University of Lyon > Research > EURAXESS mobility centre. > Foreign scientists

Mark Forwood, Associate Professor of Anatomy at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Mark ForwoodPlease, would you mind to introduce yourself ? That means, could you tell us something about your home country and your research area?
Mark Forwood PhD : I am an Associate Professor of Anatomy at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. My research centres on skeletal biology, particularly factors that influence bone fragility during ageing, tissue adaptation and disorders like osteoporosis.

When did you arrive at Lyon and how long will you stay at Lyon? Did you come with your family?
I arrived for a year of sabbatical study-leave in April 2007 and will return to Brisbane at the end of May 2008. I came to Lyon with my wife and 7 children aged from 5 to 11 years, so it was a very busy time integrating into an apartment (large enough for une famille nombreuse ), French life and French administration. Naturally, visits to the Prefecture du Rhone with the whole family were always a joy to behold. My family returned to Brisbane in July to continue schooling and related activities, leaving me to profit from more time in the laboratory and to complete the French administration and training in French culture and French life (obligatory for applicants to a titre de sjour !).

For what reasons did you opt for Lyon? Did somebody advised you to go to Lyon or was it your personal choice ?
There is a leading international laboratory in clinical and basic research in disorders of bone and mineral metabolism in the Facult de Mdecine, Universit Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL).The Head of INSERM Unit 831, Professor Pierre Delmas, is internationally renowned for his work in the field of osteoporosis and its treatment. The opportunity to work with this group prompted my decision to come to Lyon, and this was reinforced by a successful application for a position of Professeur Associ at the UCBL

Did you learn / improve the french language during your stay ?
I spoke some French on arrival, but have not had time to undertake any language courses while in Lyon. However, my French has improved, and despite the high level of English in the laboratory, we speak French 95% of the time (reverting only to English for me to avoid a technical catastrophe due to a misunderstanding). The group has been very welcoming, helpful and intellectually stimulating, and it will be with a large amount of regret that I return to my normal academic duties in Brisbane.

Could you go a little bit off to explore Lyon? And what did you discover?
Did your discovery match with your expectations ?
Compared to Brisbane (which is a public transport nightmare), public transport around Lyon is a delight (especially on the driverless line D) and most of the city is accessible quite rapidly. This is a great advantage for a foreign researcher to be able to avoid hours of travelling that might be necessary at home or in some other large cities. It also avoids the need to buy or lease a car. In Lyon, it never ceases to amaze me to turn a corner and find yet another beautiful and historic building, Roman architecture or of course the Basilique de Notre Dame de Fourvire watching over the city. All of which emphasise the relative youth of European history in Australia. The diversity of Lyonnaise cuisine has also been a pleasure to discover, except of course when standing on my scales!

What is Lyon's main asset for international researchers?
During the past 3 years, the focus of the basic research in this unit moved towards understanding changes in the bone matrix that contribute to increased fracture risk in osteoporosis (independent of the overall loss in bone mass). These factors have been termed bone quality , to differentiate them from bone quantity. The opportunity to profit from the range of techniques available in the one laboratory (such as biochemistry, histomorphometry, spectroscopy, microradiography, micro-computed tomography, and biomechanics) was a stimulus to spend a year of study-leave pursuing a project on the aetiology of vertebral fracture. The combination of the clinical studies and these techniques in basic science have been very stimulating and the opportunity to return to benchwork for an extended period has been very rewarding. The projects developed during this period will continue. They have also germinated new projects that will ensure ongoing collaboration and return to Lyon, albeit for shorter periods of time. The ability to combine this science, with a rich cultural life in Lyon has been an advantage for a foreign researcher, along with Lyon's proximity to other European research centres, the Mediterranean coast, the alps or Paris. But, apart from the Rugby World Cup, I have only encountered two other Australians working in research in Lyon, so far.

What has been the most important practical service or assistance you could get from the mobility center?
The assistance from the Centre de Mobilit in Lyon, and Mme Jocelyne Fayard was invaluable. General information from the Fondation Kastler was helpful, but legal advice on applying for an appropriate titre de sjour in relation to my family, and assistance with the initial administration for the first visit to the Prfecture, ensured that I encountered no problems during this process. Jocelyne also acted as an effective intermediary with the secretariat of our INSERM unit, ensuring that the unit was well informed of the requirements for accepting a foreign researcher. Advice on the healthcare system (social security), temporary accommodation and schooling for my children also helped with our integration into Lyon. I am expecting that some further advice will be necessary when it comes time to understand French taxes. Otherwise, being an academic with a specific purpose (sabbatical study), for a specific duration, mean't that I did not have a need to access other information in relation to the ERA-MORE network associated with the Centres de Mobilit.

Two words about Lyon ?
Invaluable and unforgettable

Mark Forwood