In the small office she shares with three other members of the laboratory of Plant Reproduction and Development (RDP), Géraldine Brunoud doles out very specific advice to Lauriane, a Master's student, and Anaïs, a doctoral candidate, to avoid "stressing out" plants before examining sections of them under a microscope. "It's important, because you can observe very dynamic things," she explains.
"I didn't exactly know what I wanted to do; but I knew what I didn't want to do: a thesis! I knew I wanted to be an engineer supporting research. I'm interested in the empirical and experimental side of things," she says. "The world of plants is fascinating. Their morphological diversity, the fact that they're static yet in constant evolution… The various biology professors I had in university, particularly at the lab for plant biotechnologies applied to aromatic and medicinal plants of the University of Saint-Etienne (LBVpam), had a lot to do with my career choice."
Géraldine, who loves horse riding and hiking in the mountains, has always enjoyed collecting plants. As a Master's student, she compiled a herbarium with about a hundred plants collected and identified throughout her walks between Lyon and Saint-Etienne. Her Master's thesis is about the plant biodiversity on a basaltic peak of the Forez plain. She has even contributed to the creation of a botanical trail. She has worked as an instructor, activity leader and director of a summer camp, also in the mountains.
Géraldine came to the RDP in January 2001, for a university internship. After a Master's in biology at the University of Saint-Etienne, she did not make it into the postgraduate programs she coveted. So she enrolled as a university student, and, after an eight-month internship at the RDP, she tried again and was admitted everywhere! She did internships at the National Institute of Agricultural Research (Inra) in Antibes, then Sophia Antipolis, where she studied chili and oomycetes. "There, I learned techniques and a know-how in biology and molecular cartography," she says. Yet she has kept returning to the RDP, and has worked with almost every single team in the lab. With Mohammed Bendahmane, she studied floral morphogenesis; with Peter Rogowski, she studied corn as part of the European MAZE project; with Charlie Scutt and Françoise Moneger she worked for two years on arabidopsis. After a string of temp contracts over several years, Géraldine Brunoud was hired by the National Center for Scientific Research in 2006. She was assigned to the RDP in the team of Jan Traas, to study floral meristem. Since 2012 she has been on the team of Teva Vernoux, working on "hormonal signaling and development". "It's a team with a really good work atmosphere, and gender parity, which is rare… I mean parity is rare, not the good atmosphere," she says with a smile.
Géraldine Brunoud has a five-year-old boy. He's very proud of his mother, who "does experiments with plants," as he puts it. Géraldine says people now come to congratulate her for two reasons: for her crystal prize, but also because she's pregnant with her second child. Her due date is in August. Another exciting project to look forward to.