Université de Bordeaux
LabEx COTECluster of Excellence
Cluster of excellence

Sophie Tomaz, doctoral student at UMR Epoc and beneficiary of a COTE mobility grant

Sophie Tomaz, doctoral student at UMR Epoc and beneficiary of a COTE mobility grant

Sophie is in her third year as a doctoral student in the LPTC [1] team at UMR Epoc. Her field is atmospheric chemistry and the study of PAH [2] reactions and their oxidation products in the atmosphere. Her thesis recently gained an international dimension following two months mobility in the US, made possible by obtaining a LabEx COTE grant.

Sophie took classes at the University of Savoie in Chambéry. Passionate about chemistry and the environment, she first obtained a physics-chemistry degree with a chemistry option. She was then drawn to environmental chemistry: "I always wanted to get away from the cliché of chemistry = pollution", she emphasizes. Rather than water or soil, she focused on atmospheric chemistry for her Masters, and the M2 course at INERIS concerning the creation of a new method to extract atmospheric particulate phase PAHs confirmed that she had made the right decision.

Her thesis subject is also concerned with PAHs. Her objective is first to study their reactions and those of their oxidation products in the atmosphere, and also to determine one or more tracers of the formation of secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) from PAHs. The research includes the chemical characterization of SOAs that come from PAHs, a one-year analysis of measurements of gas/particulate phase samples taken in Grenoble, and also studies of the responsiveness and stability of the tracers that are identified. This data will show whether or not there is a potential tracer [3] for SOA formation from PAHs. "Ultimately this could enable the estimation of the formation of SOAs from PAHs, which is a difficult thing to assess in the atmosphere."

Her two months COTE mobility at the University of North Carolina (USA) proved to be an excellent experience

During her participation in the 2013 Summer School, she found out about LabEx COTE and how the structure can help doctoral students. The 3,000 euro grant enabled her to take up an opportunity in the United States, in North Carolina, that corresponded very well to her thesis, in cooperation with a former member of the LPTC."Going away was something of a gamble, but it was a chance to gain experience with instruments and chambers [4] and develop new skills, speaking English the whole time!"

A whole series of experiments had been scheduled before and after the first tests, it was found that the method was successful and produced results. However, it was not all plain sailing, "there was a whole new environment to assimilate with a different language and culture to understand" she adds, but the results obtained will be used in her thesis and will very likely be presented in several publications.

"It was an excellent experience, both in terms of the results and the network," concludes the doctoral student.

[1] Laboratoire de Toxico et Physico-Chimie de l'environnement(Laboratory of environmental toxicology and physical chemistry)

[2] Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

[3] A good tracer should be formed during the formation of SOAs, measurable and stable in the atmosphere

[4] atmospheric simulation chambers

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