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Testimony 15/03/2021

"There are many potential outcomes for the future of energy"

Scientific thinking helps solve problems. It’s an approach Gisela Lechuga Lopez, a senior research engineer learned at an early age from her parents. She’s hoping this interview can help share that message with other women and present her vision for the future of energy.

I think that by studying science, one can gain a special way of seeing the world, solving problems, and structuring your thought process.

Being a woman is also an asset because women can offer a different approach to problem solving.

Can you tell us a bit about your career path?

Gisela: I studied biomedical engineering in Mexico, and then came to Paris for a master's degree in medical physics. After that, I completed a second master’s in applied math at the ENS (a publicly funded higher education institution in France). Finally, in collaboration with the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, I earned a PhD grant to study the MRI images of brains of people in comas. We were studying whether there was any way to know if they would come out of the coma. It was a really interesting project but there was a lot at stake both socially and scientifically.

For the past three years, I have been working in the CSAI (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence) lab at ENGIE Lab CRIGEN. It's not medical imaging anymore, but it's still related to computer imaging, and the methodology is very similar.

Why did you decide to work in energy? 

Gisela: I came to this sector in a gradual way. Energy is very important, especially in terms of the energy transition. What interested me most in health was that it was helping people. And now I am working in the same way — to help others — but in the field of energy. 

We are working to detect objects within photographs and videos, which will then be applied to other fields such as predictive maintenance and feature recognition in cities. 

Do you see being a woman in a technical field as an asset or an obstacle?

Gisela:I have always worked in tech, and without any discrimination. However, I understand that being a woman feels like a constraint. Maybe we are afraid to take on certain projects because we lack self-confidence, or conversely maybe we are accused of being bossy, or authoritarian. 

But, being a woman is also an asset because women can offer a different approach to problem solving. Our way of working with others tends to make things more harmonious.

What do you think will be the future of energy? 

Gisela: There are many possible futures for energy! There has been lots of research and innovation, so I think that in ten years, it will be another world! Today's breakthroughs will, I hope, become standardized, and spread clean ways of producing energy around the world.

Do you think women have a special role to play in achieving carbon neutrality?

Gisela: All people living in the world have a role to play!  It's a subject for men as well as women.

Is there a specific project you want to share with us ?

Gisela: The subject of my thesis! Working together has a real impact on society. 
In my department at ENGIE, we focus on research. Our projects will bring positive changes for years to come. We are in the process of creating tools that will make it easier for people to develop different forms of energy. I see myself more as the facilitator of development for the work of others. For example, in the maintenance project, we try to identify potential problems on the ground through images. We mark the area, and then the expert won’t lose as much time searching for the area and can then focus on more important tasks.

Do you have a particular message for women?

Gisela: My parents, who were both mathematicians, told me "What you study does not dictate what you will do in life". But, I think that by studying science, one can gain a special way of seeing the world, solving problems, and structuring your thought process. 
I hope that more women will go into science. Sometimes we hear that women are not good at math and that they are less rational, but this isn’t true! Women should never be afraid of asserting themselves. Be confident in yourself and your capabilities.

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