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Catherine Grobon, Application Technician

Catherine Grobon is an Application Technician at the Centre de Recherche de l'Oise Arkema. Her job entails formulating coating resins for industrial paint. Catherine also applies her talent to naturopathy, a practice that can help us look after our health and achieve a state of wellbeing.

Arkema’s Centre de Recherche de l'Oise (CRO) is surrounded by greenery. This is Verneuil-en-Halatte, fifty or so kilometers north of Paris, on the edge of the Forest of Halatte, a precious 43 km² greenbelt bordering the Oise Pays de France regional nature park. Catherine Grobon enjoys working close to trees and nature: “We’re lucky to have a research center close to a forest. This proximity gives you a calming feeling”.

These natural surroundings are particularly relevant as the CRO center is housed in Verneuil-en-Halatte on the Ineris site, a public body acting as an expertise and research center in the identification of hazards and the evaluation and prevention of technological and environmental risks.

A lifelong passion for research

The CRO’s approximately 30 engineers and 60 technicians work on the research into and development of coating solutions. These include waterborne and solvent-based resins, sealing or calking products, and a whole range of additives for countless applications in markets served by the Arkema Coating Resins and Sartomer business units. This is where the Group’s expertise plays out in the field of specialty acrylic and methacrylic oligomers and monomers for UV and EB photo-polymerization, and of alkyd, acrylic and polyester resins for the decorative and industrial paint and specialty technologies markets (high solid content resins, acrylic emulsions). In the past year, a PVDF (polyvinylidene fluoride) resin R&D team also joined the CRO center.

Catherine Grobon focuses in particular on the formulation of coating resins for industrial paint. A chemist by training, “with a lifelong passion for research”, she has worked on the site for almost 30 years. She first joined Orkem, part of Total’s chemical branch, in the 1980s, and witnessed plenty of changes before moving to Arkema in July 2011. “With the years I have gained expertise in the formulation of coatings in several product ranges: photocure, hydrocarbon, acrylic resins among others. I’m involved in the development of new products and the evaluation of their application properties when they are processed and formulated into paints or varnishes.”

From food can manufacturers to automakers

We cover a wide array of applications. This ranges from food can manufacture to furniture and wood flooring, nail polish, wind turbine blades, and car manufacture which is one of the sectors I’m currently working for. A car’s bodywork is coated with several layers, generally speaking three: a primer, a color coat, and a topcoat. Each layer has its own specific features. Whatever resin formulation we might be working on, our guiding principle is our dedication to fulfilling our customers’ requirements. Our formulation expertise is key, and the testing and application equipment at our disposal enables us to simulate our customers’ conditions as closely as possible. Recently we invested in a state-of-the art spray booth that allows us to apply our products in proper and safe working conditions with all the necessary equipment nearby.

Taking charge daily, on our own, of our health and wellbeing

To keep mindful of expectations. This is not unlike a naturopath’s approach, as Catherine Grobon confirms: “A naturopath is an open-minded health educator. Their job is to accompany, through natural methods, those of us who are looking to make the necessary changes to take charge daily, on our own, of our health and wellbeing. Nutrition, physical activity, mental and emotional balance are the main drivers. Naturopathy is for anyone and everyone, from young age to advanced age. You can never be too young or too old to start looking after yourself!”

 

Rated by the World Health Organization as the world’s 3rd leading traditional medicine after Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, naturopathy has its origins in the world’s major medical traditions. Its practice is based on a number of core principles.

In the first place, the life force or vital energy that runs through us and exacerbates risks of illness if it is sapped. Health and hygiene practices also play a large part. They involve daily natural preventive and healing techniques. Like a healthy diet, moving, or small exercises that do you good. “Many of us spend time in front of our screens and don’t give our eyes a break. And yet there’re things you can easily do in this regard. For example, as Catherine suggests, stepping away from your screen for a few minutes every hour and look in the distance. Or a simple exercise like rubbing your hands together as if to warm them up, and then cupping them over your eyes; next, closing your eyes, breathing in and out deeply for a few minutes; this will help you relax and re-energize your eyes.”

A 100% natural personalized health cocktail

Catherine Grobon, as the case may be, offers advice on nutrition, teaches breathing exercises, practices relaxation and foot reflexology…. A 100% natural personalized health cocktail.

“I often use plants in various forms, like essential oils (aromatology), or shoot and root extracts (gemmology), or fresh or dried plant extracts (phytology). I also work on the quality and drainage of bodily fluids. There are recommended techniques for specific treatments. The choice is based on the amount of toxins in the body and its vital energy. A revitalization treatment aims for example to balance nutrition, revitalize the body, and make up for deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, etc.”

One of the naturopathy techniques, maybe the most unusual, is iridology. It entails the study of the iris of the eye, which can teach us about the person’s innate and acquired strengths and weaknesses. “The eyes are a reflection of the body, Catherine reminds us. Each iris is unique, and you can observe various signs within (pigment, texture, lines, etc.) that give an indication of the level of toxins in the body, its mineralization, the balance of the nervous system… Observation of the iris involves the use of a magnifying glass and a source of light, or an iridoscope, a kind of camera that produces accurate pictures of the iris. Iridology is often used as a complementary technique to confirm weak points discovered during a naturopathy assessment, and thus support a particular organ.”

 

Catherine is most aware of the need for a framework to oversee its practice: “In emergency cases, or cases of infectious disease, naturopaths must refer the patient to conventional medicine. They are not allowed to diagnose conditions, and are no substitute to treatment. This is the sole responsibility of a physician. However, naturopaths may be required to collaborate with other health professionals, physicians, psychologists, dentists, osteopaths, etc.”

"A deep commitment in an area I’ve always been interested in"

 

Catherine took educational leave and completed a year’s on-campus naturopath training in 2016. She gained a naturopathy certificate in a school affiliated with FENA (Fédération Française des Ecoles de Naturopathie). “In France, she says, the naturopathy qualification is not recognized, but things are changing as a “naturopathy” certificate has been included since 2017 in the national directory recognized by the State. In some way, it’s what was happening with osteopaths a few years ago.”

 

When she completed her training, Catherine decided to set up her own consulting room at her home in Breuil-le-Sec, and launched her own website. “I run this project alongside my work. In March last year, my manager allowed me to take Mondays off, which enables me to prepare my thesis (naturopathy as an aid to eye care) and so finalize my certificate and give a few consultations during the day. In my case, I wouldn’t say it’s a career change as I’m still working at the CRO center. It’s more like a deep commitment in an area I’ve always been interested in. I mean health and wellbeing. I’ve always been very active and busy. This is where I find balance in life. I can’t give 100% of myself to my work if I don’t have sporting and creative activities which act like safety valves for me. What’s more, today I work with nature!”

A philosophy of life

Could naturopathy offer us any advice? “The first thing I will be looking at is the person’s diet. In the year 450 B.C.E. Hippocrates extolled food as the top medicine. For lunch, I would advise salad or raw vegetables to start, no question about it, Catherine argues. As a main dish, some animal or vegetable protein, some carbohydrate, some legume and organic vegetables preferably. In fact, naturopathy doesn’t mean a miserable diet. On the contrary. It’s healthy and tasty food. And learning to chew, because this is a real problem. Digestive disorders often stem from that. Similarly, we need to learn to breathe properly, as most of the time we only take short breaths and aren’t even aware of it. We should be taking deep breaths. That’s very good, for example, to control our emotions better.” 

 

Isn’t all this down to common sense though? “Of course. We need to listen to our body, let reason express itself, and know our limits. I’m not saying that all this is straightforward. If we want to get back on a path to good health, we need to alter things in our daily lives. The hardest thing is taking the first step. I too, you know, have had a bit of a struggle at home! I made a few changes in my cooking, which is not always to my children’s liking. Making changes is hard. We all have our habits. We also need to be tolerant and flexible. Naturopathy involves a personal effort towards better health and wellbeing. It’s a philosophy of life.” Let’s take charge of our health and wellbeing!

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