Augustin Brassens

Augustin Brassens

Winner of the "Ma Thèse en 180 secondes" internet user prize

Preparing for MT180 helps break down the apprehension of talking about your subject.

Currently a first-year doctoral candidate between Compiègne University of Technology (UTC) and Tokyo, Augustin Brassens is working on an organ-on-a-chip. At UTC, he is supervised by Rachid Jellali at the Biomechanics and Bioengineering Laboratory (BMBI) and by Eric Leclerc at the Laboratory for Integrated Micro Mechatronics (LIMMS) in Tokyo. He took part in the Sorbonne University Alliance 's "Ma Thèse en 180 secondes" (My Thesis in 180 seconds) competition and won the Internet user prize.

Can you tell us a little about your background?
Augustin Brassens: I've always wanted to do science, particularly biology. So I did a bachelor's degree in Life Sciences at the University of Sciences in Nîmes. I then went on to do a master's degree in Biomolecular Engineering and Nano-Biotechnologies (IBION-TEC) at the Montpellier Faculty of Science. My  Master's second year internship focused on the development of an inner ear organoid from stem cells. Thanks to the Montpellier organoid platform, located at the Institut des Neurosciences, I learned a lot about three-dimensional culture. After my Master's degree, I applied for a number of theses, including one at UTC that my Master's first-year internship supervisor had sent me! Everything went very quickly, I did two interviews by videoconference and then went up to Compiègne to meet the team. Within a month, I had moved and started my thesis.

Why did you take part in the "Ma thèse en 180 secondes" competition?
A. B.: It's essential to have a certain fluency in speaking, whatever your field. And it's not easy, so this was the best way to train quickly and effectively.

What was your experience like?
A. B.: I was stressed on the day of the first course. Being from Compiègne University of Technology (UTC), I didn't know anyone at Sorbonne University, or even the place. But very quickly, we embarked on quite an adventure and I didn't think about stress at all!

Can you explain to us, not in 3 minutes but in a few lines, the subject of your thesis?
A. B.: Put simply, we need a mouse-free model to study fatty liver disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans, which presents as fat accumulation and inflammation of the liver. The solution we have chosen is to manufacture an organ-on-a-chip. Human liver and fat cells are grown in the laboratory, a process we call tissue engineering. These cells are then injected into tiny dishes with microchannels running through them. These tiny boxes are called microfluidic chips. This technology avoids the use of mice, and will enable us to better understand this disease, which has no cure and is part of a whole range of metabolic problems, such as insulin resistance, obesity and cardiovascular problems. Having a more faithful model of human liver and fatty tissue will enable us to better understand its mechanisms.

Three minutes to summarize an entire thesis seems a short time... Isn't that frustrating? Is it difficult to talk about your thesis work to a neophyte audience?
A. B.: It's very short, so we have to get to the point while still giving scientific details! It's quite a challenge. Usually, when we talk about our subject, it's with scientists who know the jargon. On "My thesis in 180 seconds", we have to revise our vocabulary while remaining relevant!

How did you prepare for the competition?
AB: The training is very thorough; I'd already had a few courses in undergraduate studies, but this time I really saw the difference! Preparing for "My thesis in 180 seconds" helps to break down the apprehension of talking about your subject, thanks to a number of activities. For example, we have to introduce our neighbor on the right, even though he's a complete stranger! At the end of the day, we work on our subject to choose the most important ideas and formulate them well.

What were the main difficulties to overcome?
A. B.: The unknown environment. Not even being from Paris, I had to adapt quickly to new people and places. The pace was also quite intense. Between having to manage what's going on in the lab and at the same time writing, learning and practicing in front of our colleagues for the final, you have to stay up late! You have to dare to succeed, and I don't regret it!

What impact can this competition have on the image of doctoral students and research?
A. B.: Make science and research more accessible, and why not spark a passion for the field!

See the video of Augustin Brassens (in French)

Augustin Brassens, Prix des internautes 2024 | MT180