Saturday, October 22, 2016

An Experimental Life

Abdelkrim Toumi is a new postdoctoral fellow here in the Lab who started with us in September. Originally from Corsica, he completed his PhD studies at Aix-Marseille in France.

By Abdelkrim Toumi

As a new member of the “Planetary Volatiles Laboratory” group for my first postdoctoral fellowship, everything was new to me when I arrived a month ago. First, the environment… I left my family, friends and my home country (France) to live and work in Canada. The day of my arrival (so after a very, very long trip), I put my feet on the American continent for the first time of my life. It was really a shocker! Everything is bigger here than in France: buildings, streets and even the trucks. It is pretty much a new scale life for me because I come from a little town in Corsica. Luckily for me, the French culture is also present here: from indications in the subway to the food I buy in the supermarket. That made me more comfortable.

The next step was to find a place to live. Moving from one AirBnB to another was not a stable situation and it was a big source of stress and trouble for me. And this issue is not ideal to focus on work. Fortunately, I was able to find a nice home with quiet and clean roommates very quickly and not so far from the university. Having a place I can call “home” brought more stability in my life and permitted me to focus on my work more peacefully.

Talking about work… I had to face a new environment too! A new laboratory, new advisor, new colleagues, new administration… But they really helped me when I had questions or just to feel more comfortable. I enjoy belonging to this group because it has a really good atmosphere with really good people.

For my postdoctoral function, in one part, I have to manage several graduate and undergraduate students. I lead weekly meetings with them in order to follow their progress and to discuss about any prospective issue. It is really interesting because it can be for both experimental and computational researches. I see myself as a project manager and I have never experienced this role before. On the other part, I have also to lead my own research. I am working on a simulation chamber supposed to reproduce particular zones of the Moon called “PSR” (for Permanently Shadowed Regions). The experiment is not ready yet because I have to figure out the best configuration. To do so, one important task for a researcher is to purchase instruments at the lowest cost but also regarding at the quality (and that can be really tricky).

Since my arrival, I had to go through big changes. I consider these last ones as a huge step in my career and life (at least, I hope so). I rather see this as an experiment where every parameter has to be taken into account (finding my marks, reaching new environments, doing everything I can for the “real” experiment). That is why I consider all the moments spent here for the last month as an experimental life.

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