“Human activity cannot always be replaced by robots, owing to the high added value it has in the world of industry.” Pauline Maurice’s assessment is a cause for optimism. At a time when everything is going digital and automation is continuing apace, refocusing our attentions on humans is a healthy concern. It is also one of the primary objectives for Pauline Maurice, a CNRS researcher and member of Larsen, a team that is a joint undertaking involving Inria and Loria.
After two years of preparatory classes, Maurice, who studied at the École Polytechnique in Paris, chose to specialise in mechanical engineering and robotics in 2011. “I was awarded a Master’s in robotics from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, and remained there to study for a PhD in robotics in partnership with the LIST , a CEA Tech institute”. In 2015, she had her viva for her PhD, which was entitled “Virtual Ergonomics in the Design of Cobots”, before leaving for Boston. She returned to France in 2017, where she was given the opportunity to continue with postdoctoral research on the same subject in Nancy. “Cobotics keeps humans in the loop while giving them physical assistance. I don't design the mechanics of these systems, but I do programme the behaviour of the robots. My work involves assessing the effects these robots’ mechanical parameters have on humans. Hence the need to understand, analyse and predict human movements in order for these systems to deliver the best possible assistance and to ensure that robots and humans are able to jointly execute tasks as ergonomically as possible, from a biomechanical perspective. Essentially, our aim is to keep effort to a minimum and to improve posture. This also has to be both simple and intuitive for individuals.”
A lot of scope for investigation
In Lorraine, Pauline Maurice found a dynamic professional environment. “The collaborations have been fruitful and we have the equipment we need to meet our ambitions.” Maurice, who is originally from the Paris region, also had other reasons for choosing Loria. “It’s much greener here than it is in Paris!” When Pauline is not at work, she enjoys outdoor pursuits, particularly rock climbing, which she goes to the Vosges for whenever she gets the chance. “I only really discovered rock climbing when I came to the area.” Has she thought about doing it competitively? “Not really. I’m a member of a small club in Sarrebourg, where I can train at my leisure given the climbing opportunities on my doorstep ”. This is another way of focusing on posture and getting movements right, two qualities that are equally important to Maurice as a researcher as they are to her as a rock-climber. Indeed, this is something cobotics and rock climbing have in common: a lot of scope for investigation, but where excellence remains the overarching goal.
Article written by Vivian Peiffer, a journalist at La Semaine, as part of a partnership with the Université de Lorraine. Each month, readers have had the opportunity to discover the talented young people who are putting Lorraine on the map in the world of science.