Time to meet Dr. Alise Ponsero (She/her)! Dr. Ponsero is a computational biologist and data scientist origianally from France and currently working as a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Arizona in the USA!
What kind of scientist are you?
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona, working in computational biology and data science. Our lab’s main focus is the development of tools and computational methods to efficiently explore large scale biological data, such as huge metagenomic datasets. Another aspect of our work is the development of methods and resources to help the future reuse of biological data and bioinformatic tools. We strongly believe that every dataset should be “FAIR” (Findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable), for the scientific community to be able to build on previous works.
What made you want to become a scientist?
To be honest, as a kid I was a huge fan of Jacques-Yves Cousteau (a French oceanographer). I absolutely loved (and I still do) his films and books. Sure, the man never defined himself as a scientist, but his work was all about the beauty of biology and definitely made me hungry for discovery and adventures. And what is science if not endless discoveries and adventures?
“Being a woman in computer science is not yet the norm, but a lot of awesome initiatives are out there, and I do see things changing for the better in that regards.”Dr. Alise Ponsero
What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
Being a woman in computer science is not yet the norm, but a lot of awesome initiatives are out there, and I do see things changing for the better in that regards. Yeah!
Another particularity would be my aversion to any kind of specialization. I am interested in absolutely everything and happily to jump from topic to topic. After a first master’s degree in marine microbial ecology, I did my PhD in molecular biology. Once I got my degree, I decided to go back to school for another master’s degree in computer science… These days, I am really passionate about data science and statistics.
Most scientists today tend to specialize in one area, sometimes spending a whole career on a specific research topic. More than once, professors accused me of lacking focus and of being a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” But I am fortunate enough to have found mentors that value and cultivate the value of my hunger for new challenges.
What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I am a volunteer in the French group of Open source ecology, a nonprofit organization working in the realm of open source hardware. We’ve been working for a few years now on the development of an open source solar concentrator! I am also passionate about science-fiction and the interplay between science and art. I am volunteering in a nonprofit cinema and have been lucky enough to collaborate on some essays about science on screen.
If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I definitely would change the way data is shared. Although a lot of good initiatives have been developed to help with reproducibility in science, a lot of work still needs to be done.
“I am volunteering in a nonprofit cinema and have been lucky enough to collaborate on some essays about science on screen.”Dr. Alise Ponsero
Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
I was lucky enough to work with a lot of amazing people, who still inspire me today. I did my first internship in a French lab in Lyon, and had the nicest and most amazing advisor one could dream of. His optimism and cheerfulness in spite of the never-ending rejection and failures that any scientist face is something I still thrive for.
Outside of science, I had the privilege to work several months as an organizer in camps for mentally disabled adults. The director of the camp was absolutely amazing. Kind, compassionate, he had a strong integrity and an amazing sense of leadership. He had this unique ability to build and strengthen people around him. Working with him was for me a unique opportunity to grow up.
Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I went to a workshop focused on new statistical methods for data analysis! I have learnt so much and can’t wait to apply these methods in my research!