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L’Oréal-UNESCO fellowship awarded to woman scientist at INRA Montpellier

Maria Razzauti, a post-doctoral researcher at INRA Montpellier, received a French national L'Oréal-UNESCO fellowship of 20,000 euros within the framework of the For Women in Science programme. The prestigious award will allow her to pursue research on infectious diseases transmitted to humans by undomesticated animals.

Maria Razzauti, post-doctoral researcher at the CBGP - Centre for Biology and Management of Populations (INRA, Cirad, IRD & Montpellier SupAgro), awarded L’Oréal-UNESCO fellowship For Women in Science in 2015 © Stéphane Cardinale
By Julie Cheriguene, translated by Inge Laino
Updated on 07/04/2017
Published on 10/23/2015

Maria Razzauti, a post-doctoral researcher at CBGP (Centre for Biology and Management of Populations bringing together INRA, Cirad, IRD & Montpellier SupAgro), was selected along with 19 other young women scientists in France.

Her research project, “From animal to man: a feast for viruses” , focuses on monitoring animal-borne pathogens as a means to predict, prevent and control the emergence of diseases in humans. “This fellowship is very important to me because it will allow me to finance my research project up to June 2016, cover the cost of a laptop, and take part in a two-week workshop in the Czech Republic on molecular evolution”, says Ms Razzauti.

Preventing the development of epidemics today and tomorrow

Ms Razzauti’s post-doctoral project is funded by the AgreenSkills mobility programme, within the framework of the PATHO-ID project, supported by INRA’s MEM metaprogramme (Meta-omics and microbial ecosystems). “My research involves developing new and innovative ways to lower the cost of tracking and observing the evolution of viruses borne by undomesticated animals that infect humans”, she says. Rodents carry many pathogens, most of which are borne by ticks, that affect man and livestock. There is a wide range of diseases transmitted by ticks, and they are poorly understood by science.

Specialising in molecular epidemiology, Ms Razzauti focuses her work specifically on the following, within the framework of the PATHO-ID project:

  • the prevalence of viruses in rodents and ticks;
  • their associations (negative and positive) with other micro-organisms;
  • their molecular variation linked to presence in rodents and/or ticks, and whether or not they coincide with other micro-organisms.

One of the benefits of Ms Razzauti’s work is that it will lead to a better characterisation of new rodent- and tick-borne viruses that may play a role in human and animal diseases, and shed new light on the possible interactions between these viruses and other micro-organisms. “Infectious diseases are a major public health issue, as they are still the second leading cause of death and morbidity in the world (about 26% of global mortality according to the World Health Organization). Figures vary depending on the region of the world and level of development” explains Ms Razzauti. Ultimately, Ms Razzauti’s work will lead to the implementation of effective health monitoring policies to prevent epidemics such as those observed in recent years in different parts of the world.

Maria Razzauti bitten by the science bug

What do you like about being a researcher?
“The day-to-day work of a researcher always varies and has to constantly adapt to findings, the interpretation of results, and knowledge brought by the international scientific community. Scientists spend a lot of time doing research and thinking about their research. It can take a long time before they get results and all sorts of small obstacles stand in the way before a goal can finally be reached. But it’s precisely this process that makes science so fascinating”.

Why did you decide to specialise in epidemiology?
“I always wanted to understand biological processes. Infectious diseases and epidemics are particularly fascinating to me because to study them, you need to combine different disciplines like microbiology, ecology, population genetics, and evolution”.

What do you think about “women in science”? What advice would you give to those, and particularly young women, who are thinking about pursuing a career in science?
“There’s a lot of competition in science, which can sometimes be hard to reconcile with being a woman. But it’s possible and it’s my goal! Whether you’re a man or a woman, you have to be passionate about research to succeed in this profession. It’s a difficult but very rewarding career choice because your research can improve people’s lives. Follow your passion, be patient and work hard”!

curriculum vitae in brief

  • 34 years old, born in Barcelona (Spain)
  • Masters in Biology, University of the Balearic Islands (Spain)
  • Doctorate in Biology, Helsinki University (Finland)
  • Post-doctorate position at Centre for Biology and Management of Populations (INRA-Cirad-IRD-Montpellier SupAgro), INRA Montpellier
  • Hobbies: nature, countryside walks, mountains, observing the sea floor

L’Oréal-UNESCO Fellowships: nurturing the careers of women scientists

Designed to reward the research of outstanding scientists, but also to support the careers of budding women researchers, the L’Oréal-UNESCO programme For Women in Science grants more than 230 doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships each year in more than 110 countries.

National Fellowships
Each year, in France, the L’Oréal Foundation grants:

  • ten fellowships in the amount of 20,000 euros to post-doctoral women researchers from a French research lab or institute
  • ten fellowships in the amount of 15,000 euros to female doctoral candidates in their penultimate thesis year in a French school and a research lab in France

International Fellowships
Fifteen young and exceptional women researchers are chosen each year among the recipients of 236 local fellowships around the world. These promising women receive an additional reward that offers them greater visibility in the international scientific community.

Since 2007, some 140 women in France with doctorate degrees and in post-doctoral programmes were recognised for excellence in research. The twenty winners chosen in 2015 join the community of 2,250 women researchers rewarded worldwide since the creation of the international L’Oréal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” programme in 1998.