Elsa Ducrot receives a "For Women in Science" award for her research on Trappist-1 and JWST

Photo : ©L'Oréal

Elsa Ducrot, a former doctoral student at the Exotic Lab (Astrobiology Research Unit / Faculty of Science) is the winner of one of the L'Oréal Foundation's "For Women in Science" awards. This prize was awarded to her for the research she carried out during her four years of doctoral studies under the supervision of Michaël Gillon, an astrophysicist at ULiège who was responsible for the discovery of the Trappist-1 system, and for the research she’s carrying on the JWST at CEA during her post-doctorate.


ow a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Paris Saclay (France), Elsa Ducrot did her thesis at our university from 2017 to 2021 in the Astrobiology research unit, under the supervision of Michaël Gillon. Four years studying potentially habitable planets in orbit around ultra-cold stars. These stars are now the most favourable targets for the study of rocky planets located in the habitable zone of their star and in transit - passing in front of their star from the observer's point of view - with space telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope. During her PhD, Elsa Ducrot was particularly interested in the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanet system (discovered in 2017 by Michaël Gillon's team). During my thesis, I joined the SPECULOOS project in which I participated in the discovery of several new planets around ultra-cold stars," explains Elsa Ducrot. In parallel, I led the analysis of thousands of hours of observations of the TRAPPIST-1 system from the ground and from space, which made it possible to accurately deduce the radii and masses of the seven planets and thus to propose scenarios for their internal composition, a first for rocky exoplanets.

Elsa Ducrot is one of the 35 winners of the Young French Talent Awards for Women in Science awarded by the L'Oréal Foundation.  "Receiving such an award is always rewarding but the fact that it rewards "Young Talent" and "Women in Science" makes it particularly important for me. I believe that rewarding young female researchers is essential not only to highlight women in science in order to combat stereotypes, but also to give young women at the beginning of their careers visibility and strength of perseverance that will help combat our low representation in high responsibility positions. On a more personal note, I particularly appreciate the multidisciplinary nature of the research fields that is evident in all the laureates, and I am very happy to know that I am part of this privileged network of women researchers that is 'Women in Science'.

When asked what she likes most about being a researcher, she says: "What I like most is the subject of my research, the study of life elsewhere in the universe, that's what gives meaning to my job. Working in the basic sciences means studying something that has existed, exists and will exist well beyond humanity, it allows you to step back. I also enjoy the multidisciplinary aspect of my research because I think that by bridging different fields, like in my case astronomy, biology and chemistry, you understand more things. More generally, a career as an astronomy researcher offers a lot of room for creativity and freedom. Freedom because you can take on almost any project if you want to and creativity because the scientific method pushes you to imagine all the possibilities and open all the doors. Finally, all these projects are maintained by strong relationships of trust between the different members of a team, which I find very strong and rewarding.

In announcing the award, her thesis supervisor, Michaël Gillon, stressed that "many fields continue to suffer from persistent gender inequality, often in a more insidious form than in the past. Scientific research is unfortunately one of these fields. To see this, one need only look at the list of Nobel Prize winners in physics over the past ten years. It includes 28 laureates, of which ... two women! This inequality must imperatively disappear, and to do so it is important to insist on the fact that scientific excellence does not depend on gender, but on the development, in an adequate environment (education, motivation, support, etc), of intellectual qualities present in ALL human beings. By celebrating the scientific excellence demonstrated by talented female scientists, the L'Oreal-UNESCO Award is contributing to this much-needed effort. Having supervised her doctoral thesis and having had the good fortune to work with her for several years, I am delighted to see this prize awarded to Elsa because she is so deserving. She is not only an excellent scientist with a brilliant career ahead of her but also an admirable human being. I have no doubt that the media coverage of her qualities through this prize will inspire many bright young girls to study science. Modern science is in great need of them!"

About the L'Oréal Foundation Women for Science Awards

In 1998 L'Oréal first partnered with UNESCO to create the For Women in Science programme to reward outstanding women scientists and improve the image of women in science. In 2000, the programme began to recognise Rising Talents, up-and-coming women scientists from around the world. In the same year, the L'Oréal Foundation created the "For Girls in Science" programme to encourage young women to consider a career in science.

Learn more


Consortium SPECULOOS

Thema JWST

Share this news