Hélène studied at Ecole normale supérieure (1977–1981) and completed her Ph.D. (1981–1986) at the Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Université Paris Sud, in Orsay. From 1987 to 1988 she was a consultant for Bell Laboratories. In 1988 she returned to the Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, where she is now Directeur de Recherche. Her present research interests include the study of quantum transport in mesoscopic systems and carbon nanotubes and low temperature molecular electronics.
A decade ago, experimentalists showed that persistent currents can flow in nonsuperconducting mesoscopic metal rings, but there was no theory that correctly explained the magnitude or direction of the unexpectedly large currents. Theorists are now proposing a simple idea that may at last explain these results.