When dealing with potential problems that aren’t visible to the naked eye, you need to be detail-oriented, a characteristic that comes naturally to microbiologist Marianne Imbeau.
“Growing up, we were always encouraged to be very analytical, curious and to practice critical thinking. My dad is a geologist and my sister is a chemist and there were always science magazines lying around the house,” says the native of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region in western Quebec. Imbeau moved to Montreal, a city she loves, for university, finishing her MSc in 2010. While in school, she held internships with the government and in research labs before deciding that the private sector offered the dynamism she was looking for in a career.
As the only microbiology expert in the quality control department at L’Oréal Canada, she performs tests to make sure there are no living microorganisms like mould, yeast or bacteria in raw material and finished hair care products like conditioner. Imbeau also verifies that production equipment is properly washed, disinfected and maintained in order to avoid contamination and to meet high product standards.
After more than a year in her position, even though employees have the opportunity to try out different positions and career paths, Imbeau is quite content where she is. She not only succeeded in mastering the microbiology work but has also become the department’s hygiene specialist and even provided training to the plant’s employees on how to apply good microbiology practices.
“When you work in a lab, you need to develop a technical expertise but you also need to use your head to communicate the results; it’s a good mix of hands-on work and problem solving,” says the 28-year-old scientist.
Microbiology, she says, is compelling because on a basic level, it applies to our everyday lives.
“When I speak to people who aren’t in the scientific community, they easily understand what I do. For example, when I talk about pathogens… well, we’ve all been sick before with an infection. It’s not so abstract.”