They make the Université de Lyon: meet Alexandra Pech

On The June 21, 2019

The École urbaine de Lyon met with Alexandra Pech, an Anthropology PhD student at the ENS de Lyon, whose thesis subject is based on food and the Anthropogenic Era.

Tell us about your journey before your thesis?

Following a literary baccalaureate, I decided to attend a preparatory course, as I was not ready to choose a major directly after high school. It was during these two years that I found a passion for challenges related to food and agriculture. I wanted to discover more about farming, and that's how I had my first WWOOFing experience (volunteer work on a farm). During this preparatory course, I also managed to link my long-standing interest in understanding non-European ways of thinking and cultural practices to a recognizable field of study: anthropology.

After my preparatory course, I went on to complete a bachelor's degree in anthropology at the Université Paris Descartes, and then a Master's in Territorial and Social Dynamic Environments (EDTS) of the Museum of Natural History in Paris, with a focus on “environmental anthropology”.

For my end-of-study research internship, I had the opportunity to spend three months in a suburban community in the Ecuadorian Amazon in order to study the local food model as part of a nutrition education project. This experience made me want to pursue doctoral research.

After my master's degree, I took a year off from studying to build a research project that resulted in obtaining a doctoral contract at the École urbaine de Lyon!

What thesis subject are you working on? What are the challenges and objectives?

Since October 2018, I have been conducting research that mixes geography and anthropology around the concept of teenagers' “food environment”. Specifically, I am interested in how different factors intertwine in a teenager's life, and how these can influence their eating habits, be it the family, friends, school, the media, etc. I am conducting this research using Project Marguerite, an educational initiative based on food and agriculture, which has been adopted in several middle-schools, both in the Lyon area and abroad.

My work's primary aim is to better understand the various factors that influence teenagers' eating habits.

The main aim of this research is to produce a decision-making tool to bring together those who contribute to teenagers' food environment, such as retailers, parents, politicians, teachers, the teenagers themselves, etc.

What scientific and educational opportunities does the Lyon Urban School provide?

In addition to the “Additional Skills in Anthropogenic Urban Studies” doctoral program, the EUL offers its PhD students many opportunities to acquire skills which are useful both inside and outside the research world. Not only did I have the opportunity to attend many scientific lectures proposed by the EUL, I also had the opportunity to speak during a public debate at the Municipal Archives of Lyon, and to host a radio show during the “At School in the Anthropogenic Era” festival last January, and another in June, as part of Anthropocenic Wednesdays, based on the theme of urban agriculture.

Interview by Anne Guinot, École urbaine de Lyon.