Behind the blog : Damien


Small street in the old town of Lyon. Image Credit : Damien Ringeisen

Hi dear folks!

It seems that time goes on unnoticed, so several months after Valentin started, I think it is time to present myself.

I was born in the east of France, in the (objectively) beautiful city of Lyon. Growing up in this city includes a love for good food, as Lyon is the French’s capital of gastronomy – having a cook for a brother helps – as well as a love for mountains. As an example, the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain of the Alps, is visible during clear days from my former philosophy class. Despite the inspiration brought by this sight, I did not go to study philosophy, but physics. As far as I remember I was always interested in Physics, so for me, the choice was not too difficult when I got out of high school with high grades of maths, physics, and engineering. I decided to go study a Physics-Only curriculum at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. Big dreams and a lot of motivation!

In this artist’s conception, a dwarf planet vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Image credit: Mark A. Garlick / Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

And I failed the first semester. Big thing. I remember going to see my Analysis I exam to understand what was going on, and I got 3/50 points. The time of easy studying was over, I really had to put myself to work now. I did better in the second semester, but not enough to pass the year. Shall I continue? Shall I stop here? What went wrong? These are the questions which I asked myself. I decided to start again this first year and finally succeeded. Long story short, I continued year after year and got my Bachelor of Science. There were, of course, more failures along the way (as well as more success) but taking the time to see what went wrong and what to do to fix and go again is part of the process.

I continued at EPFL for my Master of Science in Physics, specialty… Astrophysics, Minor in Environmental Sciences. I got so passionate by the Astrophysics I and II classes that I decided to spend my time doing Astrophysics, looking at the stars, planets and other celestial bodies. Yes, this has no connection to my Ph.D. but there is one to my minor, Physics. I had the chance to be able to take the class of Snow Physics and got hit by the beauty of the Arctic region. When I was completing my master project on modeling disintegrating rocky exoplanets, it was time to apply for Ph.D. projects. That was a tough choice, Astrophysics or Climate Science related to the Arctic. I decided to go for the latter.

Sea ice surrounding the Ship RV Polarstern. Image Credit : Damien Ringeisen

I think we have to ask ourselves what motivates us the most. For me it was to work on the effects of climate change, doing a work that will maybe matter for the rest of society. Not that astrophysics does not affect society, great discovery has been made from fundamental research – e.g. GPS would not work without General Relativity – but we will not go to any exoplanet anytime soon, we only have our own to take care of at the moment. So, a couple of applications later, and a long well (deserved) 3 months vacation period later, I arrived in Bremerhaven to start my Ph.D. on modeling sea ice dynamics in the Arctic ocean.

So to young people that are interested in working in science, don’t be discouraged by the first bump on your road, try again, analyze your failure. And aim for something that is important to you.

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