Ruthenian scientist Jean-François Mayol found freedom in… the cells!

A 49-year-old native of Rodez, the head of service at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, is a specialist in flow cytometry.

Flow cytometry is a technique for the individual, quantitative and qualitative characterization of particles suspended in a liquid. A device causes particles, molecules or cells to travel at high speed in a laser beam. The light emitted, by diffusion or fluorescence, from the cytometer makes it possible to count and classify the studied population according to different criteria.” So much for the official (and scientific) definition of flow cytometry.

Used in hematology, oncology, immunology, but also in oceanology, this technique is the specialty of Aveyronnais Jean-François Mayol, (recognised) specialist in the field. The Aveyronnais studied it, developed it and teach it today at the University of Lausanne, directing a (very) international service in Switzerland with five people: a Frenchman, a German, an English-speaking Canadian, a Spaniard and a Colombian. Who train, accompany, help about 400 users, from a hundred different university groups.

She even fed several of his books, two of which have already traveled the world: “Cell cycle and flow cytometry”, released in February 2010, and “Flow cytometry”, ten years later. This 49-year-old researcher joined this city in the French-speaking canton of Vaud, located on Lake Geneva (home of the International Olympic Committee), in November 2021. “I am very happy with this return to the academic field, he guarantees. I took the opportunity to be responsible for this technical platform, which has twenty-five different instruments, and to do basic research”.

One more line on his already well-stocked resume. But, has he exhausted the field of possibilities? The answer is unequivocal: “The spectrum is still very wide, but it is above all a story with content. My engine is learning things every day. I remained a child who didn’t grow up and who needs to have fun”. when asked if he’s brilliant, he is categorical: “I don’t have that feeling. On the other hand, passionate, yes!”.

A collection of Abeyron branded shirts

Jean-François Mayol was born in Rodez, on April 19, 1973, the son of a father originally from Rodez (a family of merchants, greengrocers, on rue Neuve), while, on his mother’s side, his grandparents were Lithuanian and Polish immigrants, settled as agricultural workers in Salles-Curan. “Some called me the grandson of the Spaniard (his paternal grandfather had come from Mallorca, editor’s note), others the grandson of the Pole, remember. I feel neither one nor the other. I prefer to say that I am from everywhere”.

Having grown up in Rodez, passing through the primary school of Sainte-Procule and the College Saint-Joseph, he had to settle for second grade at the College Sainte-Marie. He has not forgotten: “A catastrophic year! As I wanted to become a mounted rural guard, my advisor encouraged me to enter the La Roque school in Onet-le-Château for a baccalaureate. Then he continued his studies in Montpellier, at the IUT, with the diploma of “laboratory technician in biological and biochemical analyses”.

With a sudden eye on the veterinary profession, he failed the exam but, on the advice of a former teacher, resumed his university career, with a qualification and later a master’s degree in biochemistry. And finally a DESS, still in Montpellier. “I found my path and became a better student,” he says.

After his military service, carried out as a contingent scientist in a research laboratory (in yellow fever) of the Ministry of Defense in Marseille in 1998, the year of the soccer World Cup in France (the former fencer of the Rodez club appreciated the performances and … the atmosphere), he returned to Aveyron for a few months. Before working in Grenoble, at a research center (completed by a doctorate in continuing education), then at Archamps, as scientific director of a young start-up, in Geneva and finally in Lausanne.

Jean-François Mayol has the sense of the formula to qualify his bond with Aveyron. “I certainly didn’t cut the cord, but the elastic wears a little over time, he readily admits. But I cultivate my roots, of which I am very proud. There are values ​​that I maintain. My identity is there, extremely strong”.

Father of a 12-year-old boy, who lives with his mother in Haute-Savoie, with whom he practices sports he would never have imagined (“I started skating there two years ago”), he continues, with a big smile : “I always have several boxes of tripous in the cupboard and I regularly prepare dishes from the land, like cheese soup”.

And when he returns, two or three times a year, he also respects a tradition: completing his collection of shirts printed with the Abeyron bee, created ten years ago by Daniel Monteillet and Dominique Alaux.

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