Postdoc Spotlight - Dr. Marie Billaud

November, 2015



In what field was your PhD? How did you arrive at this specialization?

I received my PhD in vascular physiology from the University of Bordeaux in France, where I was working on pulmonary hypertension. My research was focused on cellular communication via gap junctions between the different cell types constituting the vascular wall of small pulmonary arteries.  During my time in Bordeaux, I was trained to study the regulation of vascular tone in small arteries using a unique technique that I later developed at the University of Virginia from 2010 to 2014 as a postdoc.


What is your current research project?

My current work focuses on understanding the mechanisms leading to thoracic aortic aneurysm in patients with a bicuspid aortic valve. Because 1-2% of the population has a bicuspid aortic valve, and because these patients are much more at risk of developing a thoracic aortic aneurysm, it is essential to better understand how aneurysms arise in these patients.  I work exclusively on patients’ cells, and I am tackling my project from different angles focused on the different cell types constituting the aortic wall.


Tell us about a great experience or opportunity you’ve had in the past year.

I was a judge at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh in May earlier this year. I was amazed and really impressed by the high quality of the posters, and the dedication and passion of the students there.  I love that kids in this country have so many opportunities to be creative and do what they love.


What do you hope the next step in your career path will be?

I am working on getting a faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh.


If not a scientist, what would you be?

I would most probably work with animals; maybe a vet, or maybe working in a zoo or an animal rescue center.