Meet: Jacqueline Raymond, Ph.D.
Microgravity and Development of Vestibular Circuits
Who I am
I am Principal Investigator (PI) in a project on the development of
the vestibular system, the organs that give us our sense of equilibrium.
I perform research work for the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique
(CNRS), a state organization covering research in many fields. I work
in a lab at a university in the south of France which is involved in the
basic study of the vestibular system, including neurochemical, physiological
and morphological approaches to development, along with some pathological
studies. I'm not really involved at the university in a teaching capacity,
but at times I work on specialized courses with doctoral students, and
occasionally I attend conferences at high schools about the kind of research
we are doing. I coordinate a team of researchers, and we have doctoral
students doing their theses in our lab in the same kind of research.
My Career Journey
At first I thought about being a teacher. I very much liked studying
all things biological, and I also had an interest in medical studies,
but at the time I was rather afraid of the responsibility of work involving
sick people. When I was very young, the idea of being in charge of people's
health was too daunting a prospect for me, although I see those things
quite differently now. I started my academic career in biology and I went
on with my Ph.D. At that time I became interested in the nervous system,
so I did some course work in that area, and I started my research.
Likes/Dislikes about Career
With regard to research, what is very exciting is that you have a lot
of freedom about the way you do your job. Every person, from the moment
they begin their research after doing a Ph.D., can adopt their own way
of looking at their work.
A bad thing is that sometimes you feel alone and isolated. In fundamental
biological research, even if you work with people such as technicians,
you feel that, because you are pushing to a point where nobody has done
what you are doing before, there's no one to really talk to about it.
You are one of few people who knows anything about your findings. Sometimes
you feel as if it's not interesting or important enough to devote so many
years to these small things. You can feel as if you are missing out on
being involved in everyday life. Because of this I enjoy teaching and
directing a group. I find it renewing being involved with young people
in a different aspect of my work. I have occasionally stopped doing research
in order to get my feet back on the ground. One year I worked in public
relations between industry and the laboratory. It was good for me to see
that I could do other things, but I enjoyed coming back to the lab afterwards.
The Neurolab program is allowing us to examine the extent to which the
primary stimulus for the organs of equilibrium, gravity, influences the
development of the whole system, from the sensory cells to the higher
brain centers. Exposing our animals to microgravity is a superb and rare
chance to manipulate this experimental parameter. It is completely different
from anything we can do in the lab and I was delighted that our project
was selected. With Neurolab there is no chance of doing your experiment
twice, and also our experiment will be tied with all the other experiments.
This can cause a little worry, but it's interesting to observe all the
different approaches, and I hope we will be able to use new data on all
the equilibrium and locomotion problems that arise in the absence of gravity.
The interaction with other experiments has certainly enlarged our own
I live near the sea in a small village near Montpellier, where I work.
I have one son; he's now 27, so he's no longer at home, and I'm very close
to my niece, because I am her godmother. She is 23 and is going to be
an elementary school teacher. She got her bachelor degree in science,
so I want to involve her in my work. In France we don't move as much as
in the States, so none of my relatives are far apart geographically.
I have a lot of hobbies. I particularly enjoy oil painting which I started
about 10 years ago. I am involved with a group of painters and when we
can (which is not as often as I would like), we go out together to paint
in the countryside, or we paint a model. Other activities are mainly sports,
not really intensive, but I like outdoor sports. I go sailing, and sometimes
hiking in the mountains. We are lucky in Montpellier being between the
Pyrenees and the Alps, we have a lot of nice places to hike. And as with
all the French, I also cook a little for friends!