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PhDs' voices Mathilde MAILLARD: activities and commitments during the PhD

In this third and final part of our interview with doctoral student Mathilde Maillard, we discuss the activities and commitments she has carried out alongside her doctoral experience, the benefits she has gained from it, before offering you her tips and advice.

Beyond your research activity, you seem to be particularly active and lead several projects at once. Tell us about each of these activites.

Since the beginning of my university years, I have always been committed to social and scientific adventures. First of all, the Indesciences association is an association of scientific popularization by the students and whose action targets the students. It was founded by Pierre Chirsen, Romain Durand-de Cuttoli and Romain Bourboulou. Thanks to it, I was able to attend impressive events such as the CSTI in Paris, the Fêtes de la Science or to do live tweets during some conferences.

Concerning Pint of Science... As a great lover of beer and Science, it was for me an obvious choice to participate in this wonderful event, first as a spectator, then very quickly in the organization. It so happens that its founder, Elodie Chabrol, has become more than a mentor for me. She became a true friend, and helped me find the courage to launch Bien Dans Ma Thèse. She advises me daily in my life as a researcher, as well as in my life as an entrepreneur. Her background, her work and her enthusiasm inspire me and make me dream.

As far as Bien Dans Ma Thèse is concerned, the goal was to talk about the doctorate, but also (especially) to make it visible and to promote it to students who hesitate to start a research career because of too many preconceived ideas, or because of the lack of representation of PhDs and of visibility of the available opportunities. Through the podcast Bien dans ma thèse, we wanted to give a voice to young PhDs and PhD candidates about their career path, their choice, and their daily experience. Very quickly, a real community was created during the confinement, so much so that I decided to evolve this project into a micro-business. 


Each of these commitments has allowed you to develop a network and your own skills (which may or may not feed your activity as a researcher), tell us about them and the synergies between your research activity and these side projects.

All these experiences have clearly allowed me to meet people who have been and are still part of my life as a young researcher. I had the opportunity to be invited to speak on different programs, which now gives me an interesting visibility. This allows me to reach more students. I especially notice the skills that I was able to acquire. With these experiences, technical skills (editing, audio/video production, website, communication supports...) but also human and scientific skills.


What do you think about working in a company? About entrepreneurship? Do you think your training and side activities prepare you for these types of challenges?

I want to do a lot of things, but I know that I won't be able to do everything at once, which is frustrating. I'm still convinced that the PhD leads to everything. And for me it is clearly a degree that trains you to become an entrepreneur. When you do a PhD, you are, in fact, an entrepreneur. We do intrapreneurship through our doctoral project.

For my part, I am in discussion to integrate a start-up as soon as I submit my manuscript, but I am also incubated to develop a start-up inspired by the results of my research project. I have also been offered a post-doc in the UK, which finally gives me the luxury of being able to choose my activity post-PhD in a rather serene way!


What advice vould you give: 
- to PhD candidates or to students interested in a PhD? Or in your field of study?    

The golden rule to start (or not) a PhD is to first get information from other PhD candidates who are going through this experience. You have to get information and get some opinion, whether negative or positive. I insist on positive opinions because there are very few on social networks. Moreover, when you are potentially interested in a PhD, you should always find out about the work atmosphere of the host laboratory, as well as about the supervisory team. In my eyes, the subject comes second to choosing a healthy work environment and a caring team. The PhD is an ordeal, during which you will go through difficult moments. It is essential to be supported.


- to anyone who is wondering about a mobility experience? Towards Great Britain more specifically ?

Mobility at the moment is complicated, especially to the UK. Nevertheless, I strongly encourage students to experience a mobility experience elsewhere, whether it is an internship, a research stay, or a post-doc. The idea is to see the different ways of doing research in another country or in another laboratory. Moreover, it allows you to create another network, and to develop strong adaptability skills. For me, science must be multidisciplinary and shared. We cannot measure in advance the impact of a new experiment, at the moment or in the future over a longer period of time.


what about the importance and the personal and professional benefits of a PhD?

The PhD is for me a real professional and personal experience that allows me to develop many skills, but especially to learn about myself. The advice I can give you is to take advantage of these 3 years (or more) to explore things you really like, to start training that you could not do before, to try, to make mistakes, but always try again. Not having finished my thesis yet, I can't be perfectly objective and have the necessary hindsight, but what I do know is that before COVID I was really fulfilled in my PhD, even if it is a difficult adventure. I was always surrounded by supportive people, accompanied, supervised and advised.


- about the network (how to develop/mobilize it)? and the skills? and how to use them to set up/participate in the projects that interest us...

To achieve this, surround yourself with people! Meet new people and build your network. Get in touch as soon as possible with doctoral student associations in your respective scientific fields, or with the doctoral school. Never hesitate to propose to attend conferences, summer schools, colloquia... without waiting for your supervisory team to do so. Do not hesitate to make yourself known via LinkedIn, post your interests, your progress, your victories, but also your failures, because there will be some!


Découvrez également : 

Paroles de docteurs : Mathilde Maillard, doctorante en Sciences des Matérieux et entrepreneuse 

Paroles de docteurs : la mobilité doctorale vers le Royaume-Uni à la suite du Brexit

Le site de Bien dans ma Thèse 

Le compte Twitter Le doctorat part en live

La chaîne Youtube Bien dans ma thèse