Spotlight on… Nathalie Legrave, senior laboratory research scientist

Having grown up in the Caribbean, Nathalie Legrave moved to Europe in her early twenties to pursue her dream of being a scientist. We caught up with her to find out about her career path to date and what she gets up to in our Metabolomics Science Technology Platform (STP).
  • Date created: 16 January 2019
  • News Type:
  • Profile
Nathalie Legrave

Nathalie's bio

Find out more about Nathalie's career so far.

What’s your current role at the Crick?

As a senior laboratory research scientist in the Metabolomics STP, I use different analytical instruments (including both liquid and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy) to detect and quantify products of metabolism in cells, tissues or microorganisms. 

Scientists from across the institute come to us with their research questions and we work together to find innovative ways of answering them. 

Because metabolism is so central to cell health and disease, I get to work across lots of exciting projects including investigating cancer metabolism and metabolic disorders. Every day is different – I never have a chance to get bored. 

What did you do before coming to the Crick?

I joined the Crick about a year and a half ago, and before that I was a postdoc in France and Scotland, studying bioactive molecules from plants and natural sponges and their potential uses in industry. I grew up in the Caribbean, so cold and dark Aberdeen winters were a bit of a shock to the system! 

The biggest challenge in my job is being flexible, and working across multiple projects at the same time. But the good thing is that working in this challenging and nurturing environment encourages me to keep learning, and developing new skills. 

Tell us about your upbringing in the Caribbean. When did you leave? 

I grew up on a tiny French Caribbean island called Guadeloupe. It’s such a beautiful place, with amazing mountainous and ocean landscapes. 

I knew from a young age that to pursue my dream of becoming a scientist, I needed to move abroad. So in my early twenties I moved to France to study organic chemistry, and stayed there for my PhD. I’ve been living and working in Europe ever since. 
There are things I miss about Guadeloupe – my family of course, and the warm climate – and maybe one day I’ll move back. But for now, I’m really happy working and living in London, at the epicentre of life sciences. 

What have been the biggest challenges? 

Uprooting from my home to pursue my career was a pretty big challenge. I didn’t necessarily realise it at the time, but when I look back now, I can see that it wasn’t the norm to move away and start a life elsewhere, so I feel proud to have taken that in my stride. 

Day to day, the biggest challenge in my job is being flexible, and working across multiple projects at the same time. But the good thing is that working in this challenging and nurturing environment encourages me to keep learning, and developing new skills. 

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? 

This is a tricky question. I think it will depend on the opportunities that come my way over the next few years. But I know that I want to not only develop my knowledge and skills in science but also to grow my leadership and management abilities. 

In the past, I really enjoyed training undergraduate students and supporting them to become more confident and determined in their career aspirations. It was really empowering knowing that I could be a role model, so I’d like to get more involved with public engagement and share my experience as a black woman in science. 
 

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