Mr. Ernest Abboud

Can you say a few words about yourself?
I am from Lebanon and grew up in Beyrouth. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at the Saint Joseph University of Beyrouth (USJ). I then followed my studies in Biology at the University of Geneva (MSc.) where I worked in oncology, parasitology, and protein biochemistry, for three years, to better understand protein-protein interactions and several metabolic pathways. These experiences led me to move to Lausanne to begin a Ph.D. in which I am applying my wet lab skills on environmental research to decipher bioaerosol populations and the biochemical effect of atmospheric stresses on lipids.

Did you choose your profession or did it choose you?
I definitely choose my profession. I always wanted to continue to do research to discover new topics and interests!

What attracted you to join LAPI?
LAPI brings together high-level people, specialized in various scientific fields, from fundamental to applied sciences and from experimentalist to modelist, to understand molecular interactions in the atmosphere. The divergence of research carried out within the LAPI shows unique expertise in being able to link several fields, which excited me to join the lab!

Can you speak about the projects you are currently working on and other ones in the past?
My Ph.D. project involves a mix of fieldwork and wet lab analysis to optimize molecular biology tools for atmospheric sciences with lab instruments. After optimization, I will be analyzing the effect of oxidative stress on lipids of the plasma membrane via biochemical characterization and then chamber experiments.
My previous works focused on cellular and molecular biology. For my graduate work, I focused on the importance of an amino acid compromised in a loop between two domains of a protein named Hop. I studied the interaction of Hop with the heat shock protein (Hsp) 70 and Hsp90 towards the activation of some Hsp90 clients (a client is a protein needing Hsp90 to properly fold) and its dynamic.
As part of another internship, I worked on Toxoplasma gondii, a worldwide spread parasite. My work was to understand the function and the role of a mitochondrial transporter for the cytoplasmic Fe-S pathway.

What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Between research and sports, I faced several challenges to balance the two. If I had to choose one, I would say that it was for the World InterUniversities Championships games 2023 where I played badminton. I had to undergo surgery a few months before the games and only had one month to get back on track. Even if I did not compete at my presurgery level, I was satisfied with my games!

What have been some of your biggest successes? 
This is a difficult question to answer, but I would say that I have managed to balance studies and sports, without one affecting the other.

You split your time between teaching and research. How do you view these two roles?
The passing of knowledge is important for advancing one’s own research. To do this, I like to follow Richard Feynman’s method, which encourages me to simplify the scientific vocabulary of my field so it becomes accessible to everyone. In this way, I indirectly learn more about the subject of my research.

What do you enjoy to do, outside of science and research?
Outside of science, I do a lot of sports because as said: a healthy mind in a healthy body! I am playing (and try to continue it during my PhD) badminton at a high level. I also hick, bike, and run during my free time. I enjoy learning new topics in chemistry, biology, psychology, geology, paleontology, and business.

Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?
Definitely in Lapland. I went there for a one-week trek with friends. We were cut off from the world and we walked through landscapes that I had only seen in movies. My only regret was that we missed the Northern Lights, which means another trip will be scheduled to these regions!

A free thought for the end?
Exceed your limits by a few hundredths a day and you will be a different person in one year.