Tomasz Poreba

Post-doc in matter at extreme conditions

When I was around 12 years old, I set up my own chemistry lab in the basement of my home. Couple small explosions later, I decided to play it safe and study analytical chemistry. My chemical curiosity pushed me to do very varied jobs: I checked the jet kerosene at the airport, I tested fabrics and  even spent some time as a lab manager in a pastry company, analysing croissants! Throughout this time, I taught myself some Chinese and was awarded a scholarship to spend two years near Shanghai. So off I went and worked as an English teacher in a kindergarten… quite an experience!

I decided to come back and do a PhD at PSI and University of Bern. I focused on crystalline polyiodides at high pressure: I always say that this must have happened because as a child I had to take many iodine supplements… I also studied pharmaceuticals at high pressure, to see if there were reactions or phase transitions during the tableting that could alter their properties.

Now I want to study simpler molecular systems, where you can observe the atoms “dancing” under high pressure without losing sample’s crystallinity. The ESRF is the place where I can have the freedom as a chemist and can combine pressure with temperature and laser radiation in my experiments. I also have an access to the best machine I can get: with a pressure range I couldn’t achieve before, with an extremely bright micron-size beam that allows me to probe multiple spots in a crystal and reveal the structural evolution of “weak-scatterers”. My challenge: to make and study a crystal of ozone at high pressure, which has never been done. 

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