My career path
"It’s really important to have a good support network. You get offered different opportunities, and you have to find at least one that is right for you."
I’m a professor of electrical engineering at EPFL and I run a research team that specializes in photonics. I also teach courses at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.
My passion for my work stems from the momentum of both research and teaching. I’m involved in fundamental and applied research that is constantly evolving. I’m also in contact with young people who will one day be researchers and engineers. I’m learning all the time – every day brings a surprise and a discovery. I hope my research will make a difference. I hope I’ll be an inspiration for my children and a role model for women in my field, where we’re far from being the majority or even at parity.
My career path. It’s been a combination of good luck, opportunities that I was able to seize, motivation, drive and ambition. I’ve always wanted to make a difference and be independent in my work. I’ve also worked really hard. I had great support during transition periods : from my family when I went from school to university, from my thesis supervisor during my PhD, and from my postdoc supervisor during my research. And I mustn’t forget my close colleagues. It’s really important to have a good support network. You get offered different opportunities, and you have to find at least one that is right for you.
A downside or obstacle ? The academic jungle can be ruthless, and it’s very difficult to completely switch off from it. Engineering is still considered to be a masculine field that young women shy away from. It can be scary to start out on a career path that’s still considered unusual. And there’s a lot of unconscious bias, which means that you often feel you’re being judged differently to the men. When I tell people what I do, people automatically think that I must work for someone else, a man, when in fact I’m in charge of my own research team. But it’s something I’m proud of and I don’t question my abilities.
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, that I’ve set up my research lab and led my team to success. I think I’m very efficient and passionate about what I do – that’s helped me to get where I am today. Our work in the area of nonlinear guided-wave optics has won recognition from our peers.