For Women in Science Professor Pascale Cossart is elected Perpetual Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences

On July 23rd, Prof Pascale Cossart, head of the Bacteria-Cell Interactions Unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris was named Perpetual Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences. This is yet another achievement for the award-winning bacteriologist, who received the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award in 1998, and is a commander of the French Legion of Honor. 

She was elected Perpetual Secretary for the Second Division, which is dedicated to chemistry, biology and medicine, and will take up her functions on January 1st 2016, succeeding Prof Jean-François Bach who took up the position in 2006. As Prof Cossart said to the French journal “La Voix du Nord”:

“I love my job. Being one of the heads of the French Academy of Sciences is a prolongation of a superb scientific career! I would like to make the Academy a lively place, more open to scientists who are not members, and to society. I plan to organize more conferences for the general public.”

For over 20 years she focused her research on the molecular and cellular basis of infection by listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium which causes listeriosis, a food-borne disease that affects pregnant women and immuno-compromised individuals. She has discovered several totally unsuspected and sophisticated strategies used by Listeria and other pathogens to infect human cells and tissues. When talking about the reason behind her decision to pursue a scientific career, Prof Pascale Cossart stated:

“At the beginning I decided to become a scientist because I loved science. I was interested in chemistry. But after two weeks in a chemistry lab I realized that maybe I loved it on paper, but I had the feeling that the big period of chemistry was somehow over. I was in organic chemistry and polymer chemistry, then I took a course — par hasard — of biochemistry, and then I went to my professor and I switched–and that was it. But I never had any other aim than doing research. I remember that my parents were telling me that I could make more money in industry instead of having this little fellowship.”

This post is also published on DiscovHER, the online media of the L'Oréal Foundation, dedicated to women that advance science.

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