A fête designed to let you get a grip on science

With the Paris 2024 Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games less than a year away, sport and sci­ence were the main themes of the 32nd Fete de la sci­ence organ­ised by the French Min­istry of High­er Edu­ca­tion, Research and Inno­va­tion. From Octo­ber 12–15 almost 4 000 vis­i­tors came through the doors of Com­pieg­ne Uni­ver­si­ty of Tech­nol­o­gy, the largest sci­ence vil­lage in the Hauts-de-France region, with 44 stands. Stu­dents and teacher-researchers vied with each oth­er ≪to make peo­ple want to come, to present sci­ence in a friend­ly and fun way, give peo­ple a taste for sci­en­tif­ic careers and make chil­dren realise that sci­ence is every­where and that they can have a sci­en­tif­ic cul­ture≫, explains Karim El Kirat-Cha­tel, head of sci­en­tif­ic, tech­ni­cal and indus­tri­al cul­ture (CSTI) at UTC. Here’s a small sample.

Sport and its rela­tion­ship with mate­ri­als sci­ence, sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, eco­nom­ics, soci­ol­o­gy and health… A fer­tile theme for under­stand­ing the chal­lenges and progress of tomor­row, explor­ing tech­no­log­i­cal advances and the evo­lu­tion of mate­ri­als in the ser­vice of sport, the impact of nutri­tion on per­for­mance, the abil­i­ty of insects to break sport­ing records… 

Nico­las Rivoal­lan, a PhD stu­dent in bio­ma­te­ri­als at UTC and the Insti­tut für Mehrphasen­prozesse in Hanover (IMP), Ger­many, who is seek­ing to recre­ate the junc­tion between bone, ten­don and mus­cle using elec­tro­spin­ning, was one of the guests at this 32nd Fête de la sci­ence. Nico­las won first prize from the jury of the 2022 final round of the com­pe­ti­tion “My the­sis in 180 sec­onds flat” and was also one of ten authors select­ed by the French Min­istry of High­er Edu­ca­tion, Research and Inno­va­tion to explain his stud­ies in the annu­al “Sci­ences en bulles” com­ic strip dis­trib­uted through­out France. Weav­ing ten­dons like Spi­der­man democ­ra­tis­es tis­sue engi­neer­ing with a sense of humour. His demon­stra­tion through his lin­ear and stylised instal­la­tion also fol­lows these pre­cepts of sim­plic­i­ty. «I love talk­ing about my the­sis sub­ject, which is about recre­at­ing a kind of ten­don, bone or bioar­ti­fi­cial mus­cle by com­bin­ing cells and mate­ri­als. It’s inter­est­ing to share it with the gen­er­al pub­lic. I’m also moti­vat­ed by the idea of inspir­ing peo­ple to take up careers in this field. The sub­ject is very biol­o­gy-based, inte­grat­ing bio-mechan­ics and bio-engi­neer­ing. It start­ed ten years ago. Research sci­en­tists are pass­ing the baton to find a con­crete solu­tion for repair­ing ten­dons. It will still be some time before they can be implant­ed. Nev­er­the­less, what we do can be use­ful for oth­er aspects, such as test­ing drugs or gain­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing of what hap­pens at the inter­face between bone, ten­don and mus­cle». “Sci­ences en bulles” con­vinced the stu­dent in his final year to move into sci­ence out­reach. The han­dover before his depar­ture at the end of the aca­d­e­m­ic year is under­way to enable the work to continue.

AI and parity also on the agenda

Although sport was the theme cho­sen for this year’s Fête, oth­er sub­jects were also addressed, such as AI and the ‘Victeams’ project. The use of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and vir­tu­al real­i­ty to cre­ate emo­tion­al expe­ri­ences and immer­sive per­son­alised sce­nar­ios to solve train­ing and deci­sion-mak­ing prob­lems is one of the projects being con­duct­ed by Domi­tile Lour­deaux, a lec­tur­er in the UTCHeudi­asyc lab­o­ra­to­ry (Heuris­tics and Diag­no­sis of Com­plex Sys­tems) at UTC. An exam­ple of a prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion: train­ing med­ical teams to man­age stress­ful and crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions in wartime. «We’re still in the exper­i­men­tal phase. It’s still lim­it­ed in terms of inter­ac­tion to adapt to non-tech­ni­cal skills. In the seri­ous games, the learn­er has a choice of three texts, includ­ing the solu­tion we didn’t want to give. Every­thing hinges on com­mu­ni­ca­tion and a mes­sage that we haven’t yet resolved. How­ev­er, we have made a lot of progress on the research aspects. The idea is to find a sce­nario with dilem­mas and dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions adapt­ed to the individual’s profile. 

While one of the objec­tives of the Fête de la sci­ence is to give peo­ple a taste for sci­ence, and while par­i­ty is now more wide­ly con­sid­ered, women like Domi­tile Lour­deaux are still under­rep­re­sent­ed in research. Anne L’Huillier from France and Swe­den is this year’s win­ner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 65 women have been award­ed the prize, rep­re­sent­ing 6.7% of the 970 lau­re­ates since its incep­tion in 1901. Accord­ing to 2023 fig­ures from the CNRS (the French Nation­al Cen­tre for Sci­en­tif­ic Research), only 34.5% of researchers are women. Social norms and gen­der stereo­types remain deeply entrenched. Nathalia Oderich Muniz, a post-doc­tor­al research sci­en­tist, and the “Sci­ences égales” stu­dent asso­ci­a­tion at UTC joined forces to pro­mote this par­i­ty through an exhi­bi­tion. Why not me? fea­tured posters on the phe­nom­e­non of social bias­es such as the “imposter syn­drome”, the “Mathil­da effect” and the “glass ceil­ing”, as well as posters of women in his­to­ry and con­tem­po­rary women. Nathan agreed that «a lot remains to be done in terms of par­i­ty. Prej­u­dices and social pre­con­ceived ideas are still very present. The images we have of sci­en­tists are often of Ein­stein or New­ton. As far as women are con­cerned, we only have Marie Curie. A para­dox when com­pared with the dis­cov­er­ies of Ada Lovelace and her con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion in the 1850s of the first machine-exe­cutable algo­rithm in the his­to­ry of com­put­ing, or Grace Hop­per and the inven­tion of the Cobol lan­guage in 1959. With the reform of the bac­calau­re­ate and math­e­mat­ics no longer being com­pul­so­ry, and girls hav­ing less inter­est in the sub­ject, their entry into engi­neer­ing schools and their inter­est in it will decline», Ros­alie believes. When it comes to spe­cial­i­sa­tions, 75% of biol­o­gy stu­dents are girls and 75% of com­put­er sci­ence stu­dents are boys. We’re falling behind on stereo­types. That’s why it’s impor­tant to raise aware­ness among young peo­ple. How­ev­er, UTC has noth­ing to be ashamed of, with over 50% of young women enter­ing post-bac cours­es in recent years. Still on a par­i­ty tra­jec­to­ry, UTC, for its gen­der equal­i­ty aware­ness project pro­posed as part of Equal­i­ty Month in March 2023, won the prize for the most active school in the pres­ti­gious ‘Les ingénieuses’ com­pe­ti­tion organ­ised by the CDEFI (Con­fer­ence of Direc­tors of French Engi­neer­ing Schools). This pres­ti­gious nation­al com­pe­ti­tion pro­motes the role of women in engi­neer­ing. UTC, an insti­tu­tion that com­bines sci­ence with women.

Le magazine

Novembre 2023 - N°61

Activité physique, nutrition & santé

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