The Faces Of NGC

An interview with Isabelle Arnoux

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Isabelle is the pen behind many of NGC’s blogposts, not only featuring science but also many useful tips and tricks to make your life in and around science easier. She obtained her PhD from Université Paris Descartes and came to Mainz for a postdoc. Although she recently returned to France to take on the next step in her career path, she remains with NGC, still supplying us with valuable pieces.

Here, you get to see her in the forefront of a post instead of behind, for a change!

Isabelle, you’re a neuroscientist not only by training but also at heart - what made you choose Neuroscience?

I was fascinated by the brains functions. This unique organ allows thinking, learning, feeling emotions, contracting muscles, saving memories… It’s incredible, how one single structure of approx. 1.5 kg governs your body, consciously and unconsciously. I found it very attractive to learn about all these processes and I realized that there are a lot of things that are still unknown, and I wanted to be part of uncovering them.  

You are originally from Paris – what attracted you to Mainz?

It was a combination of professional and personal elements. After my PhD, I wanted to work outside of France to learn about another research system. However, I wanted to have this experience in a country supporting science. I found that Germany was a good choice because this country is investing resources in research and development. Further, I knew the frame of what I wanted to do during my postdoc in terms of subject and techniques that I wanted to explore. I applied my criteria to laboratories located in the region of Frankfurt because my boyfriend was living there at the time. After visiting laboratories in Mainz and Frankfurt, I decided to join the lab of Prof. Albrecht Stroh in Mainz because it was matching most of what I wanted to do.

What is your long-term goal? Do you plan to stay in academia or are you going to explore other options?

I have an ideal long-term goal, which is to stay in academia, because I like the way science is done there, and the relative freedom that we have. I will continue my career with a second postdoc and after strengthening my academic file, I would like to apply for a permanent position in France. Yet, the number of positions per year is really limited and there are no guarantees that I will make it. I am a realistic person and I have already seen many former colleagues who had to switch career paths. I am therefore prepared and if I cannot pursue my career in academia, I would like to work as a scientific journalist or as a coordinator of clinical assays.  

How did you come to join NGC and what do you like most about it?

I have to thank my friend Chiara Galante, the co-founder of NGC, who invited me to give a presentation about software that we were using in my lab. Initially, the NGC meetings were reserved for PhD students, but a few weeks after my talk, they opened it to all early career scientists, including postdocs, and I joined the meetings regularly. I liked the diversity of the meetings’ topics, which are presented in a kind and friendly atmosphere. The meetings cover so many subjects, from new lab techniques to career advice, for example.

You are a blog writer for NGC and also write freelance science pieces while covering a broad range of topics. Did you attend any courses you could recommend? What would you advise aspiring science writers?

During my PhD, I attended a workshop that was about scientific writing. However, it was specific to research articles and it only covered the academic style that you find in publications. Last year, I followed an online program from Stanford University about “Writing in the Sciences” which was very informative and gave me many tips to improve my pieces. I highly recommend this course and I wrote an upcoming blogpost on it (so stay tuned!!). If I can give any advice to those who want to write, it is: do not stay in front of your computer. Especially, when you are stuck in front of a white page. You will get more ideas while doing something else, which can be anything really, like walking, running, reading… Stay aware and inspiration will come!

Written by: Fazi Bekbulat. Featured Image: NGC/Design.

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