Rizlan Bernier-Latmani

1972

Professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne

"I’m also motivated by the unanswered questions of science : Why are things the way they are ? What hidden processes are taking place and waiting to be revealed ?"

My career path

I’m a professor at EPFL’s Environmental Microbiology Laboratory. I research how microbes (such as bacteria) affect environmental quality and how to use these microbes in engineering applications in order to solve environmental problems.

My passion. My work requires constant renewal and innovation : students and postdocs come and go, projects start and end, and ideas emerge and are brought to life through our research. My work is very dynamic and creative, which is what makes it so exciting.

I’m also motivated by the unanswered questions of science : Why are things the way they are ? What hidden processes are taking place and waiting to be revealed ?

My career path. There aren’t many women in my field, but I’ve been very fortunate to have supportive mentors and peers. I can’t identify a specific moment or a specific person. It is more like a series of people and events has enabled me to get this far.

Over the years, my fellow PhD students, my professors and supervisors, my colleagues at EPFL and elsewhere, and my family have all been very supportive, which has been important and kept me going on several occasions.

A downside or obstacle ? Pursuing my career and having a meaningful family life (I have two young children) requires careful time management. I don’t get much time to read for pleasure, for instance. I miss spending hours with a good book and forgetting about time constraints.

The major difficulties I’ve faced have been the same as for everyone in this field – both men and women. Early on in my career, I had to find funding and overcome the uncertainty associated with an academic career.

I’m proud that my laboratory has made some useful contributions to society, and I think we are helping to deepen our collective knowledge of the environment. I’m also very happy that I get to help young scientists to develop. Finally, I enjoy teaching the undergraduate students, especially when things start to make sense to them.

The Proust Questionnaire

This section is available only in the original language
Other interests beyond work

I am interested in so many things, like nature and the environment, biology and biochemistry, geology and Earth’s history, geopolitics, and Greek and Roman history.

People who inspire you

Amelia Earhart and Jerry Brown (Governor of California)

A book

The Shadow of the Sun (Ryszard Kapuściński)

One or more role models

An early role model was Professor Lynn Hildemann at Stanford University. She was the only female professor there while I was doing my PhD. She showed me that it was possible to be an excellent scientist, and supportive and genuinely caring towards people.

A colour

Blue

A dream

A sustainable planet