Question 1. What is your position at OSU/OWRI?
I am an assistant professor in the OSU Department of Horticulture (started in June 2009), and I am a member of the OWRI core faculty. My position is a combination of grapevine research, teaching and outreach. My major focus is on studying functional genomics in grape berry development. My group is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms associated with grape berry ripening and the influence of environmental factors.
Question 2. What do enjoy most about your work?
The most interesting- and most challenging- part of my job is dissecting the complex process of grape berry ripening, which is still seen as an obscure biological process. The grape berry cluster is not a single fruit but rather a population of individual fruits evolving together under a strong control of environmental and developmental factors. The emergence of rapidly evolving and new technologies and their use as research tools present a unique opportunity better understand the grape berry ripening process. In the long-term, this will give the Oregon wine industry new strategies and practices to improve fruit quality.
Question 3. When you’re not working, what do you do?
I always try to balance work time with quality time with my family. I enjoy hiking with my family to explore the beautiful sites that make Oregon an outstanding state, cooking, skiing, and biking with my family. Coming from the west coast of France, I often need to go to the coast just to feel the oceanic breeze.
Question 4. How did you choose your career path?
As I often say, it was purely coincidental. After my MS in Forestry, I knew that I wanted to explore and learn more about molecular biology in plant sciences. Grapes happen to be the model I started with and the idea to do basic research with potential societal and economic impacts suited my professional goals. After my Ph.D. in France, I accepted a post-doctoral position working on the grapevine model at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2004. The two research experiences in France and in US confirmed my determination to pursue research career in basic science using the grapevine model.
Question 5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Make a simple story from a complex concept. Basic researchers often tend to show tremendous amount of data, which are usually difficult to digest, when it is a matter of conveying a simple message. I am not always 100% successful in this exercise when I communicate with the industry, but I attempt to communicate in this way.
Question 6. Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?
Hard to answers to this question without falling into simple stereotypes….
– Nikola Tesla (inventor, mechanical engineer, futurist, etc…)
– Alan Turing (father of the computer science and artificial intelligence)
Finally, the last one is dedicated to a grape scientist, Bryan Coombe (plant physiologist, which happens to be a grape physiologist). Dr. Coombe passed away in August 2014 this year. He was the pioneer in grape berry development and his vision about the grape berry model was 30 years ahead compared to other grape researchers at that time. His research has played a role in my decision to embrace the career of grapevine researcher.
Question 7. What is your vision for the future of your research?
My vision for the future of my research lies in two components of my grapevine research program:
– Justify the grapevine model as a valuable tool to address fundamental questions in plant sciences and use it in a whole-plant context
– Generate enough background knowledge in grape metabolomics that be utilized by the wine industry to address recurring and anticipated viticulture problems.