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Most exciting is to start from scratch

Morandise Rubini, guest researcher at InnoRenew CoE, PhD student at Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour; main area of research: analytical chemistry

  • Where were you living in childhood and where do you live now?

I was born in Martinique, a French island (overseas department) located in the Caribbean. I spent all of my childhood and adolescence in Martinique. Thereafter, I went to France, more precisely to Paris, to begin my university studies in chemistry. Now I live in the southwest of France where I am PhD student. And more currently, as part of my PhD, I am visiting InnoRenew CoE for a three-month period.

  • What have you studied and what were the motives for your decision?

When I started my studies, I dreamed of becoming a high school physics and chemistry teacher. And the more I advanced in the concepts of physics and chemistry, the more I liked chemistry, in the sense of material analysis. So, during my bachelor’s degree, I chose to major in analytical chemistry. I took the same field during my master’s degree (MRes), with a speciality in chemometrics. Chemometrics is almost essential in analytical chemistry to master statistical and mathematical tools.

  • How would you describe your work to someone outside your field?

The work of researchers (as a PhD student) consists, above all, of finding solutions to the problems posed. Beyond this mission, what is most interesting is to compare your ideas with those of others, to gain skills and knowledge, to participate in conferences, to promote your work, and above all, when you get prizes, it’s much more rewarding.

My PhD student work consists of developing new solutions to be able to analyze matter in a much faster and more reliable way. The keys to this success are spectroscopy (interaction between light radiation and matter) and mathematical models!

  • What does your typical working day look like?

There is no typical working day; it depends on the deadlines.

Some days, I am in the laboratory to do experiments, other days I analyze my data, yet other days I do scientific valuation (writing articles, summaries for conferences, etc.); sometimes I do administrative things or even teach undergraduate students.

For sure, most of my time is in the lab.

  • What makes you excited about your work?

When I start from zero.

This moment, when I do the bibliography to find out more about the subject — what has already been done — in order to bring something new, and exclusive!

This moment is often accompanied by discussion with the people who follow the project. And then, ultimately, the results of all the work.

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

The biggest would be to juggle with three different specialities: wood science to understand the raw material, and to be able to choose the best analytical techniques; spectroscopy to understand the interaction between light radiation and matter; chemometrics to create mathematical models that are the most suitable.

  • Which scientist or scientific achievement are you fascinated by and why?

I would say Marie Curie for her work on rare radioactive substances because this has allowed the development of new applications in many fields, including medicine.

All Marie Curie accomplishments: first female to be a Doctor of Physical Sciences, to have obtained the Nobel Prize, and also, to hold two Nobel Prizes.

  • Tell us about the work of art (books, music, movies, theatre, dance, visual arts) that has a special place in your life.

Photography has a preponderant place in my life. I’ve been doing photography since I was a teenager. My first camera was a Praktica MTL 5, a film camera that I purchased used. I am a fan of black and white photography, even though I haven’t done much for years. I have always admired the work of Sebastião Salgado, his relationship to humanity, and the actions he has undertaken in this direction for many years. In the same vein, I can also speak of Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s work. More recently, I got into aerial photography because it brings another dimension to the photos. Slovenia is a great playground to practice.

  • What have you read, listened to, or watched lately?

I am currently reading a book on Instagram and the art of having followers (Ah-ah!). I’m not interested at all, but many people are pushing me to create a public Instagram account to show my photos and some videos.

The last album that I listened to and appreciated was Be Right Back from Jorja Smith. I am currently watching Lupin (with Omar Sy) on Netflix.

  • Describe your very first impression of Slovenia.

In a nutshell, from everything I have been able to visit so far, I really have this feeling of nature! Slovenia is definitely a green country.

  • Which place on the Slovene coast do you like the most?

Piran is the most beautiful town on the Slovenian coast. I love narrow and colourful streets that remind me of those of beautiful Mediterranean villages. Thanks to their narrowness, these small streets are in the shade and their coolness is pleasant when it is hot.

  • What makes you enthusiastic?

I get very enthusiastic when I see a good photo series. Whether it is from me, or from someone else. It is still a bit complicated to define how to characterize a good series of photos, but I always assume that behind each photo there is a story.

  • Characterize your life’s guidance or an important realization (or epiphany) you have experienced.

Always stay calm.

  • What does the charm of wood mean to you?

Wood is a material that brings warmth to its environment; it is comforting, relaxing. I sometimes listen to and watch videos of wood burning in a fireplace.