Q: Hello! Can you introduce yourself?
A: I am Ayda Badri, a PhD student in LSAMA: Laboratory of Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy, in the Faculty of Science of Tunis. I am in my 3rd year.
Q: What’s the topic of your research?
A: I am interested in the CO2-CO molecular complex. I study shocks between these molecules. The CO2 molecule has been detected around us in the atmosphere, in the interstellar medium, etc… In the LSAMA laboratory, people study two kinds of molecules: big ones, and small ones. Big molecules are what researchers in medicine and biology are interested in. One of them is the DNA. It is a complex and big molecule. My team is interested in the small molecules that exist in the atmosphere, or the interstellar medium. Their presence influence many fields, such us industry, climatology, pollution, etc…
There are molecules that are more likely to collide with this molecule. So, first, we study the collision rate for many molecules, and we pick up the one that is most likely to collide with it.
I am also interested in the N2O-CO molecular complex, recently detected. It has been detected in the atmosphere.
Our work is between theory and simulation. We use numerical software to perform complex calculations, that finally give us information about these molecular complexes, and that will be useful to researchers in physics, astrophysics, biology, medicine, etc… It needs strong calculators, which are not easy to get!
Q: What are the most important questions you want to answer through your research?
A: We are trying to provide information about these molecules for the physicists, biologists, chemists, pharmacists, etc… We provide a theoretical study that, when combined with experimental studies, will be useful to better understand the world, make new medicine, purify the atmosphere, improve agricultural activities, nutrition, cosmetics, or any beneficent application.
This study contains theoretical information about the stability of the molecule, the properties of collisions with the most abundant molecules in the atmosphere – or the Universe more generally- (such as di-hydrogen (H2) and Helium (H)), or the human body, etc… Then comes the experimental study, which will rely on our theoretical study, which allows them to narrow the possibilities and focus on the most interesting areas to discover.
Q: What are the challenges you are facing in your PhD?
A: The human bonds are very important in a research work, especially collaborative work. When people work together, they make huge steps, with fewer mistakes. A single person cannot do this big path alone. It is a challenge to face every day, to keep a team working together on a very big project. Human relationships are complex. So I think this is a big challenge.
The project we are working on is not the easiest. We can make mistakes that cost much time and money. So we have to be very careful. But the project is motivating, so we go on!
Another challenge is the means. We have a limited budget, as many other laboratories, and we are many to study on a single calculator. It makes things more difficult, but it only gives us more will and strength to make even bigger things.
Another challenge is health. I am having health problems but I keep struggling. They only push me forward.
Q: Why are you doing this?
A: First, I was not interested in this field. I was interested in nuclear physics; this is what I did in my master’s project. But, there was too much math and analytical calculations in it, so I chose to go back to “real” physics! I wanted to make something more directly useful to humanity. Right now, I am studying these molecules in the atmosphere only. But I intend to move to biological applications as soon as I finish my actual research. I like this.
Every study has an influence, in one way or another. But I need to do something that brings improvement to the world, right now! It has incredible applications. One colleague is working on cocaine. Another one is working on anesthetic substances. It is really interesting. Big molecules are the subject of interest here. One day, I will hopefully move from small to big molecules.
Q: What is your dream?
A: We are only theorists in LSAMA. I hope that one day we will have an experimental team with us to collaborate and work together about cancer, for example… My dream is to find a cure to some cancer, or any illness. I am confident that we will.
Q: What are the topics that the FST (university) is interested in?
A: There are many fields in our university: mathematics, chemistry, biology, computer science and physics. As far as I know, it invests most of the money in energetics (photo-voltaic panels for example).
Q: Tell us more about your difficulties/activities?
A: I am a member in an association for researchers. We try to find solutions to their problems, either financial or scientific problems (like copyrights, organizing conferences, etc.). Another problem that researchers face is the time problem! Many students have lost a lot of time and effort working on something that, right before they publish their results, another team, somewhere in the world, publishes it before them. It is due to the limited means they have. Some of them are deprived from the rights and privileges of being researchers.
Q: Is there a book, a person, a situation that inspired you?
A: When I was in Poland, I was provoked by someone who told me that Arabs are those who invented the algorithm. They challenged me to make a program. I took it as a challenge. It motivated me. I spent two days working on this program. I did not even sleep. With the help of someone else, we both could make it much sooner than he thought. It really gave me energy.
Otherwise, my dad is my first inspiration and source of motivation. He was brilliant as a student. He is an accountant. He wanted to continue his studies, but he had to stop for many reasons. So, I want to continue his own path. So I have double motivation: mine and his! He is always interested in my studies. We always discuss about my research.
Q: What kind of society do you dream of?
A: Justice! We miss justice in this world. I also dream of a society where people help each other without counting. Or, at least, a society where people don’t make obstacles to others, because of envy and jealousy. There’s room for everyone. It doesn’t really matter who arrives first. What matters is the journey itself.
I also dream of a society that gives the opportunity to intelligent people to study if they have any kinds of problems.
Q: Do you have some fears?
A: I fear that one day I will be too busy for my research. I mean my familiar and social duties. I know they are my number one priority but, I still want to do my research at the same time, without sacrificing this or that. I want research to be my only job.
Q: Do you want to add anything, or give a message to people?
A: Research is passion! It gives me the strength and energy to face all the problems I face. I want to reach my goal of working as a researcher in the medical field, and continue on this path!
Thank you, Ayda! Good luck!
“I chose to interview Ayda Badri because I know she is an awesome person full of energy and hope, with a sharp sense of justice and loyalty. I think her story can inspire many of us, including me. Her studies are also very interesting, and meet in a certain way with my field of studies, which is astrophysics. But their applications are much larger than just physics.”