From BMBI to the stage of “Ma thèse en 180 secondes”

Nico­las Rivoal­lan, a doc­tor­al stu­dent at UTC-Com­pieg­ne and under coPhD super­vi­sion with Leib­niz Uni­ver­sität of Hanover, in bio­me­chan­ics and bio­engi­neer­ing, was unan­i­mous­ly acclaimed by the jury dur­ing the Sor­bonne Uni­ver­si­ty final of the «My the­sis in 180 sec­onds» con­test, last March. His chal­leng­ing top­ic: «Repair­ing your bro­ken ten­don, using a mate­r­i­al to recon­struct a bioar­ti­fi­cial bone/tension/muscle».

After obtain­ing a sci­en­tif­ic BAC in SVT (life sci­ences…) with a maths spe­cial­i­ty option and a Euro­pean maths-Eng­lish sec­tion, Nico­las Rivoal­lan entered a IUT in Mechan­i­cal and Pro­duc­tion Engi­neer­ing. To get a lit­tle clos­er to the field of life, he entered the ENSMM in Besançon in the «Microtech­niques and Health» speciality.

He did his three years of engi­neer­ing school through an appren­tice­ship at ADHEX Tech­nolo­gies near Dijon. «This com­pa­ny spe­cialis­es in adhe­sive prod­ucts for the auto­mo­tive, indus­tri­al and health sec­tors, but it was also a very good school for me to learn the engi­neer­ing pro­fes­sion in very dif­fer­ent sec­tors. Once I got my engi­neer­ing degree, I looked for a the­sis sub­ject, and that’s where I dis­cov­ered the research activ­i­ties of UTC, in par­tic­u­lar the Bio­me­chan­ics and Bio­engi­neer­ing Lab­o­ra­to­ry (BMBI). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, my pro­file lacked a bit of «bio» aspect to answer the research chal­lenges of the lab­o­ra­to­ry. This is how Cécile Legal­lais advised me to join the Mas­ter 2 Bio­me­chan­ics and Bio­engi­neer­ing of the UTC,’ he explains.

His objec­tive has always been around teach­ing in high­er edu­ca­tion, which is why he want­ed to enter a the­sis to reach posi­tions such as lec­tur­er. «I have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see the pro­fes­sion of lec­tur­er-research sci­en­tist through the super­vi­sion of prac­ti­cal work at UTC and my research activ­i­ties in the lab­o­ra­to­ry. Today, the world of sci­en­tif­ic medi­a­tion and pop­u­lar­i­sa­tion also inter­ests me a lot, always with the plea­sure of shar­ing knowl­edge. My the­sis in 180 sec­onds or the sci­ence fes­ti­val are events that chal­lenge me in sci­en­tif­ic popularisation”.

A thesis in 180 seconds

«My the­sis aims to recon­struct the junc­tion between bone, ten­don and mus­cle using tis­sue engi­neer­ing. The idea is to cre­ate a mate­r­i­al com­posed of bio­com­pat­i­ble poly­mer­ic nanoscop­ic threads, and then to deposit cells that will attach them­selves to these threads and grow into bone, ten­don or mus­cle depend­ing on how the threads are arranged. Indeed, by assem­bling the threads in a hon­ey­comb shape (hexa­gons), we encour­age dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion of cells into bone,» explains Nico­las Rivoal­lan, for whom the «My the­sis in 180 sec­onds» adven­ture began in Jan­u­ary 2022 with a train­ing course on pub­lic speak­ing organ­ised by Sor­bonne Uni­ver­si­ty and relayed by the doc­tor­al school.

It was fol­low­ing this day that the cri­te­ria for the pre-selec­tion were giv­en: 90 sec­onds only to speak about your sub­ject and inter­est the jury via zoom. The results were giv­en the same evening and only six­teen can­di­dates were retained out of the forty or so who had reg­is­tered. «This is where the great adven­ture began! We again had more spe­cif­ic train­ing for the com­pe­ti­tion until the big day. It was cer­tain­ly a stress­ful evening for all of us, but it was also a joy to see us in per­son after the reg­u­lar zoom train­ing ses­sions I had organ­ised while I was still in Ger­many, in my oth­er the­sis lab­o­ra­to­ry,» he recalls. Fol­low­ing our per­for­mances and the jury’s delib­er­a­tion, I was award­ed first prize by the jury and thus select­ed for the nation­al semi-final. »


Each year in Octo­ber, the “Fête de la Sci­ence” takes place through­out France. It is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for lab­o­ra­to­ries to present their activ­i­ties to the pub­lic at large. This year, dur­ing the CNRS fes­ti­val, the UTC-BMBI lab­o­ra­to­ry was invit­ed to hold a stand at the media library of the city of Cam­brai, in addi­tion to Com­piègne at UTC.

«Pas­cale Vigneron, Jean-François Gros­set and myself had the plea­sure of pre­sent­ing the laboratory’s activ­i­ties to class­es of sec­ondary school stu­dents as well as to the gen­er­al pub­lic. It was also an oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet oth­er lab­o­ra­to­ries in Hauts­de- France as well as the team in charge of this event and of the sci­en­tif­ic medi­a­tion activ­i­ties of the CNRS in a more glob­al way,’ says Nico­las Rivoal­lan, who also held a stand at UTC with Cécile Legal­lais, direc­tor of the lab­o­ra­to­ry, on the sub­ject of arti­fi­cial organs such as the liv­er or the bioar­ti­fi­cial ten­don, flag­ship projects of one of the teams of the BMBI laboratory.

From Sep­tem­ber 6 to 10, the 48th con­gress of the Euro­pean Soci­ety for Arti­fi­cial Organs (ESAO) was held in Krems, Aus­tria. The UTC-BMBI lab­o­ra­to­ry is active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in this con­gress as it brings togeth­er many researchers work­ing on tech­nolo­gies and appli­ca­tions close to its research work.

«This was my first sci­en­tif­ic con­fer­ence, and not the least. Dur­ing the «my research for dum­mies» ses­sion, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to present my the­sis again in 3 min­utes and to be award­ed the first prize”. The BMBI lab­o­ra­to­ry was able to shine with its two pre­sen­ta­tions on arti­fi­cial liv­er and tis­sue engi­neer­ing of the bone/mother junc­tion, led respec­tive­ly by Cécile Legal­lais and Nathália Oderich Muniz, a post-doc­tor­al fel­low in the team.

Le magazine

Juin 2023 - N°60

Une recherche tournée vers un avenir soutenable

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