October 12, 2023 – Sorbonne Université – Village des Sciences

Inspiring the Scientists of Tomorrow: DIM BioConvS at Sorbonne’s Village des Sciences

Last week in Paris, the City of Light became a beacon of knowledge and curiosity as it hosted the annual “Fête de la Science.” This initiative, aimed at promoting science to the general public, brought together scientists, researchers, and young minds eager to explore the wonders of the scientific world. Among the many inspiring showcases, the DIM BioConvS participated in the Science Village organized by Sorbonne Université. The event provided a fascinating glimpse into the world of cutting-edge research, as PhD student Raul captivated the audience with his work on microfluidic devices and their role in the formation of glia on neurons. Raul’s presentation served as a valuable lesson, not only on the advantages of microfluidics in cell and organoid culture but also on the significance of inspiring young students to pursue scientific careers, particularly in the biotherapy field.

Microfluidics: The Tiny Marvels Transforming Cell Culture

Microfluidic devices are a testament to the incredible strides being made in scientific research. These pint-sized systems have revolutionized the way we study and manipulate biological systems. They utilize tiny channels and chambers to precisely control the flow of fluids at the micrometer scale, allowing researchers to mimic the complex microenvironments within the human body. Microfluidics offers numerous advantages in cell and organoid culture, which are critical for understanding human physiology, disease progression, and the development of cutting-edge biotherapies.

Microfluidic devices enable scientists to create highly controlled conditions for cell growth. This precision is essential for studying the behavior of cells and tissues under specific circumstances. By fine-tuning the microenvironment, researchers can replicate conditions found in the human body, providing valuable insights into how cells function and respond to different treatments. Moreover, these devices reduce the amount of reagents and samples required, making experiments more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Furthermore, microfluidics allows for the generation of miniaturized organoids – three-dimensional tissue structures that mimic the functions of actual organs. These miniature organs are invaluable for drug testing and the development of personalized medicine. They provide a platform for studying diseases and potential treatments, bringing us one step closer to more effective therapies and cures.

Inspiring the Scientists of Tomorrow

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of “Fête de la Science” and events like it is the opportunity to kindle the flame of scientific curiosity in young minds. Raul’s presentation to middle schoolers showcased the incredible potential of scientific research. By breaking down complex concepts into engaging and accessible explanations, he bridged the gap between high-end research and the budding scientists of the future.

Raul’s work on microfluidic devices and their role in glia formation on neurons was a prime example of how science can be made relatable and exciting for young students. The experience left a lasting impression on these students, igniting their interest in the vast world of science and inspiring them to consider scientific careers.

The biotherapy field, in particular, holds immense promise for the future. As advancements continue to be made, the potential for groundbreaking treatments and cures becomes increasingly likely. By exposing young minds to this exciting field, we can cultivate the next generation of scientists and researchers who will lead the charge in developing new therapies and improving human health.

Supporting High-End Research

Raul’s lab, like many others, has benefited from the support of grants and funding. In this case, the Région Ile-de-France, through the DIM BioConvS, provided valuable equipment grants that allowed the lab to conduct innovative research. Moreover his doctoral fellowship is sponsored also by the previous wave of DIM projects! These grants play a pivotal role in ensuring that cutting-edge science continues to thrive and progress.

A chat with Raúl Flores

Can you present yourself and tell us why you wanted to participate in this scientific outreach event? 

My name is Raúl Flores, I was born and raised in Mexico, where I had the opportunity to complete my Bachelor’s in Biotechnology Engineering. After two years of working as a Project Engineer in an agrochemical company (and highly influenced by the pandemic), I decided to take another professional path. Finally, in 2021, I came to France to start pursuing a scientific career, which I started with the master’s program in Microfluidics organized by the Institut Pierre Gilles de Gennes. Once I had completed it I started working as Ingénieur d’etudes in a project co-hosted by T3S (UMR-S 1124, INSERM) and MSC (UMR 7057, CNRS) and funded by DIM-ELICIT. This project is based on the study of the electrophysiological signal of neuron and myelin cultures by using microfluidic platforms.

Concerning my motivation to participate, I think it was mainly influenced by two factors: the challenge that we as foreigners have to keep speaking in French, and secondly a way to improve my communication skills; concretely the fact that is not always that easy or intuitive to communicate a complex idea to people out of the same field.

This was your first time presenting your science to non-specialists, and moreover young students! How did it go?

Since the public was mainly students from 10 to 15 years old, I was challenged to look for a lot of analogies and ways to simplify a bunch of terms. Nevertheless, this was not a limitation to showing them the potential of a microfluidic device, and moreover the importance of neuroscience. It was interesting to see how they were really amazed by looking at the microfluidic devices; using the microscope and even asking questions about how to use it, step by step. Sometimes it was a little bit harder to keep them interested, but once again; having something tangible (videos and material) was a gigantic support for them to better translate the talk and visualize it.

How was the overall experience and would you recommend it to other researchers like you?

In general, it was a really rewarding experience. Looking at the interest of the students in a project you’re collaborating on or working on it’s really reassuring. Moreover; the fact of being surrounded by other young researchers who are also investing some time to share their ideas, projects, and results with the general public, encourages you a lot.  I highly recommend having this kind of experience since for me it was a really humane way to show the efforts behind our lab work.