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Célia Pelluet, laureate of the L'Oréal-UNESCO award

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The doctoral student in physics at the Photonics, Numerical and Nanosciences Laboratory (LP2N) on the Talence campus is one of 35 Young Talents recognised by the 2023 L'Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award.

Photo : Célia Pelluet has been awarded a Young Talent grant from the L'Oréal-UNESCO Foundation © Clémence Losfeld
Célia Pelluet has been awarded a Young Talent grant from the L'Oréal-UNESCO Foundation © Clémence Losfeld

Célia Pelluet specialises in the science of light, photonics. Her field of research took her all the way to Chile, where she was involved in improving an element of the largest telescope on Earth, the Very Large Telescope, at the European Southern Observatory. She is now working on her thesis on the universality of free fall from space at the Institut d'Optique d'Aquitaine at the Photonics, Numerical and Nanosciences Laboratory (LP2N, a CNRS, IOGS and University of Bordeaux unit), a subject that enables her to question the workings of the universe as well as to improve terrestrial mapping tools. At the same time, she performs as a one-woman show, using humour to raise awareness of her daily life as a researcher, and sings in a Bordeaux rock band, Ghost PM.

The University of Bordeaux doctoral student, a former student of the Institut d'Optique Graduate School (IOGS), is a member of LP2N and the LIGHT Sciences and Technologies Graduate Programme.

What are the short- and long-term prospects for your research and its applications?

In order to test the principle of the universality of free fall, I perform inertial measurements based on clouds of atoms and use quantum physics as a tool to make precise measurements. The particularity of my research is that it takes place on board the Zéro-G aircraft, which simulates zero gravity. Accurate and precise inertial measurements are of great importance for a variety of applications, ranging from the study of the Earth's gravity field (geodesy) to fundamental physics experiments such as the detection of gravitational waves or the test of the universality of free fall.

Why did you choose a career in science?

My interest grew gradually, from children's science programmes to the astronomy books I used to order at Christmas. I also had a physics teacher at secondary school whose passion for physics was infectious, which helped me to develop an early interest in the world of research.

What can women contribute to science?

Science is above all based on teamwork. It is therefore essential to reassert the value of qualities traditionally labelled as feminine, such as social skills, rather than regarding them as incidental or less important. Similarly, women's ability to question themselves is a valuable tool for research.

The idea of investing time and energy in creating new knowledge based on the work of my predecessors is highly poetic to me.

Célia Pelluet

Every year, the L'Oréal Foundation, in partnership with the French National Commission for UNESCO and the French Academy of Sciences, presents the L'Oréal-UNESCO France Young Talents Awards for Women in Science.

Created in 2007, the aim of this programme is to reveal and reward talented young female researchers.

In 2023, 618 eligible applications were received (418 doctoral candidates and 200 post-doctoral fellows). 20 doctoral students and 15 post-doctoral researchers are among this year's winners. They will receive grants of 15,000€ and 20,000€ respectively.

(figures and interview: L'Oréal-UNESCO).