Timothée is a computational ecologist, working at the interfaces between biodiversity sciences and machine learning. Since 2015, he is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Université de Montréal.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?

Pro-pun

3 Do you have any pets?

Three young kids, including twins, doesn’t leave a lot of time for pets!

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

No

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?

Cooking

6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Savory

7 Do you speak any other languages?

Native French, a bit of Québécois, and a frankly questionable number of programming languages.

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Typesetting, book design, or pen making

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Pure mathematics

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Corsica, or New Zealand. Islands are magical places.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation, or the ability to manifest snacks out of thin air. I’d be fine with either.

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz, and the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin. Both are some of the most thought-provoking fiction I have read in a very long time.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Go for a walk with the kids, play some music, maybe think about science a bit?

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Stationery, music, and food

15 What beverage gives you life?

Lapsang Souchong or Scotch. I love tastes that are hard to like.

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Either the Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, or Existentialism is a Humanism, by Sartre, because I was 100% THAT teenager.

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

It was a difficult choice between musician and scientist

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

Curiosity. One of the most important privileges of academia is that we can explore ideas “just because”, and this is one of the things that sustains me.

19 What got you excited in science?

Solving puzzles!

20 What excites you about science now?

Mentoring and teaching!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

ICE CREAM

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I almost always finish preparing a dish within 5 seconds of the oven beeping because it has reached the right temperature. I always make a big show of it.

23 What is your favorite game?

I play video games quite a bit, my favorite is probably Bloodborne. It’s very hard, full of monsters, arcane knowledge, questionable fashion sense, and set in an uncaring universe. It reminds me of academia for some reason.

24 What is the last book you read?

Modeling Infectious Diseases in Humans and Animals, by Keeling & Rohani. I re-read this every few years, and it is a wonderful book linking theory to concepts.

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

“Take it easy, but take it.”, which a good friend borrowed from… Woodie Guthrie?

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Ski jumping – I’ve done a lot of skiing, but this? No. No thank you. I like my bones unbroken.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

It will get worse, but then it will get so much better. But lose the manbun.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Fencing. Absurdly intense effort, constant feeling of danger, and the promise of physical pain. What’s not to like? But it requires an empty mind and full focus, which is very relaxing.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Some TikTok video shared in the lab’s slack. I wish I had a more dignified answer, but I feel no shame over this.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

It was a shopping bag: machete, four wildlife cameras, 1kg of salt, pink ribbons, miniature shovel, and a kid colouring book – the poor cashier was terrified. And then I realized and said “Oh eh eh some of that is for science”, which helped exactly as much as you think it did.

31 What is your favorite animal?

The mighty raccoon. So noble. #goals

32 What is your favorite book?

Les Yeux d’Elsa, a collection of poems by Louis Aragon

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Sour Cream & Onion Pringles

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

September 22

35 What is your favorite plant?

Cypripedium, which I had to look up on google (“that one pinkish plant that’s like a bag but pretty like, y’know?”) because I am physically unable to care about taxonomy or natural history

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Rosalind Franklin discovered the structure of DNA, and that’s a fact

37 What is your favorite season?

Fall

38 What is your favorite smell?

Warm bread

39 What is your favorite sound?

The gentle little scritch scritch sounds of pen on paper

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

This is going to sound incredibly vain, but have you seen my hair? This is a work of art.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

I love the French word “sortable”, which means “someone you can take out of the house without being embarassed”. We of course only use the negative “pas sortable”.

42 What is your proudest moment?

Our wedding day – though it was an equal mix of pride and surprise that my wife saw me and thought “yeah, that will do” – absolutely baffling move

43 What kind of tree would you be?

An Ent, definitely. I want to be able to move around, tell people that I don’t feel like talking, and then just stand around and photosynthesize for a few years.

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

The food and the accents, which in Montréal come from all over the world.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

It is impossible to comb a tennis ball, because there is no nonvanishing continuous tangent vector field on even-dimensional n-spheres. One direct consequence is that in high humidity environments, a tennis ball works well as a whiteboard eraser. You can totally comb a bagel, if you have to.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Nelson Stauffer, @NelsonStauffer on twitter