Salma Baklouti
PhD student of astrophysics

My name is Salma Baklouti. I am a PhD student of astrophysics. I decided to be a Traces.Dreams ambassador because I believe that dreams can come true, and that when there is a will there is a way. I also believe that life is rich, and it needs passionate people to spread its beauty and to contribute positively to the world.

I am going to share my story with you. It all started when I was very young and my father offered me an encyclopedia for children. The first chapter was about astronomy. It captured all my attention; I felt a great curiosity about that immense and beautiful world we barely know.

I started to think seriously about studying astronomy when I was in middle school. In my country, astronomy was not, and still is not, a separate specialty. I asked everybody who would possibly know the way to the stars. The only thing I knew was that I had to choose science and mathematics in high school, which I did. Then, I made engineering studies in meteorology; I found it very interesting, but I was still determined to study astronomy and astrophysics. Astronomy clubs were not enough. I wanted to understand the physics.

My mother promised to support me financially, because she believed in my dream. I started applying and I was accepted in the Paris Observatory. I used to visit their website, dreaming about joining them one day that I never would have thought would come.

I studied there for two years, and I majored in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Studies were hard, but my passion pushed me to go on and never give up. After these two years, I returned to my country and continued my way to the stars. I am now in my 5th and final year of PhD studies.

I dream that one day there will be an observatory in the Tunisian desert, with specialized college courses and degrees in astronomy and astrophysics. Some would say that the priorities of the country are more basic, but I do believe that every piece of land on this planet has its own richness and treasures. If we help each other, I am sure that this dream will come true, and will be a good step forward for my country.

The title of my research is “Effects of Non-Linear Processes of the Magneto-Gravity-Inertial Waves”. In short, we are interested in plasmas, which mean ionized gas, as a state of matter. It is estimated that 98% of the matter in the Universe is in the plasma state. So, the more we know about plasmas, the better we understand phenomena in the Universe. But there are too many physical phenomena that happen in plasmas. Specifically, we are interested in waves, produced by a magnetic field, a rotation of the plasma having a density gradient. These conditions are frequent in many astrophysical systems such as stars’ atmospheres (the Solar Corona), accretion disks (around stars, black holes…), etc. It is likely to explain, for example, the planets’ formation, or why the Solar Corona is much hotter than its atmosphere.

There are theories that try to best explain these phenomena, and our study exists to strengthen them. It is important that many astrophysicists work together on the same topic. It can make a theory stronger, closer to the truth, or rejected. The most important thing is to clarify the mystery and get closer to reality. In many or most cases, the closer we are to reality, the more complicated the study becomes and the more difficult accuracy begins to be.

This, among other topics in astrophysics, is a relevant matter. I believe that in theoretical physics, it is no longer related to a direct benefit. It is rather about enlarging horizons for people, understanding nature, using it for good purposes… It is important to communicate with engineers to make the link between theoretical physics and industry.

Astronomical discoveries have changed the world. Without them, I think it would have taken much more time to make things like MRIs, micro- wave ovens, etc. Engineers were inspired by phenomena that happen above our heads; when scientists first discovered them, they were not thinking about the industry. They only wanted to understand.

In 10 years, professionally, I hope I will be teaching at a university, and continuing my research and collaboration in astrophysics. I also want to learn other things, since learning has become much easier and more accessible. It would be a big mistake to stop learning.

Actually, I have always felt this curiosity to understand the cosmos. My mother used to sing to me a song about the stars and the moon. I found it fascinating! Then, my father offered me that encyclopedia for children, and the first chapter was about astronomy. Again, I found it mesmerizing. I read it hundreds of times! Then, I started to track documentaries on TV. When I had Internet access, I made researches, and used science and astronomy chat rooms to make friends that had the same interests as me. One of them even sent me a scope! It was one of the happiest days in my life. I started observations in the backyard, using the Stellarium software. I remember I had tears in my eyes the first time I saw Saturn and the Andromeda galaxy “in person”.

In college, I co-founded an astronomy club. Then, in engineering school, I joined a bigger astronomy club. My passion grew quickly. It was my first motivation, until I reached the Paris Observatory.

Inspiration came from stargazing. It was fascinating. But I could not have realized my dream easily if my mother hadn’t had believed in me. She saved money for me and invested it in my studies. She pushed me and still is pushing me to learn the most I can. We do believe that something we ignore is a burden. Knowledge enlightens the mind, without any pretension.

Besides the day I received my scope and the observation nights in my backyard, the first day in the Paris Observatory was also a memorable day. I was happy and thankful, but studying astrophysics is not the easiest thing in the world, even with a big passion for science and astronomy. The hardest part was when studies were difficult; I was abroad and I felt lonely. Being attached to my family, and with my father having a terrible disease, I had hard times to keep up with.

But I never gave up.

Nada Al-Hudaid
PhD student, filmmaker

I decided to be a Traces.Dreams ambassador because I meet many great people and it is a great opportunity to highlight some of the research topics that have potential for making a change.

I am going to share stories about people, films, and projects that inspire me and help other people in various ways.
I am specializing in the anthropology of religious art and visual representations.

I am a social anthropology PhD with visual media candidate at the University of Manchester. My research is a study of a sub-cultural groups in Kuwait who create rites that enable them to serve the cause of Ahl Al-Bayt within their community, nationally and transnationally with other Shi‘a elsewhere, while striving to maintain their connection with their religious history and to keep certain traditions alive through new forms of adaptations. More specifically, I focused on pious Shi‘a artists and their religious work in Kuwait. This work is based on one year ethnographic research in Kuwait in 2015. Most academic work on Shi‘a are on people who are politically charged or live in an unstable political environments. This, coupled with mainstream media representation of Shi‘a, provide unbalanced perspectives of Shi‘a who live elsewhere. Therefore, my research provide an alternative narrative of Shi‘a who live in a stable and rich country.

Further to my ethnographic research experience, I did a two years masters in visual culture studies at the Australian National University. Also, I did ethnographic research for nine months with an aboriginal center in Canberra and focused on the challenges of higher education among Australian aboriginal students.

In addition to my academic work, I am a photographer and filmmaker who worked in producing and directing various short narrative and documentary films. My last work before taking a break to focus on PhD is called Hijabi Girls which went to many film festivals around the world including Cannes film corner. It was also featured on BBC three website and shown on TV as part of a documentary called Through Your Lens in 2015 about emerging filmmakers in the UK.

Marianna Loizzi
Chemistry Student

I have decided to be a Traces.Dreams ambassador because there is an army of young scientists over there, hidden by the walls of labs and offices, working to make our world a better place, and I truly believe they deserve more visibility.

Therefore, I am going to share the stories of the future generation of scientists, their dreams and their passions.

The focus of my PhD project was mainly medicinal chemistry. More specifically, I tried to understand how, on a molecular level, an enzyme extracted from the cotton plant can produce its products. More specifically, I tried to see how can these enzymes can make different products, and see how their pathways can be modified to make new useful drugs.

The final aim of the project, which is still ongoing with plenty of PhD students and Postdoc working on it, is to get a full understand of these enzymes, and being able to engineer them so they can make the medicines we need, in just minutes. This is a new way to do medicinal chemistry, but I believe this field is shifting towards this new approach. The traditional idea of a chemist spending days if not months in the lab to produce medicines is slowing fading away.

Nature has always been smarter than us, and it provided the world already these little drug-like making machines which could potentially do in minutes what a human chemist can do in days. We just need to understand how they do that! Where do I see myself in 10 years? Oh, who knows! My biggest motivation in life, for how naïve it sounds, is to improve people’s life or at least try. I studied Pharmacy so I could help people getting the right medicines and cure, I did a PhD in chemistry so I could try to discover a faster way to produce medicines.

And now I work for a company that helps the communication between Doctors and Patients so that a better service and healthcare is provided because everyone deserves a good efficient care. The future? We will see! I need to thank my dad for my journey so far. He is the best GP I have ever met, always there for the people, nights, bank holidays, did not really matter. He was more a friend than a doctor to his patients, and even now that he is in retirement, people keep knocking at his door for advice. I would like to become like him, admired not for his success, but for the good he did. and keeps doing, to the world.

Nerina Finetto
Founder and Director

Falling in love is perhaps the shortest way between two people. A shared story, a conversation is probably the second shortest. You fall in love by chance but you have a conversation by choice. Cultivate it!

I was born in Italy, where I studied literature. I researched gender history, made prize-winning documentaries about innovation and technology, produced business television programs and corporate videos in Germany.

I became a mother of four, lost one of them, lost my way, then found it again thanks to the other three. I’m a story listener with a passion for people, a mission for helping great people tell great stories and the vision of making the world a little bit wiser. I am based in Stockholm and work with a small international team.

Ekaterina Pugacheva
Social Media Manager

“As a Social Media Manager, I am proud to grow Traces&Dreams Community in a natural and social way.
I am also keen on facilitating conversations across borders.”

Ekaterina Pugacheva has a Ph.D. in International relations from Saint Petersburg State University. She has over 5 years of experience in event management, digital marketing, and product marketing, gained through positions in major international companies operating in Russia and Asia.

Beatrice Audétat
Web Designer & Developer

Design means giving shape.

As a Web-Designer and Web-Developer, I am proud to help shape a place where researchers can express their findings and positions, through which future is shaped and new culture is created, – which is what we are in need of, to build a peaceful society.

To me research is the highest form of education.

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" There is no stronger power than our dreams and our hopes."   - Nerina Finetto

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