METM23 presentation

What does it take to become (and remain) a scientific translator? A two-tale perspective

Katarzyna Szymańska, Archamps, France; Audrey Bernard-Petitjean, Coubon, France 

Scientific translation is a very particular variety among professional language services. Have you ever wondered what is really behind the seemingly straightforward label of a “scientific translator”? What does it take to become one? Is there one best recipe for continued success? The two speakers will try to answer these questions by sharing their perspectives and their own experience from the field.

Coming from different backgrounds and yet frequently crossing paths, they will not simply tell their stories but will rather confront their views and look into various aspects of the scientific translator’s life and business from different angles. Even though, at first glance, their profiles look similar (both are cancer scientists, to cite just one obvious convergence), their careers as scientific translators have been, in fact, quite different. Audrey entered a path towards becoming a life scientist without much hesitation, followed it straight, and some years later found herself making an unexpected brisk choice of switching from full-time scientific researcher to full-time scientific translator. Katarzyna has always followed a multi-track course, with several layers of activities many people would consider irreconcilable. Today, they are both freelancers and have two working languages in common, but their clienteles and work organisation are very different. All this gives rise to many differences in their viewpoints on the arcane tricks of the scientific translator’s profession. Or maybe not that many? Surprises are in the offing.

By pondering their views on different issues relevant for scientific translators, editors and writers, the speakers will offer useful insights to those who have just started or are considering starting a career in the field. However, their stories and practical considerations may provide inspiring food for thought also to more seasoned colleagues, who will be able to relate their own views and experience to those of the speakers. Ultimately, the listeners will learn about different pathways to success in the field. They will also gain some practical advice on how to remain in business, enjoying both professional and personal fulfilment.

About the presenters

Katarzyna Szymańska has a PhD in biological sciences, a postgraduate study diploma in translation, and international experience in both fields. As a founder of Science to the Point (, she works with scientists and medical doctors as a translator and editor. She also runs CPD workshops for scientific translators.

Audrey Bernard-Petitjean has a PhD in life sciences (specialty: molecular and cellular biology of cancer). In 2008, she decided to become an English-into-French translator and launched her freelance activity. She specialises in scientific, technical and medical translation and has a particular interest in public health and infectious diseases.