I went to Lycée St-Joseph in France and then attended Durham University from 2006-2014.
I got a PhD in Archaeology and Anthropology
I have worked at the University of Durham, the University of Nottingham and the University of Oxford
I am currently a Research Assistant at the Palaeo-BARN at the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
Favourite thing to do in science: As part of my job, I get to travel the world and get access to the storerooms in the museums where they store all the bones. It’s very exciting – who knew how many rooms museum hide behind their walls!
I’m a French archaeologist who uses DNA to answer questions about our past, especially about dogs and chickens!
I come from Normandy in France but have lived in England since 2006. In 2014, I moved from Durham to Oxford. I’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist, and it is wonderful to have made this dream come true. Now, I look at the domestication of animals and how animals and people have moved in the past by combining archaeology and DNA. It’s a great mix!
When not at work, I spend my evenings and weekends practicing and coaching parkour (or free running) at Oxford Parkour Community.
As well as parkour, I also design the lights for theatre plays and festivals. All these activities keep me very busy, but nourish my experience of life.
I haven’t always lived in France and England though. I have also grown up in Morocco and Malaysia and travelled to all continents except Antartica. Hopefully, I will do that one soon! It’s on my wish list.
Finally, I love reading and I always have a book in my bag. You never know when you might need it! My favourite book is Veronica Roth’s ‘Carve the Mark’.
I am an archaeologist who tries to answer questions about our past. To do so, I use DNA (the blueprint of all living things) of old animal bones found on archaeological sites to understand how people move and their relationships with their animals.
My work is very varied. I am an archaeologist, so I go on excavations to dig up new sites. But I am also a geneticist, so when I am not outside digging, I am in the lab trying to get the DNA from animal bones. And of course, I also do a lot of computer work when I have to interpret the results in relation to the archaeology. When I have my results, I publish them and I go to conferences across the world to present them to the rest of the archaeologists.
I am very interested in how/when/where people moved in the past. People almost always move with their animals like cattle, sheep, pigs, dogs, chickens so I look at people’s movements by looking at their animals. I also look at how people behaved towards their animals in the past and why they kept their animal.
My Typical Day
I start work at 8am and usually head into the lab for the morning to extract the DNA from the bone, after which I have a lunch break and then head to my office to do computer-work (replying to other researchers, preparing for a conference, writing up my results etc)
I usually start my day at 8am by going into the lab for 3-5hours. There, I extract DNA from the bones that I got from museums, or from bones that were sent to us by museums and other archaeologists. I then have lunch break during which I go outside to enjoy the sun and recharge in fresh air. The rest of my afternoon consists of either more lab work or working at my computer replying to the emails of other researchers, writing up my results or preparing for conferences. I leave work around 6-7pm and head out to parkour or the theatre to finish my day with yet another activity I love.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, Determined, Joyful
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Helped find out where dogs were domesticated
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I saw a dinosaur exhibition when I was 7. I don’t know why, but I became fascinated by palaeontologists and archaeologists.
What was your favourite subject at school?
History and Science (I loved them both)
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
A parkour coach or a lighting designer for theatre
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Beef Rendang (it’s a Malaysian dish)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I have done a lot of fun things; one example is walking on fire (a firewalk) organised by a charity to raise money
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would like to open my own ancient DNA laboratory in Argentina, I would like to have free plane travels so I could visit all my family, friends and colleagues all over the world all the time, I would like to speak all the languages on the planet
Tell us a joke.
I only do bad jokes: Liz and Matt are eating an omelet. “How is it?” Liz asks. “Eggcellent” replied Matt.
I am truly sorry but we are not allowed to take anything with us in the lab. That’s because there are risks of contamination! This means that modern DNA can come and contaminate ancient DNA which means we wouldn’t find the ancient DNA anymore.
So before we go into the lab, we have to put on overshoes and new shoes, a face mask, a hairnet, a full suit with hood, 2 pairs of gloves and oversleves as well as protective glasses. Can you believe it? We are like scientist on a crime scene!