Dr. Maria Lbadaoui-Darvas is a scientist at LAPI. She joined EPFL in 2017 as post-doc at APRL, under the leadership of Dr. Satoshi Takahama. Her main expertise is molecular level characterisation of aerosol processes using molecular dynamics and Monte Carlo simulations in conjunction with statistical thermodynamics.
Can you say a few words about yourself?
– I come from Hungary, and I grew up in Budapest. I obtained my master degree in chemistry there, with a thesis about molecular simulations of fluid interfaces. I did a PhD in co-tutelle between Hungary and France, where I started working on atmospheric aerosol and the topic fascinated me. After a short venture into computational biophysics as a postdoc in Trieste, I started interacting with the lab that was called APRL at the time, first as external collaborator, later as a post-doc, which lead me to my current position.
Did you choose your profession or did it choose you?
– Both. Research requires a lot of effort and occupies one’s mind 24/7, but it offers continuous development, and reminds us to be critical but humble. It is a perfect job for someone as energetic as I am.
What attracted you to join LAPI?
– LAPI is a melting pot of various expertises in the field of atmospheric measurements and modelling with a worldwide collaboration network, and being part of it is challenging and stimulating at the same time. Personally, working at LAPI is a unique opportunity to promote molecular simulations as tools in the hands of atmospheric scientists, and specify its role using input from some of the biggest experts of the field.
Can you speak about the projects you are currently working on and other ones in the past?
– I am working on molecular simulations of aerosol/water interactions. The main objective is to retrieve quantitative thermodynamic data from my simulations and use them in larger scale models. Another focal point of my research is identifying driving forces of condensational growth on the level of individual particles. Besides, I am also part of new and very interesting project to improve theoretical description of droplet and ice nucleation. Past projects related to atmospheric processes included calculating adsorption isotherms
of organics on ice and surface-to-bulk partitioning of water and dicarboxylic acids in nanoaerosol. Some interesting unrelated ones were explaining why the effect of general anaesthetics is reverted at high pressure, and modelling competitive adsorption of polymers and surfactants at the air/water interface.
What have been some of your biggest challenges?
– Learning to present my research. It is an important skill for modern scientists to be able to “sell” their ideas, and it is often overlooked in formal education. For me it has been a difficult journey with some painful experience, and I am definitely not at the end of it.
You split your time between teaching and research. How do you view these two roles?
– Currently, research occupies most of my time. The most attractive thing in teaching is immediate feedback and contact with students. It is also an intellectual challenge to decipher reactions and be prepared to explain concepts in different ways adapted to different ways of thinking and backgrounds.
What do you enjoy to do, outside of science and research?
– Spending time with my family in nature is of course the most important. Being a dance instructor I also enjoy preparing and teaching courses, seeing my group develop on the individual level and also as a whole.
Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?
– Trieste for its 19th century charm and the incredible 200 km/h windstorms. Also Morocco, for its chaotic beauty, but even more for the natural openness of people.
A free thought for the end?
– Move forward and keep equilibrium.