Meet Alix Rouault

Alix Roualt portrait
Date: Friday, May 3, 2019

Graduate program: Biomedical Science (Molecular Physiology and Biophysics) 

Undergraduate institution: University of Western Brittany, Brest, France        

Hometown: Lamballe, France

Why did you choose the University of Iowa to pursue your graduate degree?

While finishing my health degree in France, Dr. Sebag offered me a position in his lab as a PhD student. His work and expertise corresponded to my area of interest.

What type of research are you performing?

My research is focused on obesity and diabetes. I am currently investigating the impact that a small protein named MRAP2 has on larger ones like the Melanocortin-4 receptor (a receptor that stops the feeling of hunger). People with MRAP2 mutations are prone to developing obesity. This is because MRAP2 is important for the body to know when it needs energy (food) and for the distribution of the stored energy.

By studying this protein, we aim to understand how they work with other proteins which ultimately could lead to an efficient and safe way to lose weight by decreasing the sensation of hunger.

What do you hope to do after you earn your degree?

I will continue in academic research as a postdoctoral fellow. The research subject might change but I intend to stay in the physiology field. 

What is something that surprised you about the University of Iowa or your graduate program?

Everything. The PhD system is very different in France. I was surprised by the complete freedom to do research. If I feel extremely motivated and want to spend the night doing research, well, I can. Also, the University of Iowa has a lot of instruments and keeps buying new ones that allow us, researchers, to stay competitive in our field (i.e. CLARITY, light sheet microscopes …). 

What is your favorite part about being a graduate student?

My favorite part has to be publishing papers, but I also enjoy going to conferences where ideas are discussed, solutions are found, and new collaborations are created.

Who is your biggest role model and why?

I never had a sensu stricto role model, but I always admire research scientists that follow their passion - whether they study human biology, look at the stars, or inside the earth. The curiosity and the need to find answers to the craziest questions that animates researchers throughout the world is fascinating.

What are some of your personal interests?

Socializing – It is not a secret that graduate school is stressful and one of the best ways to release some steam is hanging out with friends. Other graduate students and myself meet every Monday evening at Stella (restaurant) to talk and have a good dinner before going back to the lab.

Coffee – Finding the brew that will take me through the day.

Movies and series – Even though I fall asleep almost every time, I turn on a movie/series every night before going to bed.

A piece of advice for incoming graduate students.

Get to know the style of mentorship and communication of the PI that you are considering working with. Do not isolate yourself; build relationships with the other students (PhD student, post-doc). Take a break; don’t stay all night at work every night of the week, instead take one night of the week to do something non-scientific that you like.