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There’s gold at UTC!

Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac, a spe­cial­ist in flu­id bio-mechan­ics at the CNRS who works at the UTC-BMBI Lab. (Bio-Mechan­i­cal & Bio-Engi­neer­ing) was nom­i­nat­ed Decem­ber 2015 as “2015 Woman in Gold — Inno­va­tion”. This reward came as a sur­prise to Anne-Vir­ginie and in all humil­i­ty she used the noto­ri­ety of the event to vehi­cle a few mes­sages about her sense of com­mit­ment to sci­en­tif­ic research and the demand­ing con­text of sci­ence today and in terms of pos­si­ble appli­ca­tions to the world of medicine. 

This par­tic­u­lar Gold, you will not find it by dig­ging in the cel­lars under UTC or by pan­ning the sand-beds of the Oise riv­er. But at UTC, what is pre­cious is not always “min­er­al” but often of a more “human stuff”. Decem­ber 12, 2015, Gold took the form of a lady sci­en­tist, Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac, elect­ed “2015 Woman in Gold — Innovation”.

At the age of 38, this CNRS research sci­en­tist is not only an inter­na­tion­al­ly reput­ed spe­cial­ist in flu­id bio-mechan­ics applied to the domain of blood ves­sels in par­tic­u­lar and to bio­med­ical engi­neer­ing in gen­er­al, but some­one who is com­mit­ted and sen­si­tive to her­work and sci­en­tif­ic issues. These qual­i­ties, tak­en togeth­er, won over the jury of this 23rd edi­tion ofthe ‘Women in Gold’ event — which con­sists of award­ing a series of tro­phies to women who up hold demon­stra­bly some essen­tial val­ues. The award to women like nav­i­ga­tor Isabelle Autissier (Wom­anin Gold — Heart in Hand) or Agnès Trou­blé (line“Agnès B.” (Woman in Gold — Style), the Prizes(created in 1993) are giv­en to per­sons who dis­playessen­tial, uni­ver­sal val­ues such as gen­eros­i­ty orsolidarity. 

Trophy for Innovation … and also for the public

Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac admit­ted she was sur­prised when the Tro­phy orga­niz­ers informed her she had been pre­s­e­lect­ed and even more sur­prised when she received the invi­ta­tion to attend the Tro­phy Cer­e­mo­ny Dec. 12 in Avo­riaz (French Alpine sta­tion). “The fact that I had been select­ed by the­Jury seemed incred­i­ble but get­ting the Pub­li­caward too was a total sur­prise”, explains our­re­search sci­en­tist. Expla­na­tion — on the day for the cer­e­mo­ny, the pub­lic is also invit­ed to vote via Internet. 

For Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac, “this fur­ther con­se­cra­tion shows that the pub­lic is con­cerned by sci­ence and research and more espe­cial­ly when it comes to the­mat­ics in health-relat­ed areas”. 

Making science attractive and equitable

For sev­er­al years now, it has been observed inall OECD mem­ber coun­tries that the frac­tion of stu­dents who reg­is­ter for sci­ence and/or tech­no­log­i­cal course is reg­u­lar­ly decreas­ing. “Our younger peo­ple seem less and less attract­ed by sci­ences. But if through these Tro­phies the young peo­ple (espe­cial­ly women) were able to dis­cov­er the pas­sion that lies in a research work­er’s career and chose to go for a job here, then we would have won our bet: to trans­mit a beau­ti­ful virus, that sparks dis­cov­er­ies!”, explains the young Anne-Vir­ginie Salsac. 

And she goes on to under­score the impor­tance of sup­port­ing and pro­mot­ing inspired women who are hap­py to be at the cut­ting edge of their pro­fes­sion. “Even if we do see efforts made today to ensure equi­table recruit­ment con­di­tions between male and female can­di­dates, there are stil­l­large dis­par­i­ties in cer­tain spe­cial­ties”, she details. As a research sci­en­tist she deplores this situation,all the more so that there is a strong ero­sion fac­torin the male-female career paths.

“It is impor­tant­that the young women can project them­selvesin research jobs and fond sat­is­fac­tion there. The research world can only pros­per in hav­ing diver­si­ty and plu­ral­i­ty. It is our mis­sion to cul­ti­vate these!“underlines Anne-Vir­ginie Salsac.

Facilitating appropriation bymedical professional spheres

Each day that pass­es brings new chal­lenges for the research teams, “but many oth­er chal­lenges still remain in the field of flu­id bio­me­chan­ics to bet­ter under­stand the com­plex­i­ty of the human body and to con­tin­ue to devel­op new diag­no­sis tech­nolo­gies and ther­a­pies to meet tomor­row’s needs”, saysAnne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac. Med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers often make use of anatom­ic data, such as MRI imaging,ultrasonic images, but far less bio­me­chan­i­cal data. It is there­fore impor­tant to make the new tools avail­able for prac­ti­tion­ers who are non­spe­cial­ist­sand to inform the med­ical com­mu­nityabout progress made in this spe­cial­ty. Dr Sal­sac has spe­cial­ized in vas­cu­lar mechan­ics and gives the exam­ple of con­gen­i­tal, abnor­mal ves­sels that inter­con­nect arte­r­i­al and venous blood cir­cuits– and here it is pos­si­ble to patch the leak with “sur­gi­cal glue”.

“Our lack of infor­ma­tion about the mech­a­nisms and the pos­si­ble chem­i­cal reac­tions of this par­tic­u­lar glue with blood and blood ves­sel walls is a brake to fur­ther devel­op­ment of the glu­ing tech­nique under clin­i­cal con­di­tions and the train­ing of young radi­o­log­i­cal sur­geons”, explains our research scientist.In a wider con­text, Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sacem­pha­sizes how impor­tant it is to exchange among the spe­cial­ties involved in order to be able to under­stand com­plex, inter­dis­ci­pli­nary issues. Overand above flu­id and sol­id mechan­ics, mass trans­fers or bio­chem­i­cal reac­tions … there are numer­ous spe­cial­ties and the real­ty is often mul­ti-physics inessence. 

In such a sci­en­tif­ic vista, “it is absolute­ly nec­es­sary to go beyond the clas­sic spe­cial­ty bound­aries and to merge both exper­i­men­tal and dig­i­tal approach­es”, under­lines Anne-Vir­ginie Sal­sac who also insists that dig­i­tal mod­el­ling tools be made acces­si­ble to the prac­ti­tion­ers them selves.Will this be as a Woman in Gold or as a sci­en­tist at the fore­front of the chal­lenges and meth­ods used in mod­ern research? Anne-Vir­gie is no doubt part­ly one, part­ly the oth­er. And in all prob­a­bil­i­ty­it was for this rea­son that the CNRS award­ed her its 2015 Bronze Medal, there­by reward­ing the undis­put­ed­ly high lev­el of her research work and pro­fes­sion­al track record. 

Le magazine

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