Report: EAG Ambassador Thaïs Couasnon Ventures to Ventura

I recently had the great opportunity to be the EAG ambassador at the Gordon Research Seminar and Conference held on Liquid Phase Electron Microscopy (LPEM) in Ventura (USA) from October 7-14. During this meeting, I presented my work as a postdoctoral researcher at the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ). It was important for me to attend this conference to represent and speak for geochemistry in this growing LPEM community.

LPEM is a relatively new but promising technique for studying mineral-water interfaces that are crucial to understanding the reactivity and mobility of nutrients and potentially toxic pollutants in natural environments. The LPEM allows in situ observation of the dynamic behavior of materials in liquids at high spatial and temporal resolution. In the field of geosciences, it allows the formation and transformation of minerals in hydrous environments to be studied at the highest spatial and temporal resolution. At the same time, geosciences also have much to contribute to the LPEM community, and this is what I presented in my oral presentation as well as in my poster at the conference. The morphological evolution of minerals irradiated by electrons during imaging, for example, has provided a powerful insight into the chemistry of the surrounding environment. This has thus allowed the prediction of the radiolytic chemistry from kinetic simulations to be confirmed. The results are critical to understanding the interaction of the beam with the surrounding aqueous solution in order to further control the chemistry of the nanoscopic reactor (which consists of a specimen of interest with its surrounding solution in the liquid cell).

A meeting such as the Gordon Research Seminar and Conference brings together faculty and early career researchers, such as PhDs and postdoctoral fellows, from different fields (microscopy, physics, electrochemistry, materials science, chemistry and geochemistry) to discuss in detail the advances and challenges of the technique. It was a great opportunity to meet, share ideas, opinions and perspectives with researchers from all backgrounds at breakfast, during the poster session or even during a run on the beach. To make the most of such a meeting, as with any conference, I highly recommend that you prepare a list of target researchers you would like to approach, with potential questions, so that you are ready for any good opportunity to connect with that person, whether it is time for a coffee, or just walking from where we took the group photo to the meeting area.

About the Author

Thaïs Couasnon did her PhD at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, on the biomineralization of manganese on the surface of bacterial biofilms. During her PhD, she collaborated with the Laboratoire Matériaux et Phénomènes Quantiques (MPQ) of the Université Paris Cité to image the biomineralization process in a liquid at the submicrometer scale and at high temporal resolution using liquid phase transmission electron microscopy. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) developing this relatively new technique to study the formation and transformation of minerals in situ. This will allow a better understanding of the mechanisms governing the mobility and bioavailability of elements in natural environments.