My career path
"My husband has played an important role. We met when I was studying physics during my Erasmus year abroad. We both built our careers at the same time and formed a very solid team."
I’m both a teacher and a researcher. I manage a research team that looks at issues of light and comfort in buildings, and for a long time I was the dean of EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering. I co-founded an EPFL spin-off with two of my former doctoral students. The company offers specialized services that look at the impact of natural light on well-being and health in buildings. Our approach is really pioneering.
My passion. What really motivates me is the diversity of the challenges in my work and the feeling that I’m contributing to a worthy cause. I also really like that I get to choose which issues to focus on, that I get to see young researchers grow, and that I can share our breakthroughs and apply them in other situations. And I enjoy helping to develop team dynamics, especially on cross-disciplinary projects.
My career path. I’ve never really had a goal in terms of my career. Things just panned out as I took the opportunities that came up along the way. The key is to spot an opportunity and dare to take it, without staying in your comfort zone. My husband has played an important role. We met when I was studying physics during my Erasmus year abroad. We both built our careers at the same time and formed a very solid team. So many other people, like my colleagues and team members, have also been a great source of support.
A downside or obstacle ? I like getting into the details and always aim for perfection, but that can be hard to achieve in all aspects of my work at the same time. I sometimes have the feeling that I can’t keep on top of everything as much as I would like. I try to delegate when I can, and to prioritize my time and my work. A lot of the difficulties I’ve encountered can be put down to the unconscious bias that we, as women, face – and that includes paternalism. I’m often branded a feminist because I’m a woman. Personally, I haven’t really been held back by my gender. But there are still too few female leaders in the academic world.
I feel proud when I help students to outdo themselves and achieve something, whether it’s encouraging them to go further in their PhD work or getting involved in student projects like Solar Decathlon. In terms of research, we’re looking at totally new issues concerning well-being, comfort and perception in buildings, particularly relating to light. And our ‛discoveries’ have led to important breakthroughs, which is very rewarding. I really like rallying people around an idea, communicating with them and encouraging them to take that idea even further.