching of quantum science on the Yale campus, curate several series of talks and workshops (one is a colloquia series on research, another one is on career development and networking for our students, and the last one, my favorite, is on the intersectionality of science and the humanities), and facilitate the hosting of world leading scientists from around the world. I also work in close collaboration with the Office of Development to nourish collaborations between our institute and corporations, industry leaders, and alumni.
Prior to this managerial position, I joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science of the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2014 as a postdoctoral associate in the laboratories of Kyle Vanderlick and Eric Brown. During this time, I developed a new kind of magnetic liquid metal suspensions (gallium and indium alloy based) whose properties (viscosity, magnetic susceptibility, and conductivity) can be tuned by suspending various amounts of micro- and nano-particles. This fluid has great applications to studying magneto-hydrodynamics phenomena (interaction of fluid flow with magnetic field) as scientists can design the fluid to have the optimal properties to perform particular experiments. The main promising application is its use for liquid dynamo to be able to answer magneto-related questions rising from the Earth, Sun, or other astral objects magnetic field studies, as you would be able to recreate a model of the Earth’s molten iron core onto a table top size experiment.
I earned my PhD in 2014 from Aix Marseille University in France for my experimental work on droplets evaporation under microgravity. During my thesis, I collaborated with the French (CNES) and European (ESA) space agencies to perform experiments abroad the zero-G aircraft where I loved to float in weightlessness with my experimental rack!
What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/ or rewarding?
I really like the freedom of planning my own work, setting up goals and trying to surpass them! The Yale Quantum Institute, as it exists now in our renovated floor of 17 Hillhouse Avenue, is fairly new and there is a lot of work to expand its activities, visibility and outreach. It can feel a bit overwhelming at times, as the workload is intense, but with the appropriate management and planning, it is rewarding to bring an idea from conception to full realization.
The most challenging task in my role is the indirect management of students and professors who are usually pretty busy and focused on their research. I often need to ask for their feedback or involvement in some key action and fitting into their schedule, identifying their interests and encouraging participation is pretty challenging. I have found out that knowing your audience and creating good professional and sometime personal connections helps with this.
How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?
I realized I didn’t want to do research when I started at Yale! So, let’s say Yale shaped my career trajectory rather strongly! Don’t get me wrong, working as a researcher in a university with such great resources is great and by working and talking with a lot of people outside of my field I realized I wanted to do something else. All the resources offered by Yale on career development (Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, OCS, What Can You Be With a PhD workshop), on entrepreneurship (YEI, Office of Cooperative Research), and also just socializing and networking (Yale Postdoctoral Association, the McDougal Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, 8 Affinity Groups…) showed me that there were a lot more career paths available, and some of them seemed more interesting to me than continuing in academia. The richness of the interactions with a lot of talented people and the mentorship of my advisor really helped me figure out what I wanted to do after my postdoc.
What skills did you acquire as a PhD student and postdoc that have helped make you successful in your current career?
The job I currently have requires a lot of interpersonal skills (communication, patience, conflict resolution…) and problem solving. I think I strengthened these skills during my PhD and postdoc while interacting with people in academia, either by working with them on projects in my laboratories or meeting people in my field at conferences. During my PhD, I have been trained to solve a problem or to answer a question that no-one had an answer for yet. All the conventional methods of looking for answers that already exist are not applicable anymore and you are pushed to find solutions by creative thinking and hard work. This sort of thinking stuck with me and I apply this almost every day to solve the problems that arise at work. This capacity to efficiently solve problems is very valuable in almost any job and this is probably why we see a rise of the hiring of PhDs in positions that do not require necessarily a PhD.
Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school or in your postdoc (either through part-time work, volunteering, networking, or other forms of training)?
I did a lot of work and activities in parallel with my graduate school and postdoc! I was graduate student representative in my former lab, I created and was the co-chair of the Yale Postdoctoral Association, I worked as an intern in the Office of Cooperative Research to help scientists at Yale patent their work, I joined the steering committee of the LGBTQ Affinity Group and run their communication subcommittee… I really think all the skills I developed (and having a way to prove that you have these skills on your resume) got me the job I have now and are helping me on a daily basis.
What advice would you offer international PhDs who are interested in your line of work?
I would advise international PhDs to really try a lot of new things while in grad school! The American system is often very different than in our own countries and getting immersed in clubs and associations and even meeting people in other departments brings a depth of understanding that is very valuable on the US job market. For example, I joined the Yale Graduate Consulting Club when I was debating whether I should pursue this career path and realized that American consulting techniques were fairly different to French techniques. Understanding this now helps me to better interact with consultants in my role.
Also, on a more personal level, getting immersed in the culture of the country you are living in is a reason in and of itself! Do not stay all the time in your lab or with your fellow citizens. Go explore!