Get to know : Mathilda Derensy

CESAREF doctoral candidate

How would you describe yourself in two sentences? 

I am Mathilda Derensy, a French PhD student working in material science. I am very enthusiastic about my work and I would describe myself as dynamic, independent, and conscientious. 

What are you currently working on? 

Nowadays there’s no denying the need to reduce our carbon footprint, and this has to be achieved in every industry. That is why I am working on the use of waste materials in the composition of refractory materials. This implies many changes in their properties requiring investigations. On a small scale, I feel like I’m making a contribution to reducing our emissions, which is truly exciting. 

Did you always want to work in science? How were you introduced to it?  

As a child, I was always curious and fascinated by the world of science. I loved doing experiments that came in children’s kits, wearing my lab coat and pretending to be a brilliant researcher. I have studied science as a natural consequence and turned to physics because I simply enjoyed it. My studies led me to an engineering school where I specialised in refractory materials, which I’m currently working on. 

Could you briefly describe your academic/professional career? 

I started my studies with a two-year intensive preparatory class for French engineering school in Physics and Chemistry. Following that, I spent three years at the ENSIL-ENSCI in Limoges (France), a unique engineering school specializing in industrial ceramics. There, I had the opportunity to study a wide range of materials, from glass, cement and porcelain, to refractory materials. I have learned how to become innovative and now I have expertise in ceramic processing, properties, and characterizations. I specialized in refractory materials during my last year. This allowed me to spend four months abroad to do a research project with the National University of Seoul in South Korea. My last internship on submerged entry nozzle (SEN) for continuous casting with both an industrial and an academic partner raised my interest in pursuing a PhD in refractory materials field. I am currently doing my PhD at the University of Aachen in Germany and I will move in July 2024 to the industrial partner, Calderys in Neuwied in Germany. 

Why is it relevant to talk about gender equality in science? 

If we don’t talk about gender equality, the situation will not change, and there will always be the label « science is reserved for men » in people’s minds. While women have their place in science. 

In your career, did you face problems linked to your gender? What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?   

As part of our engineering training, we had to do a worker’s internship and many employers wouldn’t recruit women because they offered physical work, which revolted me. After all, we are as capable of handling these tasks as men. Otherwise, I never experienced problems linked to my gender. I was lucky and inspired to see women in high positions during my studies.

Who is your woman scientist inspiration? 

I would say Jane Goodall, ethologist and conservationist. She redefined the relationship between humans and animals. She was determined to pursue a career in this male-dominated field in the 60’s. I admire her strength and courage, despite the criticism she faced. Today, she is an international figure in the defence of the environment.

What is the most motivating/exciting aspect of your job?   

I think the most motivating aspect of my PhD is to investigate, research, and experiment to understand and explain phenomena (a bit like a detective). I enjoy interacting with other researchers to gain knowledge in the field of refractory materials. The growth and learning opportunities the PhD brings are really stimulating.

What message could you give to the young generation?    

Do not think that a field is inaccessible and take the initiative to discover it. 


This project has received funding from
the European Union's Horizon Europe
research and innovation program under
grant agreement no.101072625