Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Rémy Lapere, I am a French alumnus of the Energy Environment: Science Technology & Management (STEEM) MSc&T of École Polytechnique. I am currently starting my third year as a PhD student in atmospheric chemistry at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD), École Polytechnique.
Could you please tell us more about your PhD?
I work at the LMD, an academic lab dedicated to research in the fields of global and regional climate, air pollution and renewable energies, from many perspectives (on-site observation, remote sensing, modelling…). My PhD, conducted here at École Polytechnique, is entitled “Observation and modelling of pollution events in Chile” and tries to answer many latent questions surrounding atmospheric pollution in this highly contaminated region. To do so, my research combines the use of data from local air quality stations, satellite observations, and chemistry-transport modelling with our in-house model (and trips to Chile).
Was it easy for you to find a laboratory to pursue your PhD once you graduated?
Thanks to the STEEM Master program, we have the chance to meet researchers from LMD, as many of them teach courses in the Master. As a result, I was able to discuss internship and PhD opportunities with professors researching on my favourite topics, which made it easy to obtain my PhD position and funding. One of my current supervisors was actually a professor of mine in the program.
What skills gained during the STEEM program have you been using in your current position?
The professors help us develop a broad knowledge on atmospheric science and the climate system during the Master so that the transition towards a more specialized field at the start of my PhD was smooth. Also, I currently teach classes related to renewable energies, which was made possible by the high-level curriculum of the STEEM program in this field. Finally, the industry-oriented philosophy of the Master provided me with the necessary foresight to understand the challenges and stakes of people outside the academic world working in the energy sector. That knowledge enabled me to moderate sessions at an international workshop on energy transition in the Mediterranean basin, despite my research area being somewhat unrelated.
What do you like in your work?
Is “everything” a good answer? The lab, and more generally the school, is a fertile place to keep one’s curiosity on edge at any time given the diversity of people’s profiles and fields of expertise. State-of-the-art research is conducted so you get to discuss innovative results on a regular basis. On a more personal note, I have full autonomy and discretion on the scientific questions I want to tackle, and my supervisors are there whenever I need guidance or a little nudging, which makes for ideal work conditions. Plus, the subject is, of course, of great interest to me, and finds practical implications at the interface between science and policy making, which makes it even more exciting.
What memories do you have of your time spent at l'X and in the STEEM program?
Aside from the classes, I think most of my memories relate to the time spent working together and bonding over the many group projects we conducted. But unforgettable moments were made on the sports fields as well, with the basketball practices, games, championship and the unique atmosphere of university tournaments at l’X. In fact, our team picture winning the Tournoi Sportif des Grandes Écoles de la Défense (TSGED) is still the screen background on my phone!
What are your ambitions for the future?
Although I remain open to many possibilities, academic research under a professor or a research scientist position is my target as of today. But the road towards this goal is still long, which leaves room for a change of plans along the way. Working for environmental public institutions, in a broad sense, is also an option that I’m inclined to consider.