A high-risk transdisciplinary thesis
Interview with Géraldine Boué
Géraldine Boué, whom we introduced to our followers 2 years ago, has defended her thesis on an uncommon multidisciplinary subject: the assessment of food-related health risks and benefits.
This is an opportunity for us to talk to her again.
You defended your thesis last summer. What was it about?
The goal of my thesis was to develop a method to assess the effect of a diet on consumer health. I took part in the creation of methods to mathematically calculate the benefits and risks associated with food consumption in nutritional, microbiological and chemical terms.
This methodology was developed using a case study of infant feeding: breastmilk and infant formulas. We were able to begin comparing scientifically and quantitatively the risks and the benefits relating to each of the two options.
Is risk and benefit analysis a common topic in relation to the diet? How is it innovative?
The transdisciplinary analysis of risks and benefits of food is a fairly recent and innovative subject.
In the early 2000s, science reached a deadlock regarding the conclusions that could be drawn about the benefits and risks of eating habits. There were contradictory results depending on the disciplines. A striking example is fish: you need to eat some for its nutritional intakes, but you also need to limit its consumption because of pollutants.
Then, during the years 2010 we started developing a more global approach, taking into account in terms of health its totality: one does not speak only of the risk of diseases anymore, we seek an optimum between "risks and benefits".
We are only at the beginning of this type of research. We need to create national and international networks, learn from each other, and learn to work with others in a transdisciplinary way despite our different methods and vocabularies.
This transdisciplinary expertise is not frequently applied in research, but proves ultimately crucial to provide recommendations that are as relevant as possible.
What is next for you now?
I am passionate about food safety in the broad sense. I will continue teaching and research, a good way for me to pass on scientific innovations to the professionals of tomorrow.
Regarding research, I am still focused on developing the methodology of the assessment of risks and benefits for health, through other case studies.
With teaching I am more grounded in the concrete, in the microbiological aspects of risk assessment. It's a good continuation of my engineering degree in agrifood and my PhD. Beyond the classical disciplines,with colleagues, I develop more and more activities offered to students approaching health in a more transversal way. Whether in Oniris' engineering and veterinary courses or in the MAN-IMAL Master's programme, students are pushed to take a step back when confronted to controversial subjects, to adopt global and transdisciplinary approaches. After all, this forces them to put themselves in a professional situation!