Elias Catrix
Elias Catrix, PhD student in energy and materials science

First winner of the Andrea Rovere Memorial Scholarship

Elias Catrix, a doctoral student in energy and materials sciences under the supervision of Professor Patrizio Antici, is the first recipient of the Andrea Rovere Scholarship, created in memory of a talented graduate and post-doctoral fellow who left an indelible mark on our community.

An optics enthusiast specializing in electromagnetic and quantum theories, our PhD student is carrying out research in the Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) laboratory at INRS in Varennes. He is developing artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms on the ALLS laser-accelerated proton beamline to optimize its quality and stability.

Congratulations to Mr. Catrix! A festive awards ceremony will be held at the Centre Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications research and training centre this fall, during which members of the community will be invited to celebrate the success of our award winner.

The Foundation team asked him a few questions to find out more about his work and his aspirations for the future. 

Elias, what brought you to INRS? Tell us about your experience.

During my first two years of engineering school at the Institut d’Optique in France, I specialized in electromagnetic and quantum theories. In particular, I was lucky enough to take the Radiation-Matter Interaction course given by Alain Aspect (Nobel Prize in Physics 2022), who passed on to me his passion for photonics and laser physics. This led me to take the Light Matter Interactions (LMN) master’s degree at Bordeaux University, in parallel with the third year of my engineering studies at the Institut d’Optique.

These different career choices encouraged me to pursue doctoral studies and to get my feet wet in the research world of research. In my case, it made me turn my passion into a profession thanks to a doctorate. Discussing my desire to do a PhD in the field of matter interaction with my professors at the Institut d’Optique, they told me about INRS and its ALLS laser facility. I found Professor Antici’s contact details on the website and contacted him to set up the project I’m carrying out today for my doctoral research.

This project consists of studying and implementing artificial intelligence algorithms on the ALLS laser-accelerated proton beamline in order to optimize the quality and stability of the proton beam generated by the laser. Working on this outstanding facility is a huge advantage for a young researcher, as it enables him or her to master every stage of the laser particle acceleration chain.

Working in Professor Antici’s group is extremely beneficial for my autonomy as a researcher, and also for group work on a large-scale infrastructure. To sum up, I feel that my studies have given me the knowledge and skills I need to complete my doctoral project. Whether from a theoretical or experimental point of view, the coherence of my course expresses a form of continuity and quality in terms of my involvement and motivation to pursue this doctorate.

Tell us about the challenge and impact of the research presented in your doctoral project.

Currently, many research laboratories around the world are setting up laser-generated proton beamlines for the use of these sources. Among the applications being explored using these laser-accelerated protons are the medical field, but also applications in materials science for stress testing of materials, for microcrystal synthesis based on ablation of materials or as a diagnostic tool in the field of cultural heritage. However, it is necessary to carefully balance a multitude of physical effects that non-linearly couple the parameters of the laser and the plasma generated during interaction with the material.

Optimizing acceleration for applications is further complicated by the limited repetition rates and stability of today’s lasers, which generally limit the knowledge available about the system. To overcome this obstacle, several groups have begun to incorporate artificial intelligence models to optimize the laser-plasma acceleration process. With this in mind, we aim to study and implement AI algorithms on the ALLS laser-accelerated proton beamline to optimize its quality and stability.  


“I am very honored to receive this scholarship, knowing the link Andrea had with my thesis supervisor, Patrizio Antici. Indeed, Andrea had done his master’s at the INFN institute in Frascati where Patrizio worked before joining INRS. At the time, he was co-supervised by a former member of his group. His passing has touched Patrizio deeply, and he is happy to know that his legacy is being carried on by a young researcher from his group.”
—Elias Catrix, PhD student in energy and materials science


How do you see the future?

I’ve been a PhD student for almost a year and a half now, and I’d like things to go as smoothly as the first part. My ambition would be to become a teacher-researcher after my doctorate and probably post-doctorate years. I want to continue in academia, while giving back the knowledge I’ve been given to future generations of scientists.

About the Andrea Rovere Scholarship

This $2,000 bursary was created in memory of brilliant INRS graduate and generous postdoctoral researcher of Italian origin Andrea Rovere. It recognizes the community involvement and quality of research work of a doctoral student at the Centre Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications.

Announced in the fall of 2022 at the initiative of members of the INRS community, this is one of the first new sources of support for the INRS student community deployed by the Foundation as part of its customized scholarship program.

The competition opened in March and closed on April 5, 2023. It was managed by the Service des études supérieures et de la réussite étudiante (SESRE) and generated a great deal of interest from the student community.

The INRS Foundation warmly thanks the SESRE team for its assistance and the members of the selection committee, Mr Philippe-Edwin Bélanger, Ms Joanie Lavoie, and professors Jean-Charles Grégoire and Emanuele Orgiu for their essential contribution.

Thank you to all those who applied, helped to publicize the competition and ensure its smooth running, and to our generous donors for their invaluable support

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