Assistant Research Professor
Barcelona Institute for Global Health | ISGlobal

I have a background in sport sciences. I received my PhD in Human Movement Sciences from the University of Montpellier (France) in 2017. The objective of my thesis was to understand the role of specific motivational factors in the adoption of an active lifestyle during and after rehabilitation programs. 

After my PhD, I started a postdoc at the University of California San Diego (US) in a team interested in the design of eHealth interventions, and notably the development of apps supporting adaptive behavior changes. 

I joined ISGlobal (Barcelona, Spain) in October 2020 as a tenure-track assistant research professor and head of the eHealth group. I am interested in the dynamic of behavior changes in the contexts of health and climate change.

IMG_0817Black’s Beach – La Jolla, CA.

Thoughts, September 2022.

Originally, I studied sport sciences. In France we call it “STAPS”. I was interested in the social aspects of sport more than performance or physical education. For that reason, I picked the option “Adapted Physical Activity”. For 5 years, I got trained in developing physical activity and sport programs for those with special needs, notably persons living with chronic health issues. The objective was to set up programs that could ultimately help these persons to take care of themselves, autonomously, by adding physical activity to their life. I enjoyed that time (2008-2013)! These years in STAPS were reenergizing for me after middle and high school where I mostly felt I was wasting my time and had a hard time graduating from one level to another.

During my master in Montpellier (2011-2013), I had the chance to meet two great mentors: Ahmed Jerome Romain, PhD student at that time, and Julie Boiché, assistant professor, both interested in the role of motivation towards physical activity. Thanks to them, I started enjoying my time on PubMed, linking concepts together, setting-up experiments, collecting data and analyzing it; in other words, doing research! The broad question that interested us at that time was how to foster motivation and behavior change for physical activity in adults with chronic health issues. I did my master with them and it was pretty clear at the end that doing a PhD was the logical next step for me. In 2013 I started a second master degree with a stronger “research orientation” and a specialization in health psychology; the objective was to put me on a good track to obtain a PhD fellowship.

I finally had different PhD opportunities at the end of this second master and with Julie we decided to join a private group specialized in the rehabilitation of chronic diseases, the research department being managed by Nelly Héraud, that became my co-supervisor. During my PhD (2014-2017), I bridged the gap between these two environments: the academic one, a health psychology lab and this group of rehabilitation clinics. In three years, we managed to recruit hundreds of participants, conducted four original studies, published quite a lot of papers on the role of a specific motivational variable -implicit attitudes- in the adoption and maintenance of physical activity during and after rehabilitation, participated to a lot of scientific meetings and had a very good time together. I can’t be more grateful for the support all along the journey, notably from Julie and Nelly.


I took my first scientific turn after my PhD, when I decided to join Eric Hekler and Job Godino in San Diego as a postdoc (2018-2020). This transition was intentional. At that time, I also got the opportunity to join another great place in the US and to keep working on my PhD topic, but I wanted to open-up my horizon, learn new methods and do something different. Eric and Job were both into what we call eHealth, or digital health. Setting up behavior change interventions, mostly for physical activity, using wearables, apps and other digital means. In San Diego, I strengthen my methodological and statistical skills, started to learn about time series and went from time series to complex systems theory and related concepts such as early warning signals. I spent hours on R (merci Dario for the support!) and progressively, by observing time series of human behaviors on my computer, totally change my mind about how I should approach behavior changes (merci Olga and Eric!).


In San Diego, I also quickly felt cognitive dissonance about my new “eHealth orientation”. On one hand, doing behavioral sciences with wearables and smartphones drastically improved my understanding of human behavior changes, on the other, I could not assume being a promoter of this “connected way of life”. I don’t know whether it’s a cause or a consequence, but at that time I started reading the books written by a French engineer specialist in metals scarcity: Phillipe Bihouix, (tentative English translation) “The age of low tech” and “Happiness was for tomorrow”. Add to this, the one by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens “How everything can collapse”, Ugo Bardi “Beyond the collapse: the other side of growth”, or again the 70’s classic “The limits to growth” and, from there, I definitively stopped being technology-enthusiast! These books helped me understand the finitude of our world, the concept of planetary boundaries, and how urgent it was to slow down in every aspect of our life (at least us, rich people from rich countries) and take a low-tech route.


Synchronicity. While I was trying to manage my cognitive dissonance, my colleague and friend Paquito Bernard, assistant professor at Montreal, sent me a commentary he just wrote and entitled “Health psychology at the age of the anthropocene”. This piece of research was a call to bridge the discipline of health psychology and the topics of climate change / planetary health. Soon after he offered me to work with him on a systematic review on physical activity and climate change. From there, and thanks to him, I realized that a research transition towards the climate change topic was doable and then I quickly got into the scientific literature on this topic, obviously the IPCC reports, but also the Lancet Countdown reports, and other prospective articles about the earth’s trajectory, etc. Beyond this academic literature, I spent hours listening podcasts of experts with decades of experience in the domain, such as Denis Meadows or Jean Marc Jancovici, among others. I started realizing how stuck we were in our “business as usual scenario” and experienced the meaning of the word solastalgia. 


A safe behavioral response to this, I guess, was to start “working” on climate change and create bridges between my interests. First, I took some reports from the grey literature about the negative environmental impact of information and communication technologies and wrote a commentary about this idea for the digital health community with some principles of actions. I’m not sure this initiative had, and will have, a great impact beyond the management of my cognitive dissonance. Although not everything is bad in digital health, the field is quite stuck into techno-solutionism and it’s gonna take years, and probably some energy and metal depletion, to see a shift in attitudes toward technology sufficiency. Then, still with Paquito and other colleagues from many horizons, we worked on a review and framework to think the bi-directional associations between climate change and health behaviors (here I want to thank Eric and Job again for letting me dedicate time to this topic during my stay with us which was not supposed to be the focus). I’m more hopeful regarding the potential impact of this article and the capacity of the health behavior community to transition towards planetary health topics, including the ones of health psychology and behavioral medicine. I believe that preventive and behavioral medicines are both the present and the future and convinced that health behaviors promoted sustainably, through human-centered and low-tech pathways, will have an increasing role to play in fostering community resilience towards climate change (see our review for examples of relevant ongoing initiatives), and this well beyond the current hype of high-tech data-driven personalized medicine.

Screenshot 2022-09-24 at 15.10.53

Sometimes planets are aligned. During my postdoc, Judith Garcia Aymerich, Professor of public health at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), and who was supporting me with several postdoc applications, shared with me an offer for a position of tenure-track assistant professor at ISGlobal, with a focus on eHealth. Fun fact, she did not encourage me to apply at all, but to share it in my network! ISGlobal is a world-renown center on the topic of planetary health and the impact of pollution and climate change on human health. That was a perfect fit for me and I decided to not share the job offer but to apply! Arguably, I was relatively well positioned given that very few persons in the eHealth domain care about environmental and planetary health. Having this “double orientation” probably played in my favor and I got the position.

When I started at ISGlobal, in October 2021, some persons told me that it was a great move for my “job security”. To be honest, I could not care less about job security and I don’t even think that it’s a relevant concept nowadays given the context and the incoming intricated ecological, energy and social crises. The point is just that, now that I opened my eyes on climate change, I could not spend my day not trying to contribute to the challenge, and, for now, I think that ISGlobal is a great place for this.

With that said, there are many ways of contributing to it and, these last two years, I’ve been oscillating between different things from adaptation- to mitigation-oriented projects. My interest from the beginning of my academic path is in behavior change, so I started from there. For example, my colleagues and I are developing a behavior change intervention aiming at promoting healthy sustainable diets by providing adaptive and tailored educational content over a year among adults from Barcelona. I’m also engaged in projects focused on adaptation to climate change and notably the prevention of heat-related health issues, still with a focus on behavioral outcomes such as sleep. Oscillating between these two topics, I had difficulties drawing my own mid-term perspectives in the last months. The optimistic me going towards mitigation-oriented projects, i.e., promoting sustainable behavior changes, and the pessimist realistic me being more interested in topics such as behavioral adaptivity and resilience for crises preparedness.

I’m now more nuanced about these two terms and related topics. In terms of behavior change, my current position is that -anyway- we will soon have to adapt and volitional/intentional behavior changes have to be thought together with non-intentional/undergo changes imposed by the context. Communicating on, and promoting, sustainable behavior changes and sufficiency is thus a form of preparation and early adaptation; it’s sad for a behavioral scientist to note that what pro-environmental behavior change interventions have failed to achieve will be managed by energy crises but humans probably need to be in front of the wall to change (even if we can find some inspiring counter-examples!). One challenge that motivates me now in this context is to understand how to best safeguard and promote mental and physical health in the context of radical behavior changes imposed by the intricated energy and climate crisis. This accounting for equity and social justice given that this transition will probably be more hardcore for the most deprived of us and this cannot be set apart when thinking behavior changes. I also feel the need to get closer to real life in my research. Running idiographic research, n-of-1 trials and case studies has been a first step towards this objective and I now have to spend more time disseminating research outcomes to larger audiences and eventually start developing citizen science projects.

Conclusion. In academia, transitions take time and you don’t always have fully the choice, so I’m still driving projects not directly related to climate change and it’s gonna take time to be fully committed. Obviously, my future in academia will also depend on the grants that I’m able to get in the next years, it is how it works. At least, I know that if at some point I feel that I’m not actively contributing to what I perceive as important, I’m fully ready to left and do something else. Careers are no longer important and, at least for me, it feels good to be clear with that. I made myself a promise this last summer: do not commit to any projects that will not have a relatively direct and short-term positive contribution to the current context. Right now, I’m trying to put this into practice! It’s a privilege to have the time to think and write these few lines and the mission is to not waste it.  

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