Mini series #WomenInScience Part 1

Léa Robert, a French Chemical Engineer, working for more than 5 years for our company gives us some insights of her story and her work at MOTOREX.

The 11th February is the official International Day of Women and Girls in Science. At MOTOREX, we are proud to employ various female scientists, helping us to improve and develop highest quality products solving complex technical problems. In our Mini-Series #WomenInScience we will present three of our Scientists, provide insights about their story and their work at MOTOREX.

We are sitting here in front of the MOTOREX R&D Headquarter in Switzerland with Léa Robert, a French Chemical Engineer, working for more than 5 years for our company.

Dear Léa, when did you decide to become an engineer chemist?
The first time I got in touch with the subject was during my first physics & chemistry courses in school when I was roughly 13 years old. We experimented with different fluids by mixing them to create a chemical reaction and I was fascinated by the colors, textures and the creativity involved in this work. This experience made me see the world with different eyes. In fact, chemistry is everywhere, you just have to look around you. It’s in your clothes, your watch, your glasses and many other everyday objects. When you cook, it’s basically chemistry. This is why understanding the principles of chemistry is opening many doors to various professional fields.

And then you started your studies at the Chemical Engineering School of Compiègne in North-France.
Exactly. The build up of this program was very interesting as you have many internships where you go through different positions. You gather experiences as a worker, technician and engineer. This helps you to understand the various positions and its challenges. It provides a good base for a future leadership role. After my studies, I had the chance to work in the Netherlands for a construction material producer and later on for a metal fluid company in order to gain my first professional experiences.

How did you arrive at MOTOREX?
I was looking for an opportunity in R&D in the formulation area and wanted to expand my horizon. I found this interesting offer from MOTOREX which fitted my skillset and I applied for the job. When I was invited for the Interview, it was the first time for me to visit Switzerland. I still remember sitting in the train to Langenthal and being amazed by the beautiful nature, the mountains and the landscape. I also had an interesting offer from Cambridge in England, but I’m glad to have joined MOTOREX instead. It was quite though at the beginning, not knowing the language and having to adapt to a new country, a new job and a new culture at once. However, the company supported me very well in doing all the paper work, finding an apartment and to integrate myself properly.

What fascinates you about your daily work?
I really like the fact that our work manifests itself into concrete applications. What inspires me is to do things that can help to make other people’s live easier. Seeing customers or relatives using MOTOREX engine oils I have developed in the laboratory in Langenthal, that’s the best reward for me. Furthermore, there are no two days that are the same and you never get bored. It’s a very creative work as there is always something to create or to improve.

Can you tell us about one of your current projects?
My main task is to develop new products or improve existing recipes. My part is to take care of all the engine oils, automotive gear oils and some industrial applications like chain or slideway oils. The target is to evaluate the needs of our customer and to understand if we can help them with existing products or if we have to develop a specific tailor-made formulation for the customer’s application.

In research we have to investigate and try a lot until we get the final product. However, if something is not working, it’s not a defeat but it’s rather a new learning to finally find the right solution. Every day is a challenge but this is what pushes me forward.

How do you assess the current role of women in science?
My parents have very well accepted my choice. They were maybe a little bit surprised but they supported me on my journey. In the Engineering school, there was a healthy mix between man and women and I believe that women are very well accepted in the field of chemistry. But it certainly depends on the sector as there are branches of science which are still very much dominated by man. If we think back to the times of Marie Curie (First woman awarded with the Nobel prize in 1903) who needed to fight to be able to work in the lab, the situation has definitely improved.

Many people say that we are a rather male dominated industry, do you agree?
I believe women can work everywhere so I don’t believe there is really a male industry anymore. It’s true that there are some topics which potentially attract more man, but I think it can be also very interesting for us women. I’m super happy to know more about motor and gear oils but also the engines. I can discuss about these topics with my friends as well and teach them some tips.

However, I believe we can still do a better job in encouraging more women to enter our industry. Hence, it is important to also show that jobs in our sector are accessible for everybody including higher positions.

Do you have a message for the upcoming generation of female scientists?
If you are interested in this field, don’t limit yourself. You should not think if it is more for men or women but just whether you like it or not. Women are capable to do the same or even more than man. Therefore, don’t hesitate, believe in yourself and go for it! There are lots of opportunities in the field and it’s really exciting!

 

- Thank you Léa for your interesting and revealing answers.

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