Melissa Page

Professor in Faculty of Sciences and member of Louvain Institute of Biomolecular Science and Technology

What country are you from and why did you choose UCLouvain?
I’m originally from Canada, and I did my PhD in Ontario. After my PhD, I did an international residency in Scotland, so I’ve been in Europe before. Once I finished in Scotland I moved back to Canada and my partner and I recently introduced a new child into our lives and we were interested in coming back to Europe because my partner is Italian. And so I first just really focused on looking for a job in Europe, and this position came up in UCLouvain, and I thought this was a really good opportunity. When I looked at the job description, I thought that it fit my profile perfectly and when I had my interview I thought I did really well, the people were very welcoming. I also saw that, when looking at the institute’s website, that the research was really compatible with my own research. So there was some overlap, and also some very independent research. The interview went very well, so now the decision was up to me and my family and we were really excited about this opportunity. UCLouvain was a nice medium-sized school for me, I’ve been at universities that are quite large, and at universities that are medium-sized, and I always appreciated the medium-sized universities more, I think there is more camaraderie. And then we were also interested in being in Belgium, its central to Europe. It’s also a really internationally-oriented country, which is important to me as a North American, and it’s important for my partner and I to raise our child here.
What were your first impressions upon arriving?
Everyone was super nice at the university and very welcoming, faculty members as well as students. I find that people are very friendly here, the students are close and there are many friendships within the faculty, which may come down to being a medium-sized university. I really appreciate the mentality compared to North America’s, where there's a mentality of being really busy all the time – you enjoy your work but you have work all the time. Here, I feel like people really do enjoy their work and take their work seriously, but they also really enjoy their private life and their time away from work and I think that’s really important for me.
Have you experienced any difficulties or run into any obstacles?
I have to admit that I had some difficulties at the administrative level, and I think this is maybe because not very many people come from North America to teach here, so there was just some information that I wasn't made aware of before I moved here that had to be taken care of. So it took me a little bit of time to be incorporated into the country, so that may be something that could be improved upon.
Obstacles I've been dealing with: of course the language, but people are very understanding. I’m continuing to take French courses and I don't think the language has been a barrier necessarily in my projects or in my research and this is probably because I'm in the faculty. English is the language of science and I find here even at the national level that grant applications are submitted either in English or French, and of course at the international level you can apply in English, and even here at the institute level I've been submitting some projects in English. The other obstacle of course is funding, but I don't think this is specific to UCLouvain, I think this is an obstacle everywhere, even if I was still in North America. I hear stories from my colleagues in Canada that funding is always an issue.
When it comes to your work here, what positive experiences have you had?
The team I work with has been really welcoming and there's also a lot of sharing of information. There is a really collaborative environment here, a collaborative mentality and a lot of support. I'm in a small nutrition and environmental toxicology group and its members and other professors help me a lot as a new professor. I think they’re really excited to see me evolve into another great researcher, a great mentor and a great professor. So this has really been a benefit, or a bonus that I've noticed here.
Is your work environment an international environment?
I get the impression that it's a very international environment, this is in part because I'm contributing to international collaboration here, but there’s already been international collaboration between UCLouvain and some universities in Canada, the United States and Australia.
What advice do you have for those who are considering UCLouvain to pursue their work?
The advice that I have for anyone who may be interested in coming here is don't be afraid to bring new ideas or new techniques to the university. I found that I brought some techniques and new ideas and people really welcomed them. Sometimes people have really fixed ideas of how should science be done and how you should address questions. I feel like people here were really open to the new ideas that I had.