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Ephriem Mengesha - Transfering scientific and cultural knowledge


Dr. Ephriem Mengesha, from Ethiopia, is currently holding a position as a Eurotalents Fellow in the Laser Interactions and Dynamics Laboratory at CEA-Saclay. Specialised in physical chemistry, he arrivedat IRAMIS last year for a two-year period.

Read more about him below!​​​​​

Published on 6 September 2016
  • ​Could you briefly tell us about yo​​​ur academic and professional experience before coming to CEA?

I studied Chemistry at Haramaya University, Ethiopia and Physical chemistry at Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia). Then, I came to Europe for my PhD where I worked at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, in Warsaw (Poland) and at Institut des Sciences Moléculaires in Orsay (France). I joined CEA right after I got my PhD.

Currently, I am working at CEA on a research project entitled "Floppy Complexes (FC)". I attempt to understand the conformation and dynamics of very weak molecular/biomolecular complexes in helium nano-droplets using infrared absorption spectroscopy. Since we are developing the Helium nano-droplets set up in our lab, we are currently in the first phase of our experiments; nevertheless we already have exciting results and some of them were published in PCCP, Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 18(24) in January 2016. ​​  

  • What are the strengths o​​f your stay at CEA?

Thanks to Enhanced Eurotalents, I got the opportunity to stay at CEA two years rather than one year. This means I can carry out my project until the end, when most post-doctoral positions last only one year which is quite a short time to fulfil a whole project.

I really enjoy my stay at CEA. The high level of security can be intimidating at first but my team is very nice and the laboratories have quality equipment. I have everything I need in terms of facilities and equipment and if needed, I have the possibility to buy specific devices through my laboratory.

  • What did you think about the training session named "Post-doc: how to manage your career?" you attended in INS​​TN (CEA – Saclay)?

I think this training session was very valuable. It taught me how to sell my skills in the framework of job hunting. It also helped me see different perspectives for my future. When immersed in an academic context, the scope of possibility for the future can seem quite narrow. This training allowed me to see that there are plenty of opportunities I can set my sights on. It was also a good way to meet other post-doctoral researchers.


  • Do you think that the interna​​tional dimension of the programme brings value to your laboratory? To your career?

It's always stimulating to work with people from different cultures, with different mind-sets and perspectives. I think I bring unique experience to my laboratory. To be honest, I went through a cultural shock when coming to Europe and I had to adapt. What stroke me the most is the way European perceive relationships. In Ethiopia, communicating with your neighbour is very simple and automatic, which is not the case in Europe. On the bright side, it taught me to become much more independent.

Here at work I only use English. Even though I speak French a bit, this is by no means a requisite to have a post-doctoral position at CEA.

  • All in all, what do you think about the Enhanced Eurotalents programme?

I think it's a very good opportunity for many people coming from a great variety of backgrounds. This programme enables a mobility which enriches the scientific community in terms of knowledge. I would not have been able to live such an experience without it.  Competition is harsh; many smart people want the same positions so having a good mobility abroad is a plus. It is a way to stand out and to get more credit. Here I am learning a lot every day.

  • What is your go​al after your postdoc?

For now, I would like to go back to Ethiopia and set up my own laboratory, while maintaining collaboration with my co-workers here. However, there are many factors to take into account: setting up a laboratory is expensive and again, competition for such grants is harsh. The idea would be to transfer scientific knowledge and scientific culture between the institutes in Ethiopia and Europe where I have collaborations with.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my collaborators and the support I got from the CEA-Enhanced Eurotalents programme. Thank you!

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