Portrait of Marie Duflot-Kremer, teacher-researcher
Marie Duflot-Kremer is teacher-researcher at the University of Lorraine. She carries out her research in the VeriDis team, and she describes herself as a pessimistic researcher...
What pushed you towards research in computer science or mathematics? And what excites you the most about your profession?
I began to be passionate about mathematics when I was just a little girl. I told all of my teachers on the start-of-year forms that I wanted to become a maths teacher. All of them...except the maths teacher, as "it would have made his day".
I discovered computer science at secondary school and I was one of the last people to take the "Bac C", where it was possible to choose an IT option. We did programming in Pascal - I enjoyed being in front of a machine, trying until something worked, testing it myself without waiting for any "corrections" by a teacher, and really got caught up in it. I didn't think that I would make it my profession, and I carried on studying mathematics. I only really got back into computer science two years later, at the ENS Cachan. It was nice, it was like maths, it didn't scare me, we did theorems - things that I was familiar with. And so, little by little, I turned towards theoretical computer science...for good. In research, there are the optimistic researchers who have ideas that go off in all directions; ideas that don't always work but in which they still believe...until finally it works. And then there are the pessimistic researchers, who take apart any evidence that does not stand up, who prove why such an idea doesn't work and who, as a result - when there really is nothing left that doesn't work - also end up with a good idea. I am more on the pessimistic side, but I like that; immersing myself in an idea, imagining the different cases possible and racking my brains until I manage to fix what is wrong.
I am interested in formal verification, the branch of computer science that endeavours to prove or disprove the correctness of a system. And it is certainly no coincidence.
Why do you think there are so few women in this field, and what would you say to encourage them to get involved in digital technology?
To be honest, I don't really know. I've always evolved in a fairly masculine environment (it was already the case when I was studying mathematics) and in the end I got used to it. However what does annoy me is the conditioning imposed on children - both boys and girls - from the games they are supposed to play to the reactions they are supposed to have or not in a particular situation. If a girl does not like mathematics or computer science, then that is totally acceptable, but it should not be put into her head that it's not her thing simply because she's a girl - that is unacceptable. Just as unacceptable as those who give a funny look to a male midwife or childcare assistant.
What can we say to them? That they need to do what they enjoy, be it mathematics, gardening, public works, journalism or teaching. Not just because it's in fashion, or because their male/female friends are doing it. They need to listen to themselves, and not self-impose limits of this kind. In addition, the field of digital technology is particularly well-off as far as employment perspectives are concerned, so even if you don't want to go into research there are many other very interesting - and especially very varied - professions. It really is worth considering.