Claire Villevieille

Claire completed her undergraduate degree in Physics and Chemistry at the University of Nîmes before moving to Montpellier for her master’s and PhD degrees. She completed her master’s degree in Materials Science at the Université de Montpellier, France and then her thesis on Insertion and/or conversion materials used as negative electrode for Li-ion batteries at the AIME Laboratory. She spent 9 years at PSI, most recently as Group Leader of the Battery Material group. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, cooking and science in all aspects, especially discussing and explaining scientific concepts to kids. 

Interview by Carey Sargent, EPFL, NCCR MARVEL

The biggest challenge that woman scientists face is…

That’s a really difficult question. In a particular field of science like physics or chemistry or related fields it is known that it is generally a man’s world. And since there are few women, maybe they are afraid of going there, maybe afraid that their voices won’t be heard. Actually, I am a “bad” example to reply here since I am a woman in science. I think the biggest challenge is the vision that they have of this field as a man’s field. But this is not especially true. I try to keep a 50-50 ratio between men and women in my research group and this is creating a really great atmosphere. 

I chose a scientific career because …

When I was a kid, it was not my dream. I went to the university, and during my master’s degree I had a chance to do an internship in a lab and I felt extremely good there, I really felt that it was a place that I should be. And then during my PhD I had a chance to do some teaching and I discovered that I have some skills with that and that’s when I decided to go into a scientific career. Basically, I didn’t want to leave the lab. 

If I were not a scientist, I would be…

Most probably, without kidding, I think I would either have a restaurant because I really like to cook, especially desserts, otherwise I think I would be working in Disneyland. I would feel really good there, I think. I would love seeing the joy. For instance, in my office you can see Legos everywhere—I like this atmosphere. I think it’s important to maintain a lot of fantasy in your mind when you are a researcher. 

My most exciting MARVEL discovery to date has been…

Well, given that I just joined six months ago, my most exciting discovery would have to be the team I’m involved in. It really is an amazing team of researchers and I am impressed by the work that has been done so far and so I’m really excited to see the work what we can do together.  

My top two papers  are...

The first one would be my first paper as a group leader, when I was the one who decided the topic, when I was the one guiding the students from A to Z and then you see that this paper is still accepted and you’re like “wow – I can do the job.” It’s pretty exciting.

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/cm5039649

And the second one was the paper I published two years ago where I really needed to defend it. We submitted it and someone reviewed it and sent some comments and the person have some concerns about the research and so it became sort of a question of who will win this battle. I found this really nice, because if you really believe in what you write and you really see the full picture, this experience teaches you how to be confident in the results you get. The referees also helped us improve the paper by their questions, generally. So it is a win-win situation at the end.

https://www.nature.com/articles/nenergy201769