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Nathalie Di Miceli Raimondi

University of Toulouse, France


Eduardo: Hi Nathalie, welcome. Thank you very much for giving us some of your time for this interview by Chemical Engineering and Processes Process Intensification Journal, as part of the special issue on celebrating women in process intensification. To begin this interview, Nathalie, I would like to comment some about you. Nathalie de Micelli is currently a professor at the University of Toulouse in France. Nathalie has a considerable background in process intensification, flow chemistry, reactor characterization, and modeling, to mention just a few. And of course, she's a great representative of women doing science on process intensification. However, I would like you to please tell us a little bit about you, Nathalie, your research area, and why you decided to focus your research activity on process intensification.


Nathalie: Yes, actually, during my studies in engineering school, I had the chance to do an internship in a research laboratory. There I worked on microreactors with a generation of microdroplets in channels of a few hundred microns in diameter. My work deals with a study of mixing in microdroplets using microscopes and high-speed cameras to film the flow. I found it really fascinating and also a little crazy to imagine doing chemical reactions on such small scales. And so because of that, I wanted to go on on process intensification. I found this experience very interesting. And that led me to work in this field during my PhD and then as a lecturer at the University of Toulouse in France. So now my research work is particularly oriented towards the development and characterization of compact heat exchanger reactors for the implementation of rapid and exothermic reactions.

Eduardo: Thank you. Thank you very much, Nathalie. It sounds quite interesting since we can consider the reactor as the center of all the processes. The next question is regarding equity. Today, we are trying to create a more equitable world in terms of opportunities for all people. However, I would like to know if you see any barriers or challenges to overcome to make science more inclusive.

Nathalie: I think it's difficult to give a general answer because the nature of the barriers is undoubtedly very different from one part of the world to another. But personally, I find the sciences very easily accessible and the barriers are often societal. Nature is very inspiring for learning science. And I think that at school, from a very young age, we must awaken children's scientific curiosity. They are very receptive at this stage and marvel at everything. We just need to offer them simple projects around biology, geology, and chemistry to discover science and learn how to like it. In France, there are often many projects and school outings offered around art and sport. And I think the same effort should be made for science. It's quite interesting, maybe even more than the last question. As you said, these kinds of barriers or challenges depend on the position of the geography, where you were born actually. Of course, money is important for doing research. But I think that there are many things to do. I understand your question more like what are the barriers to going to science in general, not for research. Yes, of course, once you are a researcher, you need money to do your research. But first of all, you need to get an interest in science and develop your own curiosity. Because then sometimes you may discover that you don't need so much money to do interesting things. All is not driven by money, always.

Eduardo: Yes, I agree with you. Thank you, Natalie. My next question is kind of tricky and hypothetical. Let's imagine a situation where you have a time machine and you can travel to see a younger version of Natalie. What advice would you give to your younger self as an early career female embarking on a career in academia?

Nathalie: First of all, I will tell her that everything is fine in the future. And then I will advise her to always think about herself, her well-being, and her personal development. It is very easy to forget yourself while seeking a balance between your professional and personal life. Especially at the beginning when you are building your career and family life. Women often put terrible pressure on themselves to succeed on all fronts. So I will tell her that whatever choices she has to make, and she will have to make some choices, she must always listen to her heart and her body and find a good equilibrium.

Eduardo: I would like to conclude this interview. It is not a final question, but I would like to know what has been your most important achievement in the context of process intensification?

Nathalie: It's hard to say because I don't have a Nobel Prize and I don't think I will have one. First of all, I like to transmit. I like the way I can bring people to process intensification in my different courses and also with the supervision of the PhD students. Talking about major scientific progress in my career, I developed a methodology that I found quite interesting. When working on the implementation of exothermic reactions, it is important to control temperature locally and to avoid secondary reactions and thermal runaway. Based on work carried out by researchers from thermal and field mechanics science, I succeeded in measuring temperature fields quite precisely in channels of two millimeters in hydraulic diameter using a laser-induced fluorescence technique. It is more precise than using an infrared camera, and I was very satisfied and proud of the results. I continue to work now with this technique and I hope to use it in other types of intensified devices.

Eduardo: Would you like to make a final comment about women in science or any particular aspect? I can send a message to women in general.

Nathalie: I will say to her that they have to dare. For example, to occupy positions of responsibility, women often take a backseat because they always think that there are other more competent people. Men ask far fewer questions. If men want, they can. If women want, they have to know that they can too.

Eduardo: Thank you, Natalie. Thank you again. I hope to meet you soon to greet you personally.

Nathalie: Have a nice day. Thank you. Thank you.

Interview with Nathalie Di Miceli Raimondi