Lucie N’Guessan’s letter to her 15-year-old self

Lucie comes from a family of scientists and engineers, and she currently works in Texas as an environmental engineer. In her spare time Lucie loves to dance, travel, socialize with friends and scuba dive.



Dear Lucie,

How are you doing these days? I heard you will be going to college in a couple of years. That is, of course, if you pass that much dreaded exam that will determine your true fate. You must be so stressed out! I have faith, however, that you will make it; and once you do, what are you plans for your future? Do you know what you would like to do next? Do you know what you would like to do for the rest of your life?

Before you answer these questions, I would like to point out this single fact:

“You do not have to decide today what you would like to do for the rest of your life.”

You are a bright girl with the ability to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. You could be a culinary master today, a nutritionist tomorrow, and the day after a medical doctor or an environmental engineer. I know you don’t believe me because today, you think you’re just an average student with not much to look forward to. But I tell you, tomorrow, you will discover all your hidden talents!

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Nevertheless, you still need to choose a direction for your future. And so you will ask me: “Where do I begin? How will I know that I will enjoy a particular profession? I can’t predict the future!” Well, my dear Lucie, you can start with what you know. You know that you can’t stand Physics, you have a limited love for Mathematics, you only enjoy some aspects of Biology,

and you love Chemistry. On the other end of the spectrum, you don’t get History (too many names, too many dates!), you don’t like writing essays about random and seemingly unimportant subjects, but you enjoy Geography. You are such a complex teenager!

Now, start a list. Ask the people who know you which profession they think would suit you best. Of course, I know you aren’t really going to make that list. That would be too much trouble for you. However, I know that the conversations you end up having with these people will give you some interesting ideas. In think you might actually start making links between your interests and the different professions that are suggested to you.

By the way, how are Mom and Dad doing? They must be as stressed as you are with Christine already at the university, and you following up really soon after. These are a lot of expenses to think about. Have you ever asked Dad how he ended up in his profession? You’ve always looked up to him, the smart and well respected electrical engineer, and wished you could one day be just like him. You should really take the time to have a chat with him because you will find that he followed the path that seemed to work best for him. Although, just like you, he could not predict the future, he armed himself with enough skills and knowledge to allow him to do what he really enjoyed. All you need to decide today is how you will arm yourself with the tools that will help you in your long life voyage.

So don’t be afraid, don’t feel intimidated, and do not compare yourself to others! You will find that what works for one person will not work for the next. You already know this…

Much Love and Much Support from your future you!

P.S.: Just letting you in on a little secret…once you get into the university, you start to understand history and really enjoy maths….weird, huh?!


Lucie N’Guessan was born and raised in Cote d’Ivoire. She graduated from the College International Jean Mermoz in 1996 and moved to the United States that year to begin her studies in environmental sciences. While studying at Minnesota State University, Mankato, she took up a second major in biochemistry. In 2000, Lucie N’Guessan enrolled into the environmental engineering master’s program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Within a year Lucie switched to the doctoral program and graduated in 2005.

After two postdoctoral studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., Lucie N’Guessan transitioned into a scientist position before making a move to Houston, Texas, to work for ExxonMobil in 2009. Lucie has two sisters within the sciences and engineering fields, including health science, computer science and software engineering; as well as a brother in college. In her free time, Lucie enjoys dancing, traveling, socializing with friends and scuba diving.

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