Brahim Aïssa (PhD, Materials and Energy Science, 2010)
Senior Scientist and Associate Professor at QEERI/HBKU/Qatar Foundation
“There are no shortcuts to success. Tenacity pays off. That was the motto of my professors at the Centre Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications when I was there, and it’s what still inspires me today.”
It was a combination of circumstances that led Brahim Aïssa to INRS. Having studied electrical engineering in his native country, he planned to pursue graduate studies in his field shortly after arriving in Québec. A meeting with Professor My Ali El Khakani at INRS’ Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications research centre shaped his future. Professor El Khakani promptly invited him to continue his studies at the centre and to direct his career towards a new field, that of materials science. Brahim recalls: “Professor El Khakani convinced me straight away! He said that it is always interesting to explore a new field with the training and eyes of another expertise. He was not wrong. It was a unique experience and a great source of happiness for me, both professionally and personally.”
“I had a great time and I met people with whom I have developed very close ties. People with whom I am still in touch today.”
After obtaining his PhD from INRS in 2010 under the direction of Prof. El Khakani and co-direction of Prof. Daniel Therriault, Brahim Aïssa continued his career at MPB Communications, in the space and photonics division, for a few years. In 2015, he then joined a joint programme between the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, as a senior scientist and assistant professor.
He recalls that the seven years he spent at the Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications research centre were decisive at all levels. Indeed, once he had completed his studies, during which he won the prize for the best master’s thesis in 2005 and for the best doctoral dissertation in 2010, his professional career took off. In just a decade, he has co-authored nearly 170 scientific papers, published three books and received numerous awards and honours, including the prestigious Networking Partnering Initiative grant from the European Space Agency, the Australian Endeavour grant, NSERC-R&D, and many others.
Brahim remembers INRS as an essential hub for his development. “Of all the institutions I have worked with in my career, from the very beginning of my university studies and subsequently at other institutions in Europe and elsewhere, the Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications research centre is the place where I have felt most at home. It is unique in many ways. I certainly had access to state-of-the-art equipment, but most of all, I had access to exceptional professors with whom I learned to step out of my comfort zone. While demanding, the programme hones you for life. My professors also taught me the art of writing scientific papers and grant applications, an essential skill in research. My colleagues were like brothers and sisters in arms. I am grateful to INRS for giving me such a unique, varied and enriching experience.”
When asked what he would like to share with future or current students at INRS, Brahim answers that “90% of success is based on hard work and the rest is based on talent.” He also encourages students to do internships to gain field experience and insists on regularly reading articles on his field of study to challenge himself. “The more you read, the more you expand your sphere of knowledge. You always have to think about continuous improvement both professionally and personally. Research work is anything but routine and all the effort you put in is worth it.”
[Interviewed in September 2022]