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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

ANSES’s scientists and PhD students in the spotlight

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News of 12/10/2020

To improve knowledge of health risks, ANSES conducts research in its nine laboratories. Every year, its scientists and PhD students get together for its Scientific and Doctoral Days devoted to research, where they are given the opportunity to interact with one another and present their work. The best PhD student presentations recently received recognition.

 

Research at ANSES

More than 370 scientists work in ANSES’s laboratories. They undertake applied research in the areas of animal health, food safety, hydrology and plant health. This research is designed, for example, to understand how diseases spread in wildlife and farm animals, develop new vaccines for animal health, prevent diseases from being transmitted from animals to humans via contact or food, develop methods to characterise environmental pollutants, or improve knowledge of parasites infecting cultivated plants. It is carried out in nine laboratories spread out across 16 sites in France. The Agency also hosts around 80 PhD students, co-supervised with other institutions (universities, veterinary schools and research institutes); around 10 of them are supervised jointly with a foreign organisation.

 

Days for exchanging ideas

To encourage exchanges between scientists despite its wide variety of locations and the numerous topics it covers, ANSES has been organising research days for several years now. ANSES’s Scientific and Doctoral Days focus on the Agency’s six strategic areas, which are animal health, food safety, plant health, antimicrobial resistance, exposure to and toxicology of chemical contaminants, and epidemiology and surveillance. Each theme was covered during a specific half-day meeting. Through presentations, scientists shared research with their colleagues that has given rise to major publications over the last two years. Work carried out as part of a call for projects issued internally in 2018 to encourage collaboration between teams was also highlighted. During these days, PhD students also presented their thesis topics: those in their second year produced posters and those in their third year gave three-minute oral presentations in English.

 

Awards for the presentations of two PhD students

ANSES employees were invited to vote for the best oral presentations and posters by PhD students. The deadline for voting was 2 October. More than 100 voters decided between 13 posters and 14 oral presentations. The winners were Maureen Duflot, PhD student in the Laboratory for Food Safety in Boulogne-sur-Mer, for the poster (30 votes out of 104), and Erika Ornelas-Eusebio, PhD student in the Laboratory for Animal Health in Maisons-Alfort, for the 180-second presentation (48 votes out of 115). The winners were offered the opportunity to attend a scientific conference of their choice, participation fees covered, with a value of €500.
 

 

enlightenedAward for the best poster

Maureen Duflot, PhD student in the Laboratory for Food Safety (Boulogne-sur-Mer)

Can you tell us about your background?

I have a background in research and the agri-food sector. After receiving a scientific baccalauréat, I obtained a vocational training certificate in biotechnologies, which allowed me to hone my theoretical and applied knowledge in a laboratory setting. I then got a degree in life sciences, with a focus on agri-food and fisheries, followed by a Master’s in agri-food and fishery process quality (ULCO, Boulogne-sur-Mer), to improve my knowledge of agri-food, quality and research issues.

What was your thesis topic?

My thesis is entitled “Fish&CrySp: Characterisation and distribution of Cryptocotyle, a potentially zoonotic parasite, in fishery and aquaculture products”. Few data are available on the distribution and assessment of the zoonotic (i.e. transmissible to humans) potential of numerous parasites found in fishery and aquaculture products. Through the development of methods and acquisition of epidemiological data, my thesis sheds light on the health risks associated with these parasites. Parasitic risk assessment and the safety of consumer products are major universal and planetary challenges.

This topic has only recently been studied in our laboratory. My work at the laboratory supervised by Professor Kurt Buchmann from University of Copenhagen enabled me to acquire expertise relating to the Cryptocotyle genus of trematode (fluke) parasites in fish, and I was able to improve my knowledge with regard to the morphological and molecular identification of these parasites. The poster I presented highlighted the tests carried out during this experience in Denmark.

The methods optimised during this international exchange are currently being implemented with the samples from an epidemiological study undertaken in the English Channel and the North Sea, in the Laboratory for Food Safety in Boulogne-sur-Mer. Data will be acquired on the distribution and diversity of these parasites, and on the biological and environmental factors that influence them.

What was the most difficult aspect of presenting your thesis on a poster?

The most difficult aspect involved summing up my ideas as concisely as possible. The poster exercise isn’t an easy one for PhD students, who have to step back from their subject matter and write up a clear, mainstream summary.

Do you have any advice for future PhD students taking part in this exercise?

Here’s a tip: make sure your thesis poster is clear and concise and visibly sums up your main idea or ideas. Above all, ask yourself whether this poster would draw your attention at a conference!

 

enlightenedAward for the best oral presentation

Erika Ornelas-Eusebio, PhD student in the Laboratory for Animal Health (Maisons-Alfort)

Can you tell us about your background?

I’m a veterinarian. I was trained at the College of Veterinary Medicine of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). I earned a Master’s in the diagnosis of poultry diseases at this university. It was during a Master’s internship that I had the opportunity to work with Karine Laroucau, from the Bacterial Zoonoses Unit, which then led to me being hosted by ANSES’s Laboratory for Animal Health. This meeting ended up bringing about my thesis, under joint supervision.

What was your thesis topic?

My thesis focused on a bacterium, Chlamydia. The infection of poultry with this bacterium had not previously been studied in Mexico. We described practices for biosafety and for the use of antibiotics on poultry farms in Mexico, enabling us to make recommendations by farm type and in terms of improving biosafety. For example, having foot baths at the entrance to each building, using clothes worn only on the farm, and adopting a hygiene protocol before and after entering the farm may help prevent poultry from becoming contaminated. This work has been published. We have also identified ways of improving national regulations on the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine.

The other focus of my thesis was also fascinating: it allowed us to identify possibilities for cultivating a Chlamydia species that is difficult to grow in vitro. We learned that this difficulty is related to more fundamental aspects, such as interactions with other micro-organisms in the microbiota that we hadn’t thought of adding to the culture!

What was the most difficult aspect of presenting your thesis in 180 seconds?

Overcoming nerves!

Do you have any advice for future PhD students taking part in this exercise?

Prepare your presentation in advance and clearly convey the message you want to get across. Most importantly, keep in mind that the way you present your message is just as important as the message itself: you should also use illustrations, because no one forgets a picture!